Ever wondered how you would feel if all your senses were stimulated all at once? Well, here’s your chance to find out! Welcome to the annual Pushkar Camel Fair that has more than 30,000 camels converge at the tiny desert town of Pushkar, in the Indian state of Rajasthan. An interesting mélange of the fascinating and peculiar, it is a great opportunity to experience an old traditional-style Indian festival. So much more than just a gathering of the dromedaries, it is a county fair of epic proportions, replete with rides, friendly competitions and an endless parade of entertainers.
In the tiny desert town of Pushkar, Rajasthan
October or November as it depends on the cycle of the moon. The official dates for 2016 are 8th November to 14th November.
What is it and why is it celebrated?
It is believed to have been originally started as a way to attract local camel and cattle traders for business during the holy Kartik Purnima festival, held in Pushkar around the full moon in the Hindu lunar month of Kartika (which begins with the new moon in November). However, it has now also become a full-blown tourist attraction.
So what exactly happens?
The festival is celebrated over 7-8 days and generally starts with the flag-hoisting ceremony. The requisite camel trading winds up in the days leading up to the festival or during its first few days. The camels must put their best foot forward as they are dressed up, shaved, paraded and entered into races and fairly amusing beauty contests and dancing competitions. After the trading starts a slew of events which is basically everything you can imagine when it comes to quintessential Indian entertainment!
Each day of the festival has its own day and evening events schedule. In addition to the camel competitions mentioned above, there is a huge carnival complete with, magicians, snake charmers, acrobats, musicians, dancers and carousel rides. There are tugs-of-war, kabaddi matches, satolia matches and foot-ball matches pitting the locals against the visitors along with other fun things like turban-tying and tilak competitions, the longest moustache competition, matka races, jalebi races, wrestling competitions, Indian bride & groom competition (for foreigners), group dances, temple dances, craft fairs, markets…Phew!
Still want more? Well, there is!
You can take a 2-2.5 hours walking tour with Vedic Walks from the Pushkar Gurudwara to the Pushkar Fair Ground to get an authentic feel of the festival and place. For those dying for an aerial view…fear not! Skywaltz will take you on a thrilling hot-air balloon ride over Pushkar for you to enjoy the spectacle of the camel fair from above. This festival can be a real treat for the religiously-inclined too with its Maha Aartis and Deepdan along with the chance to take a holy dip in Lake Pushkar. According to mythological legend, Lord Brahma – The Hindu God of Creation battled with and killed the demon Vajra Nabh. After the demon was killed, three petals from Lord Brahma’s lotus flower floated down to earth creating three lakes. One of these lakes is the Pushkar lake which is considered extremely sacred and bathing in its holy waters is said to absolve one of all sin. Come, ye sinners!
Bustling, dusty, lively, tumultuous, exhilarating…call it what you will! This festival is certainly a feast for the senses with its sea of colours and smells. A bucket list item indeed!