Warning! This blog post has many, many photos of camels- proceed at your own risk!!
One of the biggest festivals in all of India is the Pushkar Camel Fair, where traders come from all over the state, and further afield, to buy and sell livestock- mostly camels, but also beautiful horses and cattle. Usually, we try to avoid big events and crowds in India, because, in our experience, an overexcited male dominated mass-assemblage is not comfortable for Sally, or particularly enjoyable for either of us. But, having heard many good things about this particular festival from fellow travellers, we decided it would be a unique thing for us to see once in our lives.
|Early morning fire|
As it turned out, although there were crowds, it was nowhere near as busy as we had imagined (apart from the very last day), and as the camel traders all brought their families with them, there were nearly as many women selling goods at stalls, or shopping themselves, while their men tended to the business of selling their camels, horses etc. The overall atmosphere was one of good spirits with foreign tourists, Indian tourists, locals and villagers mingling in a good natured manner.
There were two main areas of focus for the Fair. One was the mela ground, or stadium, where shows were put on throughout the day and evening, mainly for foreign tourists, and were generally quite cheesy, but fun. Events such as the best moustache, troupes of dancing girls, best decorated camel, and turban tying for foreigners were very popular, and we took a back seat to the hundreds of expensive-camera toting tourists pushing and shoving, all vying for the best shots. Various parades and sporting events went on, with some of the traditional village games involving a local team competing with a team of clumsy foreigners. Side happenings were performing monkeys, which we hated to see, and families with kids performing acrobatics, which, strangely, we didn’t mind so much. We gave the “dancing horses” a miss. Almost as good as the show was watching the other tourists. Particularly hilarious were the rich package tourists in their “Indian” clothes, with their guides, handing out money left, right and centre to anyone who asked them. There were evening cultural concerts with music and dancing staged, but in between the crowds, the bad sound system and the COLD weather, we usually turned in early, and concentrated on the day events.
|Lovely to see women dancing|
|Dressed for the Gods|
|Little gymnast waiting her turn|
|So much color|
|Shiva even made an appearance!|
|Gorgeous schoolgirls waiting for their dance|
|The camera-wielding hordes|
|Competitor for the best decorated camel|
|She was so confident...|
|....but concentrating hard!|
|A contestant in the "best mustache" competition ( his reached the ground when unrolled!)|
|Silly tourists getting in knots|
The other area of focus, which we much preferred, was the actual trading area for the camels, and to a lesser extent, horses. There was dozens of hectares of small groups of camels of all colours, sizes and ages, along with their photogenic owners, squatting in huddles waiting for buyers, as far as the eye could see. Although those hard core tourist photographers were still present in this area (sometimes making us cringe with their antics, such as stuffing their cameras in people’s faces), along with persistent little kids wanting money for trinkets or photos, it was such a huge area, and everything was very spread out. Richard was particularly mesmerized with this part of the Fair at sunrise, as you will see from the enormous amount of photos he took!
In between the two areas was a market street selling everything one could want for their camels, including saddles, nose pegs, rope, and hundreds of other paraphernalia for which we had no idea the purpose! Behind, there was a carnival set up mainly for the villagers, but was certainly fun to watch. There were no less than five Ferris wheels, dozens of dodgy-looking rides, and an intriguing looking human circus.
|Look more like rolling pins than knives!|
|Camel nose pins|
|Woman market seller|
|Camel "stuff" for sale|
The Camel Fair took place over 10 days, with the final days coinciding with the most auspicious full moon of the year, so the activity and number of people grew and grew, and during the climax on the last day, Pushkar’s streets and ghats were transformed into a river of people and activity, and there was constant noise from the Brahma temple for more than 24 hours.
|Crowded ghats during the festival|
Even before the start of the Fair, there was much to see during the several days build-up, so by the time everything was over, and most of the traders, pilgrims and rich tourists had left the area, we were quite exhausted! We stayed on for a while to see the transformation back to the quiet little town we remembered, and then set off for a new destination.
|Trying to keep warm|
|Waiting for a sale|
|A man and his camel|