An astonishing 50,000 camels converge on the tiny desert town of Pushkar, in India's state of Rajasthan, for the annual Pushkar Fair. It's a fascinating and peculiar sight, and a great opportunity to witness an old traditional style Indian festival.
The original intention behind the Pushkar Camel Fair was to attract local camel and cattle traders to do business during the holy Kartik Purnima festival, held in Pushkar around the full moon in the Hindu lunar month of Kartika. The fair has now also become a major tourist attraction.
When is the Fair Celebrated?:
Usually in November, depending on the cycle of the moon. The camel action takes place early in the festival, after which time the focus shifts to heightened religious celebrations. In 2014, the dates for the Pushkar Fair are October 30-November 6. Camel trading and other activities will start from October 30 and will wind up by November 2. Be sure to come early to see the fair in full swing!
Find out future Pushkar Fair dates.
Where is the Fair Celebrated?:
In the small town of Pushkar, near Ajmer, located on the edge of the Thar Desert in the state of Rajasthan.
How is the Fair Celebrated?:
The camels are dressed up, paraded, shaved, entered into beauty contests, raced, made to dance, and traded. A huge carnival is held, with an array of musicians, magicians, dancers, acrobats, snake charmers and carousel rides to entertain the crowd.
What Rituals are Performed During the Fair?:
Pilgrims come to this festival to bathe in the holy waters of Pushkar's lake and be absolved of their sins. The two days around the full moon are considered to be the most auspicious time of the year for bathing in the lake. Those who bathe on the day of the full moon are said to receive special blessings.
What Can Be Expected at the Fair?:
The sand dunes appear infested with camels as far as the eyes can see and the population of Pushkar swells to over 200,000 people, with an inflow of pilgrims, camel traders, and tourists. It's a fascinating and peculiar sight, and a great opportunity to witness an old traditional style Indian festival. The highlight is definitely the camel races, although the comical beauty contests featuring elaborately adorned and shaved camels are also amusing. There's temple dancing, folk and classical music, and and arts and crafts bazaar as well.
Seeing the Pushkar Camel Festival from a Hot Air Balloon:
It's possible to witness the spectacle of the camel fair from above, in a hot air balloon. SkyWaltz offer exhilarating balloon flights over Pushkar by request.
Pushkar Camel Fair Accommodations:
The influx of visitors during the camel fair causes the demand for accommodations to skyrocket, and prices increase accordingly. There are two main options for organizing a place to stay -- either arrive a couple of days before the fair starts and find somewhere (which is the cheaper option), or book in advance. Accommodations include simple guest houses, desert tents, heritage hotels, and farm stays. Here are some of the best options for staying in Pushkar.
Getting to Pushkar:
The closest railway station, which receives long distance Indian Railways trains, is Ajmer. The train line linking Ajmer and Puskhar opened in early 2012. Otherwise, if you go by road, it's a windy 30 minute drive through the aptly named Snake Mountain (Nag Parbat) to Pushkar. The local buses are dilapidated and crowded but the fare is a mere 20 cents, and the journey very authentic. Auto rickshaws are also available but getting the drivers to use the meter is a challenge! The fare should be around 100 rupees ($2.50), but can easily be more during the camel festival. Alternatively, the nearest airport is in Jaipur, around two and a half hours away. Taxi fares to Pushkar can double during the festival, so expect to pay between $30-$60.