In the state of West Bengal there is a popular Bengali saying: “Baro Mase Tero Parban”, literally “thirteen festivals in twelve months” and many small and large festivals or Fairs takes place all over the state every year. Kenduli Mela or Kenduli Fair is one of them.
The festival begins on the last day of the Bengali calendar month Poush and continues till the second month of Magh at the time of Makar Sankranti every year in the district of Birbhum known as (Lal Matir Desh), West Bengal on the banks of Ajay river. This Fair is generally a musical festival that celebrates the poetry and music which gives opportunity to the Bauls who travel throughout the regions singing songs and performing soulful music with their own divine, spiritual, and philosophical manner. Thousands of pilgrims come to watch and listen to them. It also attracts the craftsmen from the whole region mainly selling wooden things and kitchen supplies. This festival is celebrated for four days.
Kenduli Mela celebrates its name from the great poet Joydeb Kenduli. Around 800 years ago he is claimed to have taken a bath at the ghat of Kadaambokhandi of the river Ajay birth place of the poet which is held about 42 kms from Shantiniketan.
From all over the country people come together to watch the Bauls wearing a saffron attire with an musical instrument called Ektara on their hands to perform and listen to their soulful music. The festival is centered on the Radhavinod temple which is the life centre of the fair established by the queen of Bardhaman in the year 1683.
Stalls were installed for selling handcrafts and kitchen utensils during the festival on either side of the roads which is a major attraction for the tourists. The place the festival takes place is decorated with electric decorative lights which brings joy and happiness among the people. Amusement or carnival rides like Nagordola, fun slides, pendulum ride, merry-go-round etc takes place as an amusement for the tourist and kids.
Normally a Baul singer sings two to three songs through the night for three consecutive days. They also receive small gifts or token money of Rs 10 to Rs 20 from the cheering audience by going up to the stage for encouragement to sing another song on request.
The native land of the Bauls is Birbhum and the unique philosophy of the Bauls has a tremendous impact on people about the folk culture in the district. There are also other folk’s cultures groups associated in Birbhum like Kabiyals, Kirtaniyas, etc. One of the great poet named as Lalan Fakir have performed in this festival in the past.
The origin and the history of this festival is still unknown to the people. People can only assumed that it started at least 6 centuries back. Now a day, the Baul singers are losing its natural traditions and characters. Lot of Kirtanias performed in this mela in the modern times. However, the majority of the akhras are now dominated by the Kirtanias. Around 2000 Kirtanias perform here and gained a contract worth 2 crores. People from all over the region attend the mela and stay awake through the night to listen to baul songs. These four days provide enough joy until they come back again next year.