At a glance
A large number of devotees arrive to the Shamlaji fair on foot or on camel carts, singing devotional songs, some even dancing and carrying banners bearing sacred symbols. They go to worship the deity and bathe in the sacred waters of the Meshwo river. Among the Adivasis, the Bhil community has incredible faith in the powers of Shamlaji who they lovingly refer to as Kaliyo Dev (Dark Divinity). The fair is an important trade destination for people to buy silver ornaments, metalware, cloth and garments, along with many other annual household items.
The temple of Shamlaji stands on the banks of the river Meshwo, in veneration of Lord Vishnu. The river Meshwo meanders over its rocky bed in the valley immediately below, and the waters of a splendid natural lake, of great beauty sparkle amid the well-wooded hills.
It is believed that this shrine has existed for at least 500 years. Built of white sandstone and bricks, it has two storeys supported on rows of pillars. It is profusely carved and episodes from sacred epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata are engraved on the outer walls. It’s beautiful domed ceilings and a traditional north Indian spire over the main shrine add to the magnificence of its open courtyard accompanied by the carving of a life-size elephant.
Sakshi Gopal or Gadadhar is a black representation of Lord Vishnu worshipped at the Shamlaji Temple. This is one of the rare temples of Lord Krishna in which cow idols are also worshipped depicting his childhood as a cowherd. For the Vaishnavites, Shamlaji is one of the hundred and fifty four most important places of pilgrimage in India.
The Shamlaji Mela lasts for about three weeks, around the month of November. Kartik Purnima (Full moon night) is the most important day for the fair.
The Shamlaji Mela is held at Shamlaji situated in the Sabarkantha district near the border between Gujarat and Rajasthan on the National Highway No. 8. Formerly included as a part of Idar, it is approximately 122 kms from Ahmedabad and around 32 kms from Himmatnagar.
Numerous temples in ruins, ancient brick-work and scattered idols are found at Shamlaji which show that since ancient times it has been a popular and important center of pilgrimage on the highway between Gujarat and Rajasthan. Its antiquity has been further proved by the recent finds of a Buddhist stupa and a vihar at Dev-ni-Mori about a mile and a half from Shamlaji. The stupa is considered a sharir stupa i.e., one containing a fragment of the mortal remains of the Buddha.
Remains of shrines of different religions show that the whole area around Shamlaji was once not only prosperous but an important center of civilization and culture. Also, there is a small shrine on the way from the Shamalaji Temple to the Meshwo river, where an image of a late-Gupta standing Ganesha which is still worshiped.
There are three very interesting legends behind the creation of this temple.
- According to one, Lord Brahma once embarked on a journey to find out the best tirtha (sacred site) on the earth. After seeing a number of places, he came to Shamlaji, which he liked the most and performed penance there for a thousand years. Lord Shiva, who was pleased with him, asked him to perform a yajna (ritual). At the beginning of the yajna, Lord Vishnu manifested himself in the form of Shamlaji, and was enshrined at this place.
- Another legend has it that Vishwakarma, the architect of the Gods, constructed this temple in one night, but as it was morning by the time he completed it, he could not take it with him and had to return leaving it here.
- According to the third story, an Adivasi found the idol of Lord Shamlaji while ploughing his land. He worshipped it by lighting a lamp everyday and was blessed for his faith by having an abundant yield in his farm. Learning of this, a Vaishnava merchant built the temple and installed the idol therein, which was later beautified by the Idar rulers. More recently, a prominent business family further renovated this temple.
Polo Forest, Idar. Kesariaji, a Jain shrine in Rajasthan about 30 kms away from the border of Gujarat. Modasa – 29 kms
Event calendar for the next five years
2014 03-11-2014 to 06--11-2014
2015 22-11-2015 to 25--11-2015
2016 11-11-2016 to 14--11-2016
2017 31-10-2017 to 04--11-2017
Disclaimer: You are requested to check the exact dates with Gujarat Tourism office before finalising your travel plans for this festival.
The fair is attended by more than 2 lakh people from different parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan, especially by the Garasia and Bhil community who attend this fair in large numbers.