A celebration is a way of life for Udaipurities. Fairs and festivals are the occasions for them to de-stress themselves and make merry. And there seems to be no better time for enjoyment than the end of the sweltering heat of the summer and the advent of the much-awaited refreshing rainy days. As the name indicates Hariyali Amavasya falls on the moonless night of the month of Sawan when the earth and Aravali hills are clad in a velvet green ‘hariyali’ sheet.
About the beginning of the fair there is a fascinating story. It is said that while passing through Dewali and Motimagri area, Maharana Fatehsingh, who liked very much to visit places around Udaipur, saw that there was a small lake, the water of which was not being used. He thought of expanding the waterbody so that the water could be used for irrigation. He persuaded erstwhile Prince of England, the Duke of Connaught to lay the foundation. The lake was named Shivsagar and the main dam was called Connaught Dam. However, later on, as desired by the Duke, it was called Fateh Sagar after the Maharana’s name.
After the dam was completed the Maharana came to visit the waterbody on Hariyali Amavasya in a procession accompanied by his umraos and Sardars. In attendance were musicians and bands. To express their gratitude to the Maharana for building the beautiful dam, the public thronged to the place in large numbers. After giving ‘darshan’ to the public, the Maharana accompanied by Maharani Chandi, went up the neighboring hill to worship the highly revered Neemaj Mata. On the way back, the Maharani told the Maharana that she had enjoyed the fair immensely but only one day was not enough. She suggested that it should be a two-day event and on the second day, it should be open to only ladies so that they could enjoy themselves fully and more freely. No wonder, the Maharana liked her proposal, and since 1899 women have a full day to themselves to make merry.
Halwais and shopkeepers of the town were called to the palace through a public announcement and given provisions from the storehouse of the palace. They were asked to set up shops in the fair.
It is said that in the beginning a fair was held at Neemaj Mata and people used to go up the hill for ‘darshan’. Men, women, and children wore green dresses on this day. The Maharana would go to the residence of the Rajpurohit where there was a big feast. Sometimes there was also a feast in Saheliyon ki Badi.
Big groups of from tribals distant places also come to the fair. Aadivasi young men wearing dhotis tucked up high, kurta, turbans, colored handkerchiefs tied around the neck, and sticks in hands throng to Udaipur. They are joined by girls and women dressed up in gaily colored attires. They come singing and dancing with Dhols. Not to be left behind Udaipurities also join the fun. Some come with their family while others with their friends. Fatehsagar ‘paal’ and Saheliyon ki Badi road vibrate with monsoon melodies. Entertaining the crowds can be seen, folk artists.
The hundreds of stalls set up by the shopkeepers from different parts of the country have a huge variety of items on sale. Toys, cosmetics, etc have a bumper sales. A local dish ‘malpua’, ‘gulab jamun’, ‘Jalebi’, ‘chat’ are favorites Bhuttas, maize corn, roasted on glowing coal sell like hotcakes. On the day following Hariyali Amavasya the fair is open only for women. A milling crowd of women both rural and urban can be seen enjoying themselves fully on this occasion. Children are visibly excited riding Chakri-dolar while ladies get busy on other swings. Getting tattooed in the fair is quite common, especially with village bellies. For tourists, it is a unique occasion to closely watch a queer mix of the rural and urban culture of Mewar. They enjoy themselves fully and their cameras keep clicking to capture memories of their visit to Lake City.
So popular has the fair become that songs have been composed on it, saying that one should prepare lunch early to go to the fair as there would be a big crowd there.
Saheliyon ki Badi, a huge ornamental garden originally built as a relaxing area for the amusement of the royal ladies is flooded by people coming to the fair. A lot of people, especially from outside Udaipur who prefer a less crowded place go to Gulab Bagh, the spectacular rose garden built by Maharana Sajjan Singh. Located atop a hill Moti Magari, overlooking the Fateh Sagar lake is visited by a large number of people. The adventurous persons climb up the Neemaj Mata hill to have the Devi’s Darshan. One of the most crowded places on the occasion is Sukhadia Circle, a favorite spot for foodies, where children enjoy boating in the colorful pedal boats.
An eagerly awaited festival, especially by women, Hariyali Amavasa is an occasion when people from neighboring areas and Udaipur get together, go gay and enjoy themselves fully.