Thar Desert Rajasthan, India
Each November, more than 200,000 people and up to 50,000 animals convene in a dusty town on the edge of the Thar desert in Rajasthan for one of India’s most spectacular festivals – the Pushkar Camel Fair. This year the fair took place from 19-25 November.
One of the continent’s great traditional festivals, this is a spectacle on a truly epic scale and is the largest of its kind in the world. Vibrant, chaotic and visually impressive the fair itself attracts a massive gathering of people and animals.
Whilst the primary purpose of the fair remains as it has always been, to sell and trade camels and other livestock, the festival has grown to include a wide variety of cultural and sporting events and activities, from tugs-of-war to cricket matches pitting Indians against foreigners. There are even competitions to see who has the longest moustache!
A huge carnival is also held, with an array of musicians, magicians, dancers, acrobats, snake charmers and carousel rides to entertain the crowds. Visitors can also enjoy camel rides in the desert, watch camel races and witness camel beauty and dance contests. Yes you heard me right, camel beauty contests! Camels are shaved, cleaned, and adorned with colourful pom-poms, beaded camel jewellery and other impressive bling and entered into contests.
The Camel Fair also coincides with the religious holiday of Kartik Prunima. The holy lake of Pushkar is said to have been formed when Lord Brahma dropped a lotus flower from the heavens in order to crush a demon on earth.
For three days surrounding the full moon, the waters of Pushkar Lake are said to hold special purifying powers and by taking a dip at dawn, you are said to be able to wash way your sins.
Pilgrims therefore come from far and wide to bathe in the holy lake to cleanse their souls with this ritual purification. Once bathing is finished, lanterns are lit and the air is filled with people chanting mantras to honour the Gods. To witness such a religious spectacle is truly awe inspiring and should be treated with a great deal of reverence and respect. It really is a sight that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
So there you have it, the Pushkar Camel Fair, a riot of colour, sights, sounds and smells that is sure to overload all your senses. From humble origins it has grown into one of the world’s must visit festivals, providing you with a good dose of fun, spectacle and spirituality.