Every November, in the pond-sized sleepy town of Pushkar, India comes alive with a riot of colors and a frenzied burst of activity, attracting visitors from around the globe to the famous Camel Fair.
|Renowned for hosting the world’s largest camel fair, the quiet town of Pushkar exhibits a rare and fascinating combination of religious fervor and cultural effervescence every November. Around 50,000 camels are sold, decorated, shaved and raced during the Pushkar Fair, the largest cattle fair in the world. |
The ambience evoked during the seven-day festival is that of rustic Rajasthan, more so of rural India — vibrant, colorful and quintessentially Indian. Bards and poets recite and sing tales of valor and heroism of bygone days. Singers and dancers stage folk performances throughout the day. Various competitions, such as turban tying, tilak, water pot race, mandna, langari taang, Indian bride, moustache, and wrestling, etc., enliven the event.
In addition, many animal competitions, such as camel decoration, camel dance, horse dance, fast milking, gir and cross-breed and champion cattle contests delight visitors. “The lumbering beast of burden, the camel all decorated in finery, imagines itself to be an ostrich, and rushes through the race like one. It’s such fun. I have never seen anything like this before,” said Australian college student, Diana Wheat.
Hot air balloon shows, principally organized by foreign companies, are a major attraction. Body tattooing is yet another favorite activity among tourists.
The fair grounds reverberate with festivity, as rows of make shift stalls display a bewildering array of beautiful items. From rare Rajasthani specialities, such as woollen blankets of Merta, bead necklaces of Nagaur, textiles from Ajmer and Jodhpur, to brassware of Jodhpur and Jaipur, saddles, ropes, rare textiles, exquisite handicraft, clothes with elaborate embroidery, alluring miniature paintings, leather goods, mesmerising puppets and pottery, the fair has almost everything for every buyer.
Pushkar is a fantastic interplay of history and mythology. It is believed that the city floated to the surface when Lord Brahma dropped a lotus flower on earth during a battle with the demon Vajra Nabh. The tiny tranquil town has as many as 50 ghats and 400 temples, built over different eras with varied architectural styles. Hindu pilgrims flock to take a holy dip in the Pushkar Lake, especially during Kartik Poornima when the fair is organized every year. This presumably washes away all sins. “One must perform puja and take a holy dip in the sacred lake at least once during his lifetime. Come, I can help you reach salvation,” hawked a local pundit on one of the ghats. Many foreign tourists participate in the religious rituals, including taking the holy dip and chanting prayers.
It takes a little getting used to the ungainly movement of the ship of the desert while riding through the sandy landscape and passing through remote villages. One of the oldest ranges, the Aravallis are home to sandy fields, soft dunes, beautiful landscapes and mesmerizing sunrises and sunsets. “And it’s fun to explore them on camels,” said Jessie.
PHOTOS: JEET ALEXANDER