Sheetla Fair in AgraSheetla Ashtami Fair is among the several popular festivals observed during the spring months of Chaitra or March and April in Agra. The day of the festival is usually earmarked as the Chaitra Krishna Paksha Ashtami or even the eighth day of the waning moon every lunar month. Usually this festival occurs within a week of the Holi festival.
Families make large amounts of food in the form of stuffed potato, green grams, chana dal or split black gram and even plain salted parathas. The latter are made from dough kneaded in milk with addition of salt and cumin seeds. These are then shallow fried as parathas and kept away for the next day. Some variations may be seen among families which make either thick round ‘roats’ or ‘rotis’ which are sweet and have any number of dry fruits like raisins, etc. They are kneaded with jaggery.
Sheetla Fair in Agra OfferingsMothers keep fast; early in the morning the children take bath and dress and the entire family goes to the Sheetla Mata Temple. The food is offered to the goddess along with fresh butter and milk.
The banyan tree is also worshipped as it symbolizes longevity. The children are asked to distribute the food and some money as alms among the beggars gathered there.
There is a grand aura of festivity and joy all around. Everybody express their gratitude to the goddess for keeping them away from disease.
As the focus of the festivals is the happiness and health of the children all the stalls and rides at the festival sites are oriented around children. There are a number of devotees who take their children to be guarded against the evil eye by doing all forms of rituals like sacrificing a cock or a goat or even a ram.
Attractions of Sheetla Fair in AgraOnce the rituals and ceremonies are over then it is time to throw oneself full throttle into the many attractions of the fair. There are beautiful displays of toys, clothes, games of skill and chance as well as the plentitude of delectable foodstuffs and sweetmeats. The array of attractive stalls lure the children to try the various goodies in store.
There are a number of attractions besides the religious oriented ones in the fair. The toys on display range from earthenware horses and other animals to beautifully handcrafted cloth dolls with colourful, sequin and lacework embellished traditional dresses. So attractive is the display that not only children but even the older people are lured by their beauty.
Many a tourist goes away with a bagful of these goodies to please their children and to give as gifts. Thus, the inducements offered by the Sheetla Mata Fair are many and varied.
Sheetla Fair in Agra takes place on Mahu Road in Central Agra on a gigantic scale and to a lesser degree in several other localities and Sheetla Mata Temples within and around Agra.