Of all the fairs and festivals celebrated in Gujarat, the religious carnival held in Shamlaji taluka under Sabarkantha district is extremely popular with Hindu pilgrims. The fair is organized in the month of November for a period of 4-5 days when millions of devotees visit the fairgrounds. The festival is generally held in the Kartick month as per the Hindu almanac and the night of full-moon (Kartick Poornima) is regarded as the most auspicious amongst all the days on which the event is staged.
Pilgrims from all corners of the country as well as from abroad descend in droves, some arriving on foot, some on camelbacks, and via various other transportation modes. Religious-minded visitors sing paeans and hymns as well as dance in praise of Lord Shamlaji admiringly referred to as Kaliyo Deva (the dark deity) by the Bhils-the largest of all aboriginal Indian tribes. Shamlaji is actually a divine incarnation of Lord Vishnu, one of the Trinity gods in the Hindu pantheon in whose name the temple has been consecrated and the fair takes place.
Pilgrims are witnessed flocking to the fair carrying pendants, ensigns, and standards emblazoned with the divine symbols of various gods and goddesses. Many devotees also take a dip or bathe in the Meshwo River flowing beside the Shamlaji Temple situated on its banks. The temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu has his depiction in black form called Sakshi Gopal or Gadadhar placed in the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum.
The fair has tremendous significance from the perspective of commerce & trade as nearly 2 lakh pilgrims, mostly from Rajasthan and Gujarat arrive here to purchase household items, garments, silverware, and ornaments.
Though the exact year when the fair was arranged for the first time is not known, it is alleged that the current temple was erected sometime during the 11th century by Solanki rulers. The shrine is believed to have been refurbished approximately 5 centuries back. One can see ruins of several other temples, ancient brickworks, and fractured idols in the vicinity of the Shamlaji shrine.
Best Time to Visit
Since the festival takes place in the month of November, tourists and pilgrims intending to be present at the fairgrounds should schedule a trip accordingly. In 2016, the fair will be held from 11th November-14th November (Fri-Mon).
Where is it located?
Shamlaji lies on the border between the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat and can be reached from Ahmedabad or Himmatnagar via NH8. The closest railhead is in Himmatnagar and visitors can proceed to Shamlaji by hiring a jeep or taxi.