BARPETA, Feb 14 � The historic Sarthebari Sabha Mahotsava will commence on February 17 next. Preparation has already begun for this six-day programme with the commencement of the Mel from the very first day of the lunar fortnight in the holy month of Magha. Mel, the forum of discussion related to social issues is an indispensable part and the prelude to the great festival.
Social structure of Sarthebari is unique in nature. The entire town is divided into five parts each known as khel. Each khel nominates one representative and the five are collectively known as the Pancha Pradhan. Pancha Pradhan and the society as a whole are led by Majumdar and each of them has different assignments to perform in the society.Though the fair is conducted by a committee, Sarthebari Panchkhel Unnayan Samiti Panchpradhan plays the vital role both in the Mel and the fair.
Mel is a democratic process in which all issues except the criminal offences are discussed and tried to be settled so that everyone can take part in the social and religious function with an open mind. Such discussions are held every evening under the open sky with the inherent logic of free fair and transparent exchange of views and settlement. The fourteen-day process comes to an end on the eve of the full moon day. Altars of Lord Jagannatha are brought from different naamghar of the town and are erected in the main Jagannatha temple in Sabharkhola, the venue of the fair after the conclusion of Mel on the eve of the full moon day.
Hom yajna is offered on the full moon day in the main temple which will be held on February 18. Thousands of devotees from across the state participate in the Hom Yajna. Naam to be performed that afternoon is also expected to draw a huge crowd.
During the six day extravaganza there will be extensive religious and entertainment programmes. The big field along the Alpa Canal will be a sea of humanity on these days. Commercial activities are one of the main attractions of the fair. Every material of household utility is available in the fair which has given it an extra dimension. Many families in this locality wait for this fair to buy their utilities for the rest of the year.
Sarthebari is famous for its production of bell metal utensils. Artistes associated with the industry become ready to enjoy it with the closing of their yearly account. They also avail the opportunity of business on this occasion.
Sarthebari Sabha Mahotsava has no written history. It has been observed since time immemorial.At one time it was the main and only attraction both for commercial purpose and entertainment in the entire eastern part of Barpeta and western part of Nalbari. There was no market to buy essential items like cloth and stationery. Farmers and weavers had to wait till the fair to come for their tools to buy. But with the change of time mentality of the people has changed . Fair and other religious festivals are now observed in a number of places. Markets have also emerged. As a result the fair has lost its past glory and importance to some extent.
Another notable flaw in the management of the fair is the failure of the committee to include any new agenda which could attract and involve people. There is immoral scope for inclusion of several programmes for the promotion of culture and tradition. If the elite section of Sarthebari ignores such scope for involvement of people the importance of the fair will further diminish in the days to come.