Here Nitish is sold at Rs 11,500; Lalu at all-time high of Rs 26,000

Here Nitish is sold at Rs 11,500; Lalu at all-time high of Rs 26,000

Here Nitish is sold at Rs 11,500; Lalu at all-time high of Rs 26,000

Naming donkeys after politicians may not appear like the right endorsement, but it goes a long way to show how far they capture the popular imagination.

At the Gardhabraj Mela, or donkey fair, held annually on the Mokshadyani Ghat on the banks of river Shipra in Ujjain district, the beasts are christened Nitish or Lalu, reflecting the rise in popularity of the Mahagadhbandan leaders after their spectacular Bihar triumph.

Indeed, this would be a new high to politicians who often fall by the wayside before popular names like Aishwarya, Salman, Shahrukh, and even men past their primes like Amitabh or Mithun, after whom the animals were usually named annually.

“This is Nitish at Rs 11,500, and there stands Lalu, all-time hit in Bihar politics, at Rs 26,000,” a local trader told a buyer, applying the best possible marketing trick.

A prime annual market place for animal traders, the Mela sees traders covering 400 to 450 kilometres by foot from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Locals claim that the mela began during the rule of King Vikramaditya.

“The Mela begins on Kartik Ekadashi, an auspicious day as per Hindu almanac, ends after five-day- until Purnima (full moon day)”, said an official of Ujjain District Panchayat. This year, the fair attracted more than 3,500 donkeys and other animals. The hard working Khachchar or mules also traded in the fair.

Donkeys have grown in demand in recent years from brick kiln owners, who subject them to sterner tests before buying them. Not so strangely though, they are priced according to the quality of their teeth.

“To know the right age of donkeys, one counts their teeth. An animal with three teeth is considered to be four years old while four teeth mean five years old”, the Ujjain district panchayat official said.

The five-day fair gives sellers adequate time to test-ride the animals and bargain prices.  The Ujjain Municipal Corporation makes elaborate arrangements for the mela, providing drinking water facility and keeping the venue clean and dry.

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