Festivals Of India: Pushkar Mela
A beauty pageant for camels, a riot of colours, a medley of folk songs and a lake that can wash away your sins…Rashmi Deshpande explores one of the largest and most colourful cattle fairs in the world, the Pushkar fair.
Legend has it that Brahma dropped a lotus flower on earth and the holy city of Pushkar arose in the midst of a desert. The site of one of the rare Brahma temples in the world, this Hindu pilgrimage city is dominated by Pushkar Lake, edged by sacred ghats and hundreds of cream-coloured temples and domes. Devout Hindus flock to take a dip in the sacred waters of the lake, which can wash away the sins of a lifetime. But what draws most tourists to Pushkar is the Pushkar Fair—a week-long cattle trading event, that culminates on Kartik Purnima—the full moon night in the Hindu month of Kartik.
Visit Pushkar during the mela and you’ll see it transformed into a riot of colours and sounds. A staggering number of camels, horses, cows, sheep, and other animals make their way across the shifting desert sands to one of the largest cattle trading fairs in the world.
Prospective buyers, herders, traders, tourists, pilgrims, families, and thousands of men, women and children, set up camp across the barren plains of this pond-sized desert town and completely alter the atmosphere of the placid dunes with a frenzy of sights, sounds and activity.
Gaudy turbans, resplendent ghagaras, bejewelled animals—their coats shorn into fascinating patterns and adorned with handmade, embroidered saddles, long strings of cowrie shells, bells, beads and colourful, woven saddle-straps—contrast against the even hue of the sand. Everyone who visits Pushkar is dressed to the hilt, and ready for business!
A Cultural Extravaganza
Once negotiations are done, traders have sold their wares and the tempo of business has subsided, it’s time for merriment.
Folk songs, dances and camel races are held, followed by camel beauty pageants, which show off each splendidly bedecked camel to an appreciative audience. The camels are paraded for the judges to grade the camel’s gait, the ornamentation, the training it has received and the tricks it can display. ‘Laado oonth’, which literally means ‘load the camel’, is part of the pageant, where man after man clamber onto the back of the camel, precariously holding on to each other, as the camel tries to get to its feet.
The End Of The Fair
On Kartik Purnima, the last day of the fair, a scramble begins for a place on the bathing ghats on Pushkar Lake, the waters of which are not only holy, but are believed to cure skin diseases. Devotees then line up at the Brahma temple for blessings. The full moon night is lit aglow with tiny leaf boats, set afloat on the lake, each carrying a pretty cargo of flowers and a traditional earthen lamp. The exodus begins the next morning and caravans take long lines of camels, horses and cattle to their new homes. And so the world’s largest and most colourful cattle fair, draws to an end.
Travel to Pushkar by air
Jaipur is the nearest airport at 138 kms
Travel to Pushkar by train
Ajmer is connected to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Abu and Jodhpur by rail. The Pink City Express and Shatabdi Express connect Ajmer to Delhi and Jaipur.
Travel to Pushkar by bus
Ajmer is connected to every major city in Rajasthan, Gujarat and to Delhi, by bus.
Road distances from Ajmer to:
Jaipur: 138 kms
Delhi: 392 kms
Ahmedabad: 526 kms
Jaisalmer: 490 kms
Bikaner: 233 kms