India – Rajasthan – Pushkar Camel FairBack to Story

The Pushkar fair is one of Rajasthan's most spectacular festivals

I chose a different style of travel for India by joining Jim Cline Photo Tours with Karl Grobl on the 2010 Pushkar Camel Fair Tour. The thought process behind it was that it would be a safe and efficient way to reach the Rajasthan destinations of Jaisalmer, Jaipur and Jodpur that I had always wanted to visit.  The benefits were twofold as Karl proved an excellent tutor and source of inspiration and Digvijay Singh (DV) our local guide allieviated any dramas to make our trip fun and carefree.

The Pushkar Camel Fair is an annual event timed for the full moon in which traders, herdsmen, livestock and tourists alike all travel for days to one of the most spectacular rural fairs around.

The group of photographers I am travelling with stayed about a kilometre away from the fairgrounds in a temporary campground. The tents were spacious with flush toilets. There was a unique set-up for showering involving a group of men boiling water at the edge of the camp and hauling a bucketful along when we needed to shower.

At sunset we walked to the edge of the town where the fair was being held. We entered through the livestock area where most of the people are camped near their animals. I was expecting to see mostly camels, which, of course, are the drawcard but was surprised to see so many horses and some cows. The fair is a social event for many of the rural men in particular. At dawn each day, we walk around and share time with these men by the campfires as they smoke, drink tea and chat. Pushkar is an alcohol-free event, making it very calm and peaceful.

I am sure 2010 will go down in Pushkar history as the year it rained.  It poured. This made for less than ideal conditions to be walking around in, especially with cameras. Unfortunately the rain has washed out all camel parades. At least the conditions were perfect for enjoying a less crowded environment. As we were walking through the town centre the group was caught in a downpour and forced to find shelter wherever we could. Another of my India moments is taking shelter in a teashop, which is an all male domain in many cases and certainly was in this one.  One of the holy men insisted on moving over and sharing his seat with me. In a universal moment we mumbled about the rain as we watched the people passing by, much as I might in my homeland.

The next morning the air was, of course, clean and crisp because of the rain.  Walking through the area where the animals and their keepers shared was amazing as the sun came up through the mist. As the sun rose so did the hot air balloons that had been mostly grounded by the rainy weather the previous day.

The drawcard for Pushkar is not just the camels but also the people. here you can see the rural and desert people of Rajasthan out in their finest. Many of the men wear colourful turbans tied with care and elegance. Moustaches are groomed to perfection. The women, however, are the real source of colour at the fair as their bright coloured sari’s float across the dirt ground. Rajasthani women are incredibly elegant and take great pride in their appearance, even when working in the fields a bright sari will be worn that looks more suitable for a catwalk than hard labour. They almost always wear a veil of some sort and will use it to cover their faces when male strangers are around.

The Pushkar Fair is not only a camel fair but also a religious one. The waters of the Pushkar Lake are believed to possess magical powers during a few days of the full moon in November. As a result, many more people come to wash and pray in the lake. It is an opportunity to see many of the local tribes, customs and spiritual life.

 

 

Pushkar Fair, Camels, and the people

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