Kartik is a holy month occurring around October-November. The first day of Kartik is celebrated as New Year according to the Hindu calendar. The second day is Bhai Duj and in a fortnight it is full moon time. This heralds a celebration of another kind, a fair held at Vautha, a little known village in Dholka region of Gujarat.
Vautha is a small village located in Dholka taluka of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. Throughout the year this sleepy village of 2000 odd inhabitants goes about its routine business but come Kartik Poonam and it readies for the grandest of festivities. The village sits on the banks of the confluence of the rivers Sabarmati and Vatrak.
Of greater significance is that it has mythological importance since it is believed that seven holy rivers, Sabarmati, Vatrak, Majum, Khari, Meshwo, Shedhi and Hathmati confluence at this place. It is believed that Lord Kartikeya visited this site on kartik Poonam during his journey around the earth and there is a Shiva temple to mark the spot known as the Siddhanath temple. His footprints remain here and are worshipped by devotees. Vautha is also believed to be the spot where seven sages practiced austerities. Bathing in the river at the confluence is believed to wash away sins and as many as 500000 pilgrims converge on this place on Poonam. There is also a belief that Dholka taluka in which Vautha is located was home to the Pandavas during the last year of their exile.
There is another unique factor to this place and the fair organized on Poonam (full moon) day of Kartik month and lasting for five days and that is the large scale purchase and sale of donkeys. People belonging to the vanjara (nomad) tribes congregate here. They put up tents over an area of three miles and there are also stalls put up offering foods, handicrafts and entertainment for visitors. The most common snack is Khichu, made of rice flour and kachariyu, which is til seeds ground with jaggery. Trading is brisk during the day time as over 4000 donkeys change ownership. The owners paint their donkeys in bright hues and that adds a spot of color to the landscape. Vautha is the only place in Gujarat that holds an animal fair, much like the Pushkar fair in Rajasthan and these days one can even see camels being traded. However, majority of people come here to enjoy the fun and festivities and for pilgrimage.
Fun and Festivities
Most people who visit Vautha are from the neighboring rural areas for which the fair is a grand event. During the day Vautha fair site has a desultory air but when the sun goes down, this is when the real action starts as people start pouring in, stalls come alive, there are music parties going on, rides now thrown open, ferris wheels lighted up and ready to go and plenty to do. The fun and festivities last till late at night. Devotees take a bath in the river and set afloat lighted lamps, a sight to remember. Most head home late at night while some may stretch out on the sandy banks and fall asleep under the stars.
Ahmedabad is just 50 km away and Dholka is 26 km away. One can travel to Vautha by special state transport buses organized for the fair that take you directly from Ahmedabad to the fair site. One can always travel by private taxis or arrive at Dholka by train and travel by road to the fair site at Vautha. Nearby places of interest are Lothal and Nal Sarovar. In 2017 the Vautha animal fair falls on 4th November, which also happens to be Guru Nanak Jayanti day.
Vautha is a fine example of the way rural people celebrate a religious occasion and have an enjoyable time in the process, making it a place worth a visit when you tour Gujarat.