Pushkar Camel Fair
I traveled to Pushkar in November 2019. It was a last-minute travel decision. Pushkar is a small town located about 150 kilometers southwest of Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. It is a pilgrimage site for Hindus and Sikhs. Most of the temples and ghats of the Pushkar Lake date back to the 18th century. Pushkar is known for its Camel Fair which is held annually. It is a very famous festival and thousands of people including locals and tourists attend the festival. The Pushkar Camel Fair was originally held to attract local camel and cattle traders during the holy Kartik Purnima (full moon) festival, which is held in the Hindu lunar month of Kartik. This year it was held from November 5th to 12th. Over the years, this fair has gained popularity and become a major tourist attraction.
As I saw them, the farmers were camping on the site with their camels, some had also brought along their families for company. It was a peculiar sight, most of the camels were adorned in different colors, hair design, and henna. Camels are also available for rides, for locals and tourists to roam around the Mela (fair). The local men were wearing turbans on their heads and the women covered themselves with regional scarves.
You can view my video on the Pushkar Camel Fair here.
Other attractions at the Pushkar Camel Fair
Besides the camel fair, there are a lot of other activities, where people try to make a living from a very young age, by contributing to the entertainment at the fair. Other attractions include horse dancing, tattoo artists, balancing acts such as rope walking, well of death, music and dancing, etc. Marwari horses take part in most of the contests and performances, it is a rare breed originally from Jodhpur, Rajasthan. They are beautiful, elegant, and very energetic. Seeing the horses dancing and rearing was phenomenal. It was my favorite moment.
As for many major events in India – the Well of Death was installed. My first experience with the Well of Death (Maut ka Kuan) was at the Kumbh Mela. I went there a few times. It felt like I was in a scene from a movie. It is loud and thrilling to watch. The ‘well’ is a vertical pit around which cars and bikes take rounds defying gravity due to the centrifugal force. Wooden planks line the walls of the Well of Death.
The Moustache Competition is certainly one of the most anticipated shows. The men grow their mustaches to great lengths and showcase them at the fair. Some of the mustaches can even go up to a few meters!
There was a wide variety of food and drinks available at the festival and they were all very delicious. There were many tea stalls at the fair serving delectable Chai Tea. Chai Tea is a hot drink, made with black tea, milk, spices, and sugar. It is rich in the Indian culture and tastes the best in India.
This event has been going on for several years in Pushkar and nowadays there are many local and foreign photographers attending the fair. In some areas, I thought that there were more photographers than camels and farmers. The charm must have been more unique in the past. Photographing and shooting videos was very challenging at the fair. There were not only thousands of people but also many photographers present at the fair, which made it quite difficult to get aesthetic shots.
During this trip, I came across a group of gypsies called the Kalbelia Gypsies. They were dancing and playing music. I met a lady named Santos, who was a part of the Kalbelia Gypsy community in Pushkar and she took me to her camp. They were dressed beautifully and were very welcoming. I had previously seen a documentary film about them which made me interested in photographing and learning more about them. This led me to make connections with them for my upcoming documentary project on gypsies. You can have a look at my video on the Kalbelia Gypsies here and read more about them on my blog here.
Witnessing this celebration was beautiful. It was rich in colors and authenticity. It was a unique travel experience.
Photography: Jose Jeuland
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