Essentials like gifts, clothes and toys can to be picked up at bargain prices, including posters of your favourite celebs.
Poush Mela is known for attracting Bauls; wondering, travelling musicians who entertain visitors with their impromptu folk songs. Once one begins to sing, crowds gather round and it turns into a frenzy of live performances, where you can slip between sets or join in with by showing your appreciation in the form of hand claps. There are also various stages and marquees set up where you can take a seat and get hypnotised by poets and speakers.
Performers are everywhere, as are costume clad folk ready to pose for snaps and take your cash (kids especially), but this particular man was happy just scowling at my camera.
Dining, naturally, is big business with catering set up inside tents serving everything from curried crabs to deep fried sweet corn. But if you're more into snacks, street treats are aplenty. My fave, the stall endorsed by Bolly star Sunny Deol.
It's possible to observe and shop for all manner of handicrafts, but not just during the Mela. Shantiniketan is home to hundreds of cottage industries from basketry to illustration - but more on those to come in future blog posts.
You can't have a Mela without a few games. Here's one I didn't see anyone win, which sounds ludicrous as it looks easy but actually was ridiculously difficult. The aim was to throw a small metal hoop so that it landed directly over a packet of biscuits that you get to keep. Sadly I did not take a packet home with me.
By day the traditional fairground looked rather quaint...
... yet by night it had come alive with lights as magnificent as the Blackpool illuminationsThe Mela itself was HUGE taking over hectares of land almost becoming its own mini town for three days and nights. Family friendly, cow friendly and filled with colour, it was a great place to spend a day, but it's repetitive nature meant you wouldn't want to spend all three days here, especially when the surrounding area is so interesting. Best to combine it with a trip to visiting the local sights which include a prestigious university campus set up by the legendary Bengali poet Tagore.
Wondering around the Mela was of course thirsty work and thankfully there was fresh sugar cane juice being squeezed all over the site.
Despite its size and brief mention in guidebooks I didn't see a single Western tourist at the Mela, but I did get to experience a real sense of community spirit and happiness. There were all ages at the festival from elderly folk through to kids and all of them were mesmerised by the love and laughter in the air.
The Poush Mela takes places every December in West Bengal, India