Beneshwar Fair: Kumbh for tribal people
The biggest tribal fair is held at Beneshwar in the month of January-February; Feb 21 to Feb 25 this year. Tribal dominated districts of Dungarpur and Banswara touch the borders of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. This area is called Vagad in which flow the three rivers Som, Mahi and Jakham. They meet near Navatapara village of Aspur tehsil and at this place is a triangular island. In Vagad language, an island is called ‘Ben’. An ancient temple of lord Shiva is here and it is called Beneshwar temple- the lord of the Ben.
A great saint Mavji performed his tapasya here. He gave the people the message of devotion to lord Krishna and preached the principles of love for humanity and universal brotherhood. The tribal consider him to be an incarnation of lord Vishnu. Even today they have great reverence for Mavji.
On the island are several temples. The Shiva temple was built by Askaran, the erstwhile ruler of Dungarpur state in 1510 (Vikram Samvat). Mavji’s daughter-in-law, Janak Kunwari built a Krishna temple here in 1750. Brahma temple was built in 1677.
The confluence of three rivers has as much importance as that of the temples here. The ‘Sangam’ is considered as the path to moksha, good health and all the blessings. For centuries, the tribal keep assembling here. They feel blessed after taking a holy dip in the sacred waters here. For them, it is a bigger ‘tirtha’ than even Pushkar, Prayag and Kashi. This is why Beneshwar is considered to be the Pushkar of Vagad and the fair as Kumbha of vanvasis.
Every year the fair is held from Magh Ekadasha to Magh Purnima. The natural scenery here is worth watching. The fair is at its climax on Purnima. Over ten lakh people take bath in these waters on this day. They belong to all religions and castes. They come not only from the distant parts of Rajasthan but also from the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
It is one of the the biggest pilgrimage where people in lakhs come to earn ‘Poonya’ by bathing. They try to repay the debt of deceased ancestors by immersing their ashes in this place.
According to skanda purana, Raja Bali did tapayasa here and lord Vaman put his third step here. It is believed that the deep gorge here was caused by his foot. It is called Abudarra, where the tribal immerse the ashes of their dead, get their heads shaved and offer food to their community. The ashes of men are kept in white and those of the women are kept in red cloth. On the occasion of Beneshwar fair, they are consigned to water.
It is mentioned in Harivansh Puran that there would be Kalki avatar at Sable village which is located at a distance of about 7 km from Beneshwar. Mavji, born in Audichya Brahman family is considered to be an incarnation of lord Vishnu by people living in Vagad. At Beneshwar also, he did tapasya. He preached co-existence and gave his message of love for all. Mavji made many predictions in his five books called ‘Chopras’. People say that predictions have proved to be right.
Mavji was the first mahant of Beneshwar. His seat at Sabla is famous as Maninda Math. This is why descendant of Mavji is brought to Beneshwar Dham in a palanquin in the form of a procession on Magh Purnima. He stays there during the fair. He goes to have a bath at sangam. After this, it is believed that the water becomes sacred and that is why people begin to have bath only after the ‘mahant’ has done so.
The mahant stays at Krishna Mandir. People have the privilege of his darshan. New disciples are given ‘Kanth’ to be worn on the neck. The audience enjoys the Raas Leela performed in the Krishna Mandir by people of the community. Tales related to Mavji are sung at night as per a tradition that is hundreds of years old.
The traders earn a lot by selling things used in agriculture, clay, metal and stone utensils, readymade cloths, cosmetic items, fruits and vegetables.
Beneshwar is not only a big fair of Vagad region but it is also famous all over Rajasthan. Various aspects of Rajasthani culture, society and religion are on display here.