The Pushkar Camel Fair is the biggest cattle fair in India. As a result more than 50,000 camels are brought here to trade. There are also camel competitions such as camel dancing, camel decorating and camel races. As an animal lover it is one of the best places to see camels in the thousands. The best time is before the start of the Fair as camel herders arrive early for trading.
Camels at Pushkar Camel Fair
he Pushkar Camel Fair is an annual week-long cattle and livestock fair culminating in the religious festival of Kartik Purnima
, a Hindu holy day celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Kartik, the eighth lunar month of the Hindu calendar.
A big part of the Pushkar Camel Fair is the trading of camels. Camel drivers from across the Thar desert make the long and arduous journey to Pushkar in time for Kartik Purnima (Full Moon). Each year around 200,000 people make the trip to Pushkar, bringing with them more than 50,000 camels, horses and cattle. Camel traders often arrive a few days early to engage in the serious business of buying and selling, which means that most of the animals disappear before the official starting date of the Fair.
Our first trip to Pushkar was a few days before the commencement of the Pushkar Camel Fair. We were advised to arrive early so we could see the negotiations for the buying and selling of camels and horses. As we walked around the fair grounds, we saw quite a few camels but not thousands as we expected.
A walk to the fair grounds early the next morning allowed us to see camel herders bringing their camels to the Fair. They were arriving into Pushkar from the villages nearby and from afar. Above is a picture of a camel herding bringing his camels to the Pushkar Camel Fair.
When we returned to the Pushkar Camel Fair a few days later, after the Fair had started, there were several thousands camels on the hills. Over the few days that we had been away from Pushkar, the camels had come in droves to the Fair for the important business of selling their camels.
A large majority of the camels were standing, however there were some sitting down in a circle eating their food. There were some camels that we recognised from a few days earlier when we had walked around before the start of the Pushkar Camel Fair. The reason we were able to recognise them is due to their unique markings.
Camels are decorated for several reasons. The most important ‘decoration’ is the markings or brands on their hide. This is done primarily as a mark of ownership. Each camel owner has a herd of camels that he marks with his stamp, so he can distinguish them from other camels. Also, the mark can indicate the breed of the camel and whether the camel is for sale or not.
Camels at the Pushkar fair are decorated with great care. They wear jewellery of silver and coloured beads. There are silver bells and bangles around their ankles that jangle when they walk. An interesting ritual is the piercing of a camel’s nose. Many camels that we saw had a flower attached to their nose like the one in the photo below.
Of all the camels that we saw, the one in the photo above was my favourite. His branding was unique and very different to the other camels at the Fair. He seemed to have a golden brown dyed hair do at the back of his head that made him stand out in the crowd. Also, the brandings on his hide looked like tattoo marks and along with the hair do made him look like a punk.
Camels are the main source of livelihood for several Rajasthani villagers. While they are used as the primary mode of transport, camels are also used for their meat and their dung is also used for fuel. Of course they are also a huge tourist attraction and several camels get sold to be used for tourist rides. In several Rajasthani towns, we saw camels drawing carts of food and other commercial items, as well as drawing Indian or Western tourists around.
Trading is an important business for several camel herders. Many people arrive at the Pushkar Camel Fair to buy and sell camels. Camels are chosen based on their breed, age and body condition. The best way to check for the age of a camel is by a thorough examination of the camel’s teeth. This is precisely what this camel buyer did when he went looking for a camel to buy at the Pushkar Camel Fair.
Some of the camels at the Pushkar Camel Fair don’t arrive in good condition. Some have travelled for several hundred miles to make it to the Fair and as a result, they are in terrible condition. Several camels die at the Fair and some are left behind if they are not sold, as they are in no condition to make the long journey back.
Another reason camels are brought to the Pushkar Camel Fair is for the camel competitions. Two of the most important competitions are the camel dancing competition and the camel decorating competition. There is also a camel race, as well as a race to see how many people can sit on a camel without falling down. This is quite a spectacle to watch as are all the other competitions.
For both the camel decorating and camel dancing competitions, camels are decorated from head to foot with all sorts of items. Most common are decorations of coloured rope, yarn balls and tassles. Some have small bells tied to their ankles and bracelets around their feet. The bells are used to make a musical sound when the camel dances.
Right at the front of the fair grounds is a spot where several camels are geared up to take tourists around the fair grounds. This is a big tourist attraction as this is one of the few spots where a tourist can ride a camel. In addition to normal camel rides, they also organise a sunrise camel safari around the fair grounds. This is a great time to take a camel ride as the fair comes to life early in the morning when camels arriving from nearby villages and people setting up for the day.
We refrained from getting on top of a camel at the Fair because we were heading to Jaisalmer to travel on a camel for two days and a night in the middle of the desert. However, if this is the only place you visit that has camel rides, then we would recommend you take a camel ride at the Fair, as it is a wonderful experience to ride on top of a camel.
For animal lovers, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a wonderful place to see these tall and ungainly creatures in the thousands.