Living a busy urban life, we rarely get to have a first-hand experience of folk culture. It is refreshing to witness the simplicity of strong-rooted traditions and the rustic lifestyle of those who still live in rural India. As a parent, I believe that our kids should experience and learn to appreciate the various folk traditions that are present in different cultures all over the country, while reconciling those with a modern lifestyle. So, when last year when we sat down to plan our winter holidays, my wife and I concluded that we should take the kids to the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan.
This festival showcases the culture and practices of the local village communities, oblivious to the fast-moving, tech-driven world around them. By far, the Pushkar Fair, also called the Pushkar Mela, is one of the oldest and most famous folk events of Rajasthan with immense religious, artistic and cultural significance. From a traveler’s perspective, the best part of the festival is that it’s held in the full moon of the autumn months, making it the perfect weather for a wholesome trip.
How to reach
For those traveling with children or elders, it is important that you travel comfortably and safely. The best way to reach Pushkar is to fly to Jaipur. From Jaipur, you can book a cab or hire a chauffeur-driven car, as we did- and reach the Pushkar fairgrounds. There are plenty of hotels and guest houses nearby which you can pre-book. Once you reach, you will see the festival in full flow and the extraordinary energy of the town as it comes alive with the sounds of merchants, traders, artisans and musicians.
Our festival experience
The highlight of the Pushkar Fair is the grand Camel Fair. The children were all excited to see the desert animals, which they had never seen in their natural habitats. So, the next morning we headed to the fairgrounds to witness this extraordinary event. An extravagant affair, the Camels of Pushkar are the real showstoppers and this gathering makes for the biggest camel fair in the world. Villagers from neighbouring places come together with 50,000 camels, all groomed, trained, and adorned in colourful fabrics and accessories. They are made to participate in races, where the owner of the winning camel is awarded a handsome sum. Then there was also an exhibition of the ‘best dressed/groomed’ camel. It was quite interesting to see a contest between horse owners and camel owners competing over the decorations and fineries with which their animals were adorned.
After meandering through the flocks of camels trotting around, we headed towards the other displays.
Rajasthan is famous for handcrafted fabrics, jewellery, and accessories. And the festival let us see these extremely skilled craftsmen at work in close quarters. There were painting and handicraft exhibits of wooden, textile, and leather items. We also managed to catch a puppet show set up by the local villagers.
All this walking got us really hungry and we headed to the food stalls. Needless to say, every bite of the local fare was absolutely delicious. This is especially true when it’s cooked in the rustic style- on a clay oven.
As the day was about to end, we headed out to view the sunset. The setting sun against the Nag Parbat created a lovely silhouette of camels and the fairgrounds.
The colours, sounds, and aromas of the Pushkar Mela enticed each one of us and the kids went click-happy at every sight that caught their eye. As for me, I felt vindicated that the family was absorbing every bit of this trip and really enjoying the moments. The vibrancy of the folk culture, the colourful attire, age-old traditions, and the animals came together to make it a truly memorable holiday for us! We headed back to Jaipur where we rented an Innova, spending the entire day sightseeing and exploring the city. Soon, night had fallen and it was time for us to head to the airport and we bid adieu to the beautiful state of Rajasthan.