Beware! You might go high on the explosion of colours between an incredibly blue sky and the golden sands.
You’ll see camels and horses and other livestock lined up to be traded, but their pulse just as wild as ever, and skin just as gleaming.
While the air seems rigid with bargains on one side, it carries music in its womb on the other, as onlookers bear witness to events that depict the culture and lifestyle of Rajasthan. Women’s skirts in swirls and tempting twirls, and clinks and clanks of their jewellery while they sing and dance away in a trance, will hold your mind and heart in a dizzying haze.
The Pushkar Fair (also known as the Pushkar Camel Fair), a grand annual five-day festival you can attend in Rajasthan, is an event you wouldn’t want to miss for the world. It begins with a camel race, and is followed by exhibitions and a lot of cultural events.
Although it is one of the largest camel fairs in the world, there is so much more to it, apart from the livestock being bought and sold. Interestingly, Brahma, the God of creation, has fewer temples than any other deity. And the Brahma Temple at Pushkar is the most prominent of those few in India. On Kartik Poornima, a festival is held when pilgrims and tourists throng the temple after bathing in the sacred waters of the Pushkar Lake.
Those who bring camels and other animals for sale pitch tents for 10 days and live there during the fair. These tents gain a different look in the changing light – on misty mornings and dusty evenings. When the weather is quite chilly in the early mornings, you’ll get to see small, scattered groups of people warming themselves around bonfire and having casual conversations.
Embers in the air can make for photographs so rare, that you’ll want to keep the memories as warm as the quiet flames in the captured frames. Camel carts are the only modes of transportation in the area. You can capture caravans of camels in superb light or make images of their silhouettes against a rising or a setting sun.
You can also make portraits of Rajasthanis whose clothes and jewellery are pronounced in their vivacious colours. Since the area where the fair is held is surrounded by hills, spectacular images can be made with evocative compositions.
If you see a camel’s teeth being inspected, know that it’s believed to be a way to tell the animal’s age. But if you’re really lucky, you will see a camel kissing the sun, or so you delight yourself thinking.
Amidst all this, you shouldn’t forget to pamper yourself. When you are in a fair where brightly-coloured things are waiting to beguile you in any direction your head turns, you will want to buy a few of them. Textiles and jewellery are perhaps the most enticing things you would want to possess. Also, an indulgence in local food that brims with alluring flavours will not be out of place.
If you are a soul that understands the beauty of travel, you will have a great time seeing, photographing and interacting with men and women in various make-ups trying to impress the crowd with their art of acting or dancing or singing. There are also those artists who have their own CDs made, which they put up for sale during the festival. Their earthy voices can leave you in a state of reverie.
And then there are the fun-filled matka races, where women, Indian or otherwise, shed their inhibitions and set out to taste these small triumphs of life, while the earthen pots, all bashful in their lovely curves and in the safe clutches of the women, contain water up to the brim.
There is also the little matter of the friendly cricket match played between the local Pushkar club and a team of random foreign tourists during the Pushkar Camel Fair. You will also see a taut rope caught in a tug of war between a group of natives and a bunch of foreigners.
On the final day of the fair, as the camel owners are in a hurry to meet their business expectations, village sports and other related events are held on the other side to test the adrenaline rush of both the participants and the observers.
So that’s Pushkar Fair for you – a precious few days of infinite colourful memories. If you still haven’t felt the tiny grains of sand under your feet, if the thought of seeing the graceful bearing of the camels with all their slender legs, strong hooves and the wavy humps tickles your mind, then it’s time you pack your bags and head towards the land of deserts. Really, all’s fair in Pushkar, and to miss it is a travesty.
Here is a good link if you’d like to avert that travesty this year.