Pushkar Camel Fair
Every year at the 'Kartik Poornima' Full Moon, the holy town of Pushkar hosts the famous camel fair which attracts thousands of visitors, including pilgrims from all over India, and provides the most colourful festival of the Rajasthani year.
The annual Pushkar Camel Fair is an experience that will make for a magical sojourn to Rajasthan. A tented city is created adjacent to Pushkar Lake during the full moon days for this fair and it is here that thousands of men and women cover the sand dunes and indulge in festivities, trade in livestock, handicrafts, participate in camel races, dances, drama, and music competitions. This is a truly dramatic event that shimmers and gleams with rich colours and vibrant life. The annual fair in Pushkar is serious business for villagers who spend days traveling across the desert to Pushkar hoping to turn camels into much needed cash.
The Pushkar Lake is holy to the Hindus and religious ceremonies are performed simultaneously as camels are being traded. The night at the fairground takes on a Carnival atmosphere. The ferris wheel attracts line-ups of giggling Rajput women in their richly coloured saris and sparkling bangles that stretch from wrist to shoulder. Roadside vendors sell pots, pans, bangles, saris, belts and other various items. Campfires dot the dark desert like bright stars as the evening meal is prepared.
Originally begun as a festival to honor Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, it also became the biggest camel fair on earth. The 200,000 pilgrims, farmers and camel drivers who attend it each year are joined by 50,000 camels and cattle, all descending on the small town of Pushkar at the edge of the Marusthali Desert. They, in turn, are joined by Hindu holy men, vendors, musicians, actors, tattoo artists, marriage brokers, outsiders and tourists in a combination county fair, hoedown, shivaree and Chautauqua that lasts seven days.
By the end of it, wagers from dozens of camel, horse and donkey races will have passed through many hands, devout Hindus will have performed ritual ablutions at the edge of Pushkar Lake (India's most sacred) and the usually empty and drear Marusthali will have bloomed with thousands of human flowers.
This year's fair will be held Nov. 8-15. Little Pushkar, population 15,000, will take the onslaught of humanity and livestock in stride, providing everything from places to tether camels to western-style lodgings and amenities.
The town's location besides Lake Pushkar, about 80 miles southwest of Jaipur, gives it quite a cachet. Hindu Legends say that Lord Brahma, seeking a place to hold a religious ritual, dropped a lotus from his hand. Where the lotus struck the ground created three lakes: Jyeshtha Pushkar (main Pushkar), Madhyam Pushkar (medium Pushkar) and Kanishtha Pushkar (little Pushkar), from which the town took its name.
The waters are the only shrine in India dedicated exclusively to Lord Brahma and are one of the five holiest places of pilgrimage on the subcontinent. (With Brahma's creative work done, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer became the more prominent gods in Hindu affairs.)
Besides dips in the sacred waters of Jyeshtha Pushkar, visitors also take in a camel trading lot that is the largest of its kind on earth, something akin to a giant used car lot -- only these "autos" chew, stink and spit. At night, the sounds of folk music, storytellers, dances and partying carries well out into the desert. The fair, because it honors Brahma, is an alcohol-free affair.
November is the beginning of India's cool season (the other two are "wet" and "hot"), so the desert at Pushkar is not as blazing as it is most of the rest of the year. Under clear skies and in relatively comfortable temperatures, visitors to the Pushkar Fair see how enjoyable a traditional rural celebration can be.