Originally begun as a festival to honour Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe, it also became the biggest camel fair on earth. The 200,000 pilgrims, farmers and camel drivers who attend it each year are joined by 50,000 camels and cattle, all descending on the small town of Pushkar at the edge of the Marusthali Desert.
The annual Pushkar Camel Fair is an experience that will make for a magical sojourn to Rajasthan. A tented city is created adjacent to Pushkar Lake during the full moon days for this fair. It is here that thousands of men and women cover the sand dunes and indulge in festivities, trade in livestock, handicrafts, Participate in camel races, dances, drama, and music competitions. This is a truly dramatic event that shimmers and gleams with rich colours and vibrant life.
The annual fair in Pushkar is serious business for villagers who spend days traveling across the desert to Pushkar hoping to turn camels into much needed cash. The Pushkar Lake is holy to the Hindus and religious ceremonies are performed simultaneously as camels are being traded. The night at the fairground takes on a Carnival atmosphere. The Ferris wheel attracts line-ups of giggling Rajput women in their richly coloured saris and sparkling bangles that stretch from wrist to shoulder.
Roadside vendors sell pots, pans, bangles, saris, belts and other various items. Campfires dot the dark desert like bright stars as the evening meal is prepared. Hindu holy men, vendors, musicians, actors, tattoo artists, marriage brokers, outsiders and tourists in a combination county fair, hoedown, shivaree and Chautauqua that lasts seven days. At night, the sounds of folk music, storytellers, dances and partying carries well out into the desert.
Today we will offer you free time to explore the colourful sights of Delhi. Opt to visit the imposing Red Fort, Jama Masjid – India’s oldest and largest mosque, Raj Ghat – the site of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation, Humayan’s Tomb and Qutab Minar. Overnight – Delhi
This morning is an early start as we board the Ajmer Shatabadi express bound for Ajmer. Seated in the air conditioned chair class carriage and leaving the city behind we look out upon a landscape of golden desert studded with green fields of agriculture and peaceful villages. Upon arrival to Ajmer a short drive leads us to our accommodation, a kilometre from the uproarious gathering of the Pushkar Camel Fair.
After lunch and time to freshen up we head over to the frenzy of activity and riot of colour that is associated Pushkar – possibly the world’s largest camel fair. Attracting some 300 000 visitors, 40 000 camel, cattle and horses the fair draws sightseers, pilgrims, nomads, breeders, herdsmen, farmers and traders with their accompanying family, livestock and wares from all over the state of Rajasthan. Pushkar is an authentic cultural spectacle that’s totally unique and promises to be good fun. Overnight – Pushkar (L, D)
Day 3Camel judging, cricket, music & magicians
Today offers a glimpse at the serious business of livestock trading and the judging of the best in each category. There are also more light hearted activities on offer such as the camel races, tug of war, awards for the best dressed camel contest and a beauty pageant. Take a look in at the longest moustache competition or keep score at the cricket match between the local Pushkar club and a random assortment of tourists. There are also vibrant folk music and dances, magic shows and various other traditional entertainment and competitions as well as hundreds of authentic stalls to explore, packed with local jewellery and textiles.
This evening can be spent watching the various entertainment offered at our desert camp. Overnight – Pushkar (B, L, D)
Day 4Pushkar – bathing at the ghats
Today marks the start of the Kartik Poornima, a Hindu holy day celebrated on the full moon or the fifteenth lunar day in the month of Kartik. According to the Hindu scriptures the lake relates to Brahma, the god of all creation and is one of the five most holy Hindu pilgrimage sites in India. The Brahma temple here is the most important temple in Pushkar, and is in fact the only Brahma temple in the whole of the country.
On this day of celebration countless pilgrims swathed in colourful fabric converge for a holy dip in the sacred lake before the morning sun has cast its first rays. Surrounded by 52 bathing ghats (a series of steps leading to the lake), throngs of devotees line the water’s edge praying to the deities before washing away the sins of a lifetime.
After all sin has been absolved, the atmosphere is electric and the carnival, music, dancers, magicians, acrobats, snake charming, horse and camel racing continues.
This fascinating spectacle of cattle trading, religious worship, celebration and festivity at Pushkar during this time of year is globally famous. Your baggage allowance may not allow you to take home a camel, but you’re sure to find something truly unique and authentic here at the annual fair. Overnight – Pushkar (B, L, D)
Owning camels is very common in India, especially so in northern Rajasthan
Day 5Ajmer Sherif and onward to Delhi
Pushkar – Delhi. This morning offers free time before visiting the town of Ajmer Sherif. The most notable site is the resting place of the Sufi seer, Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chisti who died here in 1236 after six days of fasting and praying. Possibly the most important Muslim shrine in India fervent pilgrims patronize the shrine as did many of the Mughal rulers including that of Emperor Akbar.
Leading off the Dargah Bazaar we enter the shrine via a gateway of immensely beautifully intricately carved silver doors. In the courtyard stands two huge cauldrons with capacity of 2240 kg and 4480 litres! That’s a lot of chicken soup!
Onward to the station we board our train to Delhi arriving in the evening.