Rural Fairs constitute an important element in the big entertainment system of rural India. Most of such fairs happen in rural landscape of the country. More than 25000 one estimate suggests. These rural fairs are very popular among the locals, foreign tourists and more recently private companies. India does get into the skin of travelers especially the small towns. As a traveler one needs to be quite flexible and act like a sponge, soak in whatever experience comes.
Come under two types broadly commercial and cultural but even cultural fairs are slowly and steadily turning into economic opportunity providers. Since long these fairs have been acting as a major source of entertainment as well as economic drivers of the village economy.
Every state has their own fairs, big ones like Kumbh Mela are internationally known given the scale on which it is held. Traders come not from local but different states also.
(A monk (foreign) engrossed in deep prayers at MahaKumbh Mela,Allahabad,Feb- 2013)
(Boy from Bihar state selling traditional Paan-beetle leaf filled with cherry, nuts and herbs in Himachal Pradesh)
I could see a trader from Gujarat selling clothes in a rural fair in the sate of Himachal Pradesh. To my surprise, i came across a young boy selling Paan (made from beetle leaf combined with cherries+nuts+tobacco, if you desire) to the local inhabitants of villages of Himachal Pradesh. This particular item was as popular as any, i noticed. How subtle these food exchanges, cultural exchanges take place in these rural fairs. This is not just limited to participating in fairs. Some of these traders come with family and are on the road most of the time. They interact with local and this is how cultural exchange takes place. Almost living like locals and be a part of them in the society for the duration of these rural fairs.
Source of entertainment:
Back in the day when TV was a rare commodity in the village household, these rural fairs acted as a social gathering platform and also one major source of entertainment. That is why in any fair you can easily find an entertainment zone especially for kids. All work and no play, that cannot happen. Some big fairs do organize sports events like kabaddi(contact sport that originated in ancient India), KhoKho (tag sport), our traditional Indian games. Even national level players take part in such game, acting as crowds magnets. They surely have fan following in far flung places whereas in urban India we haven’t heard of such names.
(villagers enjoying Kushti match at a rural fair in Uttar Pradesh, India)
How can we leave aside marketing from these fairs in this age of high volume consumerism? History of Mela marketing is an old game. These rural fairs are life and blood not only for villagers but act as a perfect ground as marketers can target huge numbers at one platform with varied demography. Marketers slowly realized the economic value of these fairs given the large amount of attendance they attract and diversity of crowd. Ideal ground for Sampling of products especially FMCG industry. Most of the new product/service launches are first tried and tested at such gathering. No wonder these fairs act as a win-win situation for companies.
But more on the marketing side of these fairs in a future post.
Next time you are visiting any part of ruralIndia, do make it a point to experience any such rural fair. Believe me you will get to see vibrant colors of the hinterland and will get amazed at the colorful life of the village folks and take back memories to cherish forever.
Three cheers to The Great Indian Mela!!!