Every year during the full moon around October/November, Rajasthan plays host to one of India’s most spectacular and colorful festivals, as around 300.000 visitors and around 50,000 camels and livestock descend on the dusty desert town of Pushkar for its annual Camel fair.
For 5 days, it’s a total sensory overload as the locals not only trade their livestock, but also compete in friendly competitions such as ‘the longest moustache’, take rides like the ‘cage of death’, and enjoy a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of camel racing, snake charmers, acrobats, fire dancers, magicians and musicians, and the ubiquitous fortune tellers.
This is a riotous festival that stimulates the senses, as the invitingly rich aromas of spicy pakoras and fiery Rajput curries compete with the even richer pungent fragrances of more than 50,000 camels, horses, sheep, cattle and goats.
Hypnotic fluting of snake charmers, the brassy traditional gypsy music, all mixing with the cacophony of traders and visitors alike, compete with the cries and moos of the livestock, as your eyes feast on a rich tapestry of every color imaginable – from the garish costumery adorning the livestock to the vibrant market stalls, to the ornate and multi-hued traditional garb worn by the locals.
The camels themselves all come washed, clipped and dressed up for the show, as the owners proudly display them for trade or sale.
There is even a Camel Beauty contest!
Camels are an important commodity worth their weight in rupees, as their uses in agriculture and transport, and providing milk all compete favorably with the ever-increasing price for oil. They can also live up to around 80 years, and if all else fails, they can provide meat for sustenance and skins for clothing.
Tie it all in with rolling ochre-colored sand dunes, the heady perfumes of wafting incense, morning bathing rituals in the nearby lake, and the tribal chanting from Hindu pilgrims, and you have an intoxicating, magical mixture that might just change you forever.