With solidarity and communal harmony as its core feature, Dewa Mela is unlike any other cultural fair. Every year in October, thousands of people come together to seek solace, to pay homage, to sing along and experience transience in the small town of Barabanki, merely 28 kilometers away from the ‘City of Nawabs’, Lucknow. The occasion is the Urs of famous Sufi saint Haji Waris Ali Shah, eminently known as Dewa Mela or Barabanki Mela.
Born in 1819 in Dewa, Haji Waris Ali Shah was a celebrated Sufi saint and the founder of the Warsi order of Sufism. He is known to have influenced the lives of several generations of people with his message of universal love for humanity. It is said that this fair was started by Haji Waris Ali Shah himself in the memory of his father, Qurban Ali Shah.
To pay their homage to the Sufi Saint, pilgrims come in from all over the country and from as far as Iran and enjoy the religious fair. The arena of fair gets vibrant by the stunning decorations and lightings of shops at the fairground. This 10-day carnival of music and dance starts with the ceremony of chadar presentation. People place bright silk sheets on the tombs of Haji Sahib as a mark of respect and to pay homage to the renowned sufi saint.
Dewa Mela offers the sights and sounds of a typical rural mela. The fairground is full to bursting with lots of thrilling activities, where one can relish and get lost in its revelries. The Kavi Sammelan and Mushaira held during the festival are amongst the best in the country. The splendid displays of handicrafts are just irresistible for the shopping buffs. These illuminated shops with magnificent works of art add to the enthusiasm of the visitors.
Other activities at the fair that tempt the tourists especially the sports enthusiasts include sports competitions wherein one can enjoy games like hockey, football, and basketball. Kite flying and rifle shooting competitions are also organized during the fair. Moreover, there is much of interest to the peasantry in the Fair. A big cattle market is the highlight of the fair and is the main source of its revenue. All in all, the fiesta is a paradise for the epicurean adventurers.
The vibrant fair is a part of the intrinsic cultural fabric of our society as well as a continuation of our heritage. The spirit of universal brotherhood prevails throughout the fiesta. The impact of Haji Sahab still lingers on each soul. It is said that he always welcomed non-Muslims with these words ‘You and I are the same.” Perhaps his way of greeting the people of different communities continues to garner him high esteem even today. And hence the fair attracts pilgrims and visitors from all parts of the country to the mausoleum of the great Saint.
The cynosure of all eyes at the Dewa Mela is a decorated exhibition, entailing stalls of various departments that depict the activities and achievements through colourful exhibits. The exhibitions portray different ways to control the population explosion through pictures and models. Another stall showcases the cultural life and historical places of the state along with the national building schemes.
Interestingly, amidst the brimming crowd, one can easily sense the sweet fragrance of the flowers that are a part of the religious offering. Truly, the exquisiteness of this festival makes it one of the most visited and popular festivals in India. The fair finishes on a high note with a brilliant display of firework that sparkles the sky with lights flickering into life. The picturesque landscape is thus a sight to behold.
Indeed, Dewa Mela is an experience both for the devout and the secular traveler. Presenting a chadar at the dargah and listening to the magical songs is nothing short of exhilarating. People claim that Sufism is the path to revelation; and if submitting yourself to the songs and coming to an understanding of yourself is something that appeals to you, Dewa Mela should definitely be on your travel list.