The Pushkar Camel Fair – Pushkar, Rajasthan, India

A Tribal Gathering Unlike Any Other

In Rajasthan, livestock breeding flourished under the maharajas, who main­tained legions of camels for warfare. The departure of those bellicose rulers and the arrival of the automobile largely sidelined the camel, but you can still see the legacy of those times at the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. It is one of the largest animal markets in Rajasthan’s Thar Desert, and it’s unequaled for color, music, costume, and festivities.

Rajasthan has the largest concentration of tribal people in India, and they converge by the tens of thousands on the small town of Pushkar each November before the full moon (coinciding with the religious Kartik Poornima festival) to parade, race, trade, and sell their prized dromedaries, which have been groomed and festooned for the occasion.

Rajasthanis are known for their love of brilliant colors, so the human participants outshine the steeds with their jewelry and brilliantly colored saris and turbans, which helps to explain the festival’s popularity with foreign tourists, filmmakers, and photogra­phers. More like a nonstop carnival, with acrobats, bazaars, and dancing under the stars, it is one of the most important annual fairs in this desert state.

For Hindus, Pushkar is an important pilgrimage center; the lake is said to have sprung from the spot where the god Brahma dropped a sacred lotus, and more than 1,000 temples now line its banks. At dawn on the day of the full moon, pilgrims gather to bathe in the lake.

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