The Uttarayani Fair is generally held in the second week of January every year on the holy occasion of Makar Sankranti. It is celebrated at a number of places in Uttarakhand including Bageshwar, Ranibagh and Hanseshwar though the biggest of them historically has been the Bageshwar Fair. The grounds of the sacred Bagnath temple, on the banks of River Saryu, become the venue for the fair. The fair goes on for a week.
Traditionally the Bageshwar Fair was known as the venue for the biggest economic exchange in Kumaon. The local traders would settle deals with the Bhotia traders, who had monopolized trade with Tibet for centuries. They used to bring several products from the great Himalayan heights, salt being the most vital one apart from ponies, sheep, furs, yak tails, musk pods, borax etc.
This fair also provided an important social and political platform to people.Historically the Bageshwar Fair has played an even more prominent role in trying to uproot the British evil of bonded labor or coolie begar. In the year 1921 under the leadership of Pandit Badri Dutt Pande, the official registers of the Coolies were hurled into the river, thus bringing an end to almost hundred years of a despicable tradition begun by the British rulers. Impressed by this event, Mahatma Gandhi himself visited the Bageshwar Fair in 1921.
Presently though it has become more of a cultural affair. People also take a dip in the holy river because the fair begins on a very auspicious day.
A lot of commercial activity though, still takes place at the fair. A variety of local produces such as iron and copper vessels, baskets, casks, bamboo articles, mats, mattresses, carpets, blankets, herbs and spices can be purchased in the fair.
The busy activities of the day culminate into long musical nights, where several groups of local singers entertain the crowds with endless renderings of Jhoras, Chancharis and Bairas, all local musical-forms.