Your guide to Pushkar Camel Fair 2016

The Annual Pushkar Fair has everything you can expect from a traditional Indian festival. It is colorful, vibrant, chaotic and astonishing. The biggest attractions of this fair are the decorated camels. As many as 30,000 camels participate in this fair.

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Foreign tourists enjoying camel rides during the annual Pushkar Fair.

Pushkar Fair or Pushkar Mela is a 100 year old tradition. Participating in the fair is a great opportunity to experience the vibrancy and colors of Rajasthan. The annual fair is celebrated for five days from the Kartik ekadashi to Kartik Poornima (the full moon day in the month of Kartik). In 2016, the Mela will be held from November 8 to November 14. The full moon day is the most important day of the festival. According to popular legends, the Pushkar Lake was created by Lord Brahma on this day. Because of this reason, thousands of people take a dip in the holy waters of this lake on this day. For tourists, the biggest draws are the exhibition of livestock and various cultural programs. Each year over a million people participate in the Pushkar Fair. A large number of them are international tourists.

Pushkar Fair is a complete entertainment package. A number of acclaimed dancers, musicians, acrobats and snake charmers perform at the fair enthralling the audience. The Fair also offers one a glimpse into the culture and traditions of Rajasthan.

The Kartik Purnima festival attracts a large number of visitors to Pushkar. This is an old tradition but the fair is relatively new. The original intention behind the fair was to bring together cattle and camel traders and buyers. Over the years, it has become a major tourist attraction. Now the camel fair is just one part of the extravaganza. Rajasthan Tourism department organizes a variety of programs to entertain the crowds who throng to this tiny town on this occasion.

When is the Fair?

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Indian girls participating in the cultural programs organized as part of the Pushkar Camel Fair. Rajasthan Tourism organizes a variety of programs to entertain crowds flocking to Pushkar for the Mela.

The Annual Pushkar Fair is usually held in the month of November. There is no fixed date as it varies according to the lunar calendar that Hindus use to determine the dates of festivals. This year the official dates are from November 8 to November 14. The camel exhibition is usually held in the first few days of the festival. Afterwards, the mood turns spiritual. The full moon day (November 14, 2016) is the day for taking that holy dip in the Pushkar Lake. A lot of religious activities are organized on this occasion.

Be sure to visit early so that you can see the Mela in full swing. Camels will start arriving a few days before the festival officially begins.

Where is the Fair celebrated?

Pushkar is a small town lying on the edge of the Thar Desert near Ajmer in Rajasthan. Ajmer is a major pilgrimage center famous for the Dargha of Qwaja Moinudeen Chisti. The fairgrounds where most of the activities take place are to the west of the town near the place where National Highway 89 and Brahma Temple intersect. The camels themselves offer a variety of entertainments. They participate in beauty contests (for camels, of course), race and dance. They are dressed up and paraded. They are also traded.

Religious significance of the Pushkar Fair

The Pushkar Fair has a strong religious undertone. Pilgrims believe that taking a dip in the holy waters of the Pushkar Lake on the full moon day of the month of Karthik will absolve them of their sins. The two days around the full moon are the most auspicious days of the year for bathing in the lake. Special blessings await those who take the bath on the full moon day.

What to expect at the fair?

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An Indian man showing off his long moustache – the Pushkar Fair also includes a moustache competition

Tens of thousands of camels walking over the sparkling sand dunes are the most enduring images of the fair. The town swells with pilgrims, traders and tourists during this occasion. Camel races are a major highlight. The beauty contests featuring shaved and adorned camels also entertain the crowds. The huge bazaar is a great place to buy handicrafts and other ethnic products. Other highlights of the fair include heritage and spiritual walks, music concerts and dancing. And, of course, there is the moustache competition.

Finding accommodation

About one million people participate in the Pushkar Fair. Obviously, demand for accommodation gets pretty high once the fair begins and prices skyrocket. If you are looking for cheap accommodation, arriving a few days before the start of the fair is the best option. Alternatively, you can book accommodation in advance. A variety of accommodations are available. These include farm stays, heritage hotels, guesthouses and tented camps. The camps are specially set up for the festival and provide luxury amenities.

Getting There

The nearest major railway station is Ajmer. A rail line linking Ajmer and Pushkar was laid in 2012 and the Ajmer-Pushkar Passenger train runs regular services except on Tuesdays and Fridays. You can also go by road. The 30 minutes drive through the winding roads of the Snake Mountain (Nag Parbat) is quite an experience. The buses are crowded and the journey can be rough, but the fare is just 20 rupees. You can get buses from the bus station as well as near the railway station. Taxis are much more expensive and a one way trip may cost Rs 500 to 600. The fare goes up during the Mela, so be prepared to negotiate hard.

The nearest airport is Jaipur. Be prepared to shell out Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3000 for a two and half hour long taxi ride from Jaipur to Pushkar.

Beware of scams

Pilgrims and tourists aren’t the only people flocking to Pushkar during the Fair. There are plenty of scammers and beggars too. Priests might approach you and give you a blessing even if you aren’t keen on getting it. They will then ask for a huge donation. If you don’t want a blessing in return for money, say ‘No’ firmly. Locals may also give you flowers and ask for money. If you suspect that the locals are taking advantage of you, avoid them. As for beggars, well, avoid them too. Yes, they could pull at your heart strings, but keep in mind that begging is an organized crime in India. The government has plenty of schemes for them, but they would rather beg.  When you give money to beggars, you are supporting this menace.

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