For a better part of the year, Bateshwar, some 70 odd kilometers from Agra, remains a dusty little place, ignored and overcome by sloth, as is the nature of small-town Uttar Pradesh. Dating back to the Mauryan era, it takes its name from the Bateshwarnath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva where metal bells make for an unusual offering post fulfillment of wishes.
The town also finds mention in Jain texts as Shouripura, after the Yadava king Shursen, great-grandfather to cousins Lord Krishna and Neminath, the 22nd Tirthankar; indicative of its prominence as a religious destination for both Hindus and Jains. More recently, it is known as the birthplace of our 11th Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Over forty, sparkling white temples, of indeterminate age and style, line the crescent shaped riverfront of the Yamuna as it snakes along; painting one heck of a pretty picture, sandwiched as they are between soft acacia rich hills and the calm blue of the river. A crumbling, fort-like structure looms large as you navigate the narrow streets to the Pataleshwar Temple, to peer closely at the dank dungeon walls replete with beautiful artworks.
Come Diwali, for about four weeks, this sleepy old (read ancient) settlement metamorphoses into a hub of commercial activity as it readies to host its annual rural fair. The first half of this is devoted to animal trade with all manner of bovine and equine members up for grabs.
Followed soon after by a religious fair with a brief lull in between when sadhus representing numerous sects begin congregating, setting up make-shift shop in tented accommodation. Many return to well-worn caves tunneled into the belly of the surrounding hills, with mere will-power holding together this endless labyrinth!
Thankfully bereft of crass commercialization (so far) as is the case with other more popular fairs, the Bateshwar fair is really an outing for rustic India, vibrant and unaffected by urban chaos. A night-out that includes a customary dip in the river, some pravachan time, local delicacies and shopping galore. The tourist (read yours truly) is left well alone to revel in the colorful sights, wafting aromas, and the sounds of temple bells, chants, blaring music and laughter; a mélange that defines a truly happy people.
Now that seems liek a place to visit and enjoy the FAIR…
Wow you do travel aa lot.. next time i haveto come to india maybe you can make the iterinary for me 🙂
Yup. And I will be more than glad to create an itinerary for you, do it all the time for my travel network. In fact, I will soon be adding a page for the purpose… so keep watching this space 🙂
Nice article. Very different from your earlier posts!
Reminds me of the time I visited Khajuraho two years ago, and happened to land there on Shivratri. Wasn’t aware that that is the major festival they celebrate. It was enthralling to see the religious fervour of the people who had come from the neighbouring villages to attend the fair; there was gaiety and excitement all around. Of course, this fair was much more of a local affair than what you have described of the Bateshwarnath fair.
But seeing the Shivratri fair in addition to the famous temples made the trip all the more worthwhile. I have half a mind to repeat that trip this March… Shivratri is on the 2nd!
Around-the-corner surprises add that much more glee to an otherwise routine experience, don’t you think?
Most certainly so!
Hmmm… Now that seems like a nice place to visit.. Very offbeat and interesting.. And thankfully not very crowded. Thanks for all the little GEMS of information that you keep passing along our way..
It sure is all of those except that it does get a little crowded around the full moon night following Diwali. Am also glad you enjoy my posts… Keep watching this space for many more 🙂
Thanks for writing about it. Have added it to my list of to be visited places. Let us do a trip together sometime.
Sure. You should take in the mela as well, so let’s wait till Diwali. In fact, have just returned from the vicinity although took a slight detour towards MP this time…
Very nice pictures. Have been to Bateshwar a few times but haven’t seen this aspect, and these nooks and crannies.
Thanks. You should go around the fair, in that case.
You are surely creating problems for me…my list of places to visit before I die is getting longer and longer…..An excellent piece with very expressive photographs…
This is definitely a must-visit. You must find the time…
I belong to a village near Bateshwar. It is birth place of my mother. I try to visit this place every year. It is really a gr8 place to see but somehow Govt never pursues for development of the place. Never tried to maintain the temples and water cleaning of Yamuna.
We are losing historical places one by one just because of Politicians.
Still it is worth to visit the fair.
Yes, the fair is certainly a must-visit.