Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan, India     Click here for photos of Pushkar's temples and ghats

Two days ago I went on a day trip to Pushkar, a Hindu pilgrimage site, from Jaipur. It has what is said to be the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the world. Bathing ghats surround Pushkar Lake, which, like the umpteen other polluted lakes and rivers in India, is believed to have miraculous healing and purifying power. Though alcohol and meat are banned in this holy town, soft drugs are tolerated (Lord Shiva partakes of it himself!) and are a major draw for Westerners. Pushkar's history goes back a long way but all its temples date from modern times; the earlier buildings were summarily razed by the bad guy Aurangzeb.

This was my second visit, occasioned by the annual, weeklong Pushkar camel fair that attracts over 250,000 visitors from India and abroad. Villagers turn up for both business and pleasure. In the animal market, amid women gathering camel dung for fire and children frolicking in tanks that hold water for the camels, I felt transported back by decades, save for the prominent telecom company ads and the camcorder-toting tourists.

Besides the trade in camels, horses, livestock, and farm items, the fair-held in the outskirts of town at the edge of the desert-also offers lots of entertainment and a street market. The former includes tightrope walkers, performing monkeys, snake charmers, acrobats, dare-devil bikers, spherical mirror illusions, circus acts, and shows promising 'melting girls' and 'women who turn into serpents as they wish'. Competitions focus on moustaches and bridal wear, as well as events like camel and horse races, matka phod, and a cattle beauty contest. Brightly dressed women shop for fashion jewelry, pots and pans, and clothes. Food stalls abound, as do merry-go-rounds and similar rides. All in all, it seems like the biggest fun event of the season for the hinterland population.

It struck me afresh that these Rajasthani villagers are a proud and handsome lot, weathered by the sun and the desert, though they don't exactly shine on the UN Human Development Index. They have high rates of illiteracy, selective abortions, and underage marriages. Westerners visit aplenty, perhaps Rajasthan, old world and loudly demonstrative, represents a fairly safe and exotic foil to their own modernity. And since a picture says a thousand words, check out some I took that afternoon.   [—06 Nov 06; post/read visitor comments]

Camels for sale (more)

Imposing headgear (more)

Village maiden (1, 2, 3)

Down! Sit! (more)

Woman in blue

Thirst quenching (more)


Deformed man (more)

Young mother (more)

Gathering camel poop for fuel

All decked out

Woman watching a show

Malpua (goes with rabdi)

Young woman (1, 2, 3)

Desert scene

Visitors to the fair

Smoking a beedi (more)

Chillums for sale


Village men

Throngs heading to the fair


Camel fair ground (more)

Local delicacies

Circus in town

Young woman (more)

Village children

Two young men

Deformed woman

Sadhu with his cow

Village girl

Temple tower

A family with their camels

Village businessman

Weathered face

Desert woman

Two young men

Just sold!

Brushing teeth (dant manjan)


Man resting

Buying veggies

Girl with brother

Mother with children

Settling dues


Visitors to the fair

Deformed man


Visitor to the fair

Sadhu drinking tea

Local woman

Trying out a necklace

Women in yellow (1, 2)

Watching a show

Visitors to the fair

Veiled mother


Young woman

Albino kid

Watching a show (more)

Tightrope walker (1, 2)

Matted hair

Mother and child

Weathered face

Fresh after a bath

Watching the show

Tightrope walker

Buying sugarcane

Three young women (more)

Village elders

Family conference

Woman talking

Visitors to the fair

Visitor to the fair

Sadhu couple

Elderly woman (more)

Villagers at the fair

Shopper at the fair

Women congregating





Pushkar Lake

The bathing ghats (more)

Evening glow

Bathing pilgrims


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