The remote village of Binjore along the India-Pakistan border in Sri Gangangar district of Rajasthan, nearly 600 km from state capital Jaipur, came to life for a week as some 15,000-20,000 people from across the country and a few from overseas participated in an annual fair to mark the “martyrdom” of the legendary lovers Laila-Majnu (Laila and Majnu).
“The fair, which started on June 11, came to an end on Monday. It has attracted a large number of lovers and newlyweds for decades now,” said Rashid, a resident of the village, only a few kilometres from the border, adding that the two tombs of Laila-Majnu have been the centre of attraction, especially among lovers and newlyweds, for decades now.
A number of temporary shops, mainly selling sweetmeats, cosmetics, toys and other household items, came up during the fair time. There were also quawalis and competitions in volleyball, wrestling and kabaddi.
“Every year, the arrivals, mainly of newly married and unmarried couples are growing. This year too hundreds of visitors from all over the country thronged the place to offer their prayers at the tombs of Laila-Majnu,” another villager added that Hindus and Muslims in equal number participate in the fair. Sikhs and Christians also come to the fair.
There were, off and on, visitors from Pakistan too, but not this year. Though the existence of Laila-Majnu is still a matter of debate among historians, this in no way affects the flow of devotees.
“I am not aware of existence of Laila-Majnu, but all I can say for sure is that in the last 20 or so years I have seen an increase in the number of couples visiting the tombs,” said Rajendra, another local resident.
In the Bijnore version of folklore, Laila-Majnu, fleeing oppression in their respective homes that were dead set against their marriage, had drifted into this part of the country in search of water. They were scorched to death by the blazing sun and their tombs were constructed where their bodies were found.
No one remembers when the fair began, but it’s been around for a while. Urmila, a newly married woman who came from neighboring Haryana said “I am here with my husband to seek blessings for a long and happy married life.”
Her husband Ashok agreed. “We have heard people who come here always have a long and happy married life; so I and my husband are here to pray for it,” said Jitendra Singh from a village in Punjab.