Exploring a rural Indian bazaar, a weekly market and a cattle fair

It was the weekly village market, albeit the biggest of the year. But a rural Indian bazaar, with its explosion of colour and activity, is never “just a market”. It takes a simple lifestyle to turn a weekly market into a carnival. We were lucky to have one such experience.

For us, it was a great time exploring rural tourism, interacting with the local people, being in the middle of all their celebration.

The cattle fair was a fantastic icing on the cake

Rural Bazar of Rajur, Maharashtra, India

We had the opportunity to visit this unique Indian bazaar, a cattle fair, in the small town of Rajur, in rural Maharashtra, around 270 km from Mumbai, India.
This weekly village market is the biggest social event for all the people in this region, it really is their Christmas!

The small town of Rajur is the “market town” for this region. Market town – because the weekly market for this region is held here on Mondays.

Every year around December, the first Monday after “Dutta Jayanti” (The birthday of Lord Dutta), is the biggest market day of the year. The biggest cattle fair of the year is hosted here.

Schools were shut and no one worked that day. Everybody- entire families, kids in tow – were at the market, dressed in their festive best!

All the neighbourhood farmers attend this cattle fair

Rural Bazar of Rajur, Maharashtra, India

Village folks from as far as a 40 km radius come here to trade their cattle. Some of them would have walked for over two days to get to the cattle fair.

They stay on the grounds for two straight days, hoping to get a fair deal for their prized cattle.

Rural Bazar of Rajur, Maharashtra, India

It’s a big open ground, at the end of the village market where the cattle fair is set up. The ground feels like a mega congregation of the bulls, with thousands of them spread out all over.

Our guide, Balu Kondar of the nearby village of Purushwadi, arranged for us by Grassroutes helped us through the maze of the bulls. 

The whole ground is abuzz with activity. Some are still decorating their bulls, making sure they look just right. Prospective buyers go window shopping, inspecting the bulls before they zero in on the one they would take home.

Many are just feeling the pulse of the market and the deals!

The farmer and his cattle

Rural Bazar of Rajur, Maharashtra, India

Balu gave us a farmer’s perspective on all that was happening around.

The cattle is a part of the farmer’s family. They raise and rear them with as much love and care as their own children.

The importance of their cattle to rural India is magnanimous. For small time farmers, who do not (and can not afford to) own tractors, the bulls are their only means to pursue farming and earn a livelihood.

This makes the bulls the farmer’s best friends, their children, their Gods!

We tried to comprehend what this connection means, as we watched the endearing bond between the farmer and his animal.

Annual cattle fair at Rajur, Maharashtra, India

The farmers make every effort to feed the cattle well and keep them happy while waiting at the cattle fair. The cattle eats first. When they settle in for their mid-day siesta, the farmer and his family sit down for their lunch.

Lunch is the simle bhakri (a healthier, less glamourous variant of the popular roti) with some vegetable, chutney or – raw onion!

The bulls are the celebrities of the cattle fair – they have to look their best

The bulls are decorated with special accessories. It’s like a bull dressed for a wedding! There is a strong patriotic feel to these accessories as well – do not miss the colours of the Indian tricolour!

Farmer buys accessories like bells and colourful belts for his cattle at the cattle fair where farmers trade their cattle specially their bulls or bullocks in the market town of Rajur in rural Maharashtra, India.

A black decorated bull sits with thousands of other bulls at a cattle fair in the market town of Rajur in rural Maharashtra, India.

Every farmer wants his cattle to stand out. Colourful belts, bells and trinkets – the farmer’s affordability is the only limit to how fancy the bull is made to look.

A young bull, ready for farming activities is the highest prized at the cattle fair

A tall young white bull stands with thousands of other bulls at a cattle fair in the market town of Rajur in rural Maharashtra, India

The teeth, Balu told us, were the best indicators of the bull’s age. The buyers would also carefully inspect the shine in the bulls’ eyes and get a feel of their muscles. For the farmers, buying the bull is a life-defining decision.

The cattle fair was the first time we saw black and white bulls

A pair of young black and white bull at a cattle fair in the market town of Rajur in rural Maharashtra, India

Balu explained the reason. Artificial insemination of the cows is now quite popular in rural India. Bulls born by this method of conception are single coloured – white, brown or black.

Only the ones conceived naturally are black and white in colour. Which is why they are seen only closer to the villages where the cattle population is larger.

Keep it under the wraps – the biggest game at the cattle fair

A group of interested buyers do negotiations among the many people at the weekly rural market, an Indian bazaar, a cattle fair, the biggest of the year where farmers trade their cattle specially their bulls or bullocks in the market town of Rajur in rural Maharashtra, India

At such a cattle fair, a group of men gathered together, especially with some shawls around their necks – means some intense negotiations happening.

“What’s negotiation got to do with a shawl?” We wondered aloud to Balu. He only replied we would soon know!

Men

We did get lucky and got to witness a real deal at the cattle fair. Balu helped us understand its finer mechanisms.

Every farmer sets a price for their bulls, based mainly on their age. Nobody wants to reveal how low they are willing to negotiate.

That’s when a shawl comes in.

The farmers at the cattle fair have some fixed symbols representing certain numbers. The buyer and the seller put their hands under the shawl and non-verbal, touch-and-feel negotiations start.

The onlookers are a contrast to the negotiations. Their expressions speak a thousand word. Shouting encouraging words to the buyer and the seller, urging each one to have the deal go through. “Mara thappi mara” (Come on, pat the bull, already!), they start shouting is the deal seems likely to happen.

The buyer’s pat on the bull is final seal on the deal. It is the buyer saying “he is now mine”!

Thank you, Grassroutes for this wonderful experience!

Have you attended any cattle fair before? Or a rural Indian bazaar? Saw something peculiar that’s made a lifetime travel memory? Tell, tell us!

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

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16 thoughts on “Exploring a rural Indian bazaar, a weekly market and a cattle fair

  1. Chaitali Patel

    These fairs, markets and haats provide a beautiful glimpse into rural life. This markets looks and sounds so interesting. Never thought of attending a cattle fair but would like to now! What also struck me as I was reading this post – is how simple the life of villagers is and how we complicate it living in the bigger cities.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      You have nailed it, Chaitali. That’s the biggest takeaway of attending events like the cattle fair – realise the simplicity that’s possible in life! Do not miss a chance if you get one, to visit a cattle fair!

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      So correct, Jitaditya. It is important for everyone to connect with the farmer, try to get as close to the “source” – at least once in a while. Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. Dipanwita

    I wonder how do they go ahead with the non-verbal negotiation under the wraps of the shawl. Interesting. I would like to witness it someday. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Yeah, it’s amazing how they have mastered this art of non-verbal negotiation, without letting any secrets out. As an onlooker, esp someone who doesn’t understand what exactly is happening, it was fascinating to see a deal go through! Thank you for your comment, Dipanwita. Do not miss a chance to experience a cattle fair 🙂