Text by Hardika Dayalani | Photos by Ritayan Mukherjee

Every year in the month of September, Gujarat’s Tarnetar village gears up for a much-awaited three day-long fair. This fair, however, is like no other — it’s a marriage mart, with families matchmaking, and women and men looking for prospective partners at the carnival. This year, the Tarnetar Fair was held from 1 to 4 September.

It’s said to be the most important event held in the region of Saurashtra, which is where the village is located. Thousands of people from Koli, Rabari, Bharwad, Kunbi, Khant, Kathi, Charan, and Harijan communities visit the fair in the Bhadarva month of the Hindu lunar calendar.

The festival pays homage to the ‘three-eyed lord’ or Triniteshwar Mahadev, whose temple is the focal point of the festival. The fair celebrates Gujarat’s local crafts, besides commemorating Draupadi’s swayamvara, or the ancient Indian practice, in which women of marriageable age would choose a partner from among a group of suitors.

Youngsters dressed in colourful clothes put their best foot forward to attract potential spouses. Men are seen strutting around carrying vibrant umbrellas — a trademark of the Tarnetar Fair. Unmarried women wear red ghagras and pair them with richly embroidered cholis.

The fair, however, even caters to the ones not looking to partake in the matchmaking business, by hosting folk music and dance performances, horse races, among several other such activities.

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At the fair, a vendor sells silk scarves for young men, who don them as a part of their traditional attire.

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Young men dressed in traditional clothes gear up to attract prospective brides.

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After being successfully matched, couples huddle and enjoy the fair.

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Animal sports, especially ones related to horses, are popular among visitors at the fair.

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A shopkeeper enjoys his afternoon nap, while his sons play with masks.

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A family poses with a toy tiger for a photograph at the fair.

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A group of farmers from Saurashtra excitedly examine the wares at a pesticide company stall.

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Puppet shows draw large audiences at the Tarnetar Fair, with troupes mostly staging performances of romantic tales.

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A tribal woman visiting the Tarnetar Fair.

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At night, a group of grooms-to-be come together to watch a traditional performance at the fair.

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Aerial view of the Tarnetar Fair at night.

Banner image: Decorated umbrellas are a major attraction at the Tarnetar Fair. Local villagers come to the carnival with heavily embellished umbrellas that usually have a peacock perched on top, and kerchiefs hanging from the tips. Here, a villager is seen seated in front of a colourful wall with a giant umbrella painted on it.

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