The small town of Pushkar is a place of huge religious importance to Hindus and has one of only three existing Brahman temples in India. Situated on the edge of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, this dry place nevertheless has a large lake complete with 52 ghats (steps) which facilitate bathing in its holy waters. The lake is said to have been formed when the god Brahma dropped a lotus flower on the Earth.
Pushkar is most famous for its annual livestock fair where hundreds of thousands of people come to trade camels, cattle and horses, creating a traditional spectacle of noise, activity and colour. People come from all over India and for some, their journey to get there takes many days or even weeks. The fair coincides with the holy Kartik Purnima festival which is held around the time of the full moon in the Hindu lunar month of Kartika which falls in late October or early November.
The focus of many of the ensuing festivities is on the camels; their owners take special care to wash, groom and decorate them with special ‘camel jewellery’, bells and livery. As well as being bought and sold, camels are entered into the highly coveted camel ’beauty contest’ where the best dressed camel wins the prize. With tens of thousands of camels being brought to the fair, competition is fierce!
Aside from the livestock trading, a myriad of other activities take place. There are numerous craft stalls selling everything from silver jewellry, beadwork, bells, leather goods, printed textiles, embroidery and paintings. A fairground is set up complete with ferris wheel and folk singer groups and dancers entertain the crowds. There are also other side-shows such as the longest moustache competition and camel racing which takes place in the main arena.
For foreign visitors, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a unique and amazing spectacle without compare. As this is a religious festival, visitors are asked to respect local customs; alcohol and non-vegetarian food are stricly prohibited and guests are asked to dress modestly.