1. The camel fair or « Pushkar Kartik Mela »
Just after spending a few unforgettable days with the families of weavers in the Thar Desert, decide one fine morning to set off for the famous Pushkar fair.
Pushkar is a small Indian town on the edge of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, which has gained national and then world renown for what was originally a camel fair, « The camel fair » or « Kartik Mela », and is now a huge agricultural fair coupled with a religious pilgrimage. All this takes place during the « lunar » month, ten days after Diwali, the festival of lights, more precisely between Prabodini Ekadoshi and Kartik Poornima.
The day of the full moon of the lunar month in October or November according to our western calendars is the high point of the fair and a huge crowd invades the streets and plains of the city.
Just before arriving in Pushkar, stop for a few moments at the Sindhupati Daharsen Swaraket memorial to admire the view of Lake Anasagar. Look out over the town of Ajmer about ten kilometres below Pushkar and be totally dazzled by the view. A few kilometres further on, after many meanders through the surrounding hills, finally arrive in Pushkar.
Arriving in Pushkar during the month of kartik is like landing on another planet or disembarking in a space-time hitherto unknown and unimaginable to our Western minds.
Take time to relax in the charming open-air hotel, which was set up especially for the Pushkar Fair. These are giant ‘resorts’ with large tents equipped with every comfort. The gardens are beautifully laid out and the tents superbly decorated. Inside each tent you will find everything you need from a shower to a tea service.
After taking a good shower, go out to marvel at the special atmosphere of the big camel fair in Pushkar.
Crossing the railway, an unmissable crossing point, under the rays of the blazing sun, and a few metres away, you will meet the first Pushkar camel well dressed for this great festival. Just a few minutes later, you will discover another cart, also pulled by a camel decorated with multicoloured pompoms.
Realise that after having waited so long for it, the great Pushkar fair, finally reveals itself before your astonished eyes, like a kaleidoscope with thousands of facets. Pushkar Mela or Pushkar Camel Fair is the most colourful fair in the world with some 200,000 visitors from all over India and even from all over the world and with no less than 50,000 camels.
It’s time to dive into the colourful crowd and wander through the countless alleys to discover the many stands, snoop around, buy locally made kitchen utensils, such as those small aluminium ladles used to coat chapatis with ghee or the katoris in which the various dishes of the meal are served. The city is lively without interruption and the shops are open day and night. Enjoy the selfies in the company of the vendors at the John Deer tractor stand.
Endless ecstasy in front of the stalls filled with abundant and freshly prepared food, another of the many peculiarities of the Pushkar fair.
Finally penetrate into the heart of the fair, this famous sand plain, where the families of the camel drivers, horse breeders and other animals (goats, cows and sheep are also part of the party) camp. Have the sensation of suddenly finding yourself plunged in the heart of the Middle Ages in one of these sumptuous livestock fairs.
The only downside is that here motorbikes and 4x4s are close to the most beautiful species of animals. Men and animals live together during the twelve days of the fair and the walker here rubs shoulders with all sorts of characters. Life goes by to the rhythm of camel blatterings and the neighing of Marwari horses. The plain is dusty, but the men, women and children you come across are often dressed in their best attire. The magic of India that takes us in a few seconds from the most indescribable chaos to the most unspeakable beauty.
To exchange a few words with the owner of the magnificent horses that he intends to present at the competition tomorrow. He is very proud of his animals, the gentleman ! It must be said that they are splendid Marwari, these horses of the Maharadjas that you can recognize by their ears pointing inwards.
The plain is a real place of exchange and transaction around numerous and magnificent livestock.
Come across all kinds of people and enjoy the great variety of encounters that can be made on this great pilgrimage. Let yourself be seized by the incessant comings and goings, by the swarming and permanent life that never seems to stop. There is no dead time in Pushkar, perhaps that is why we feel so alive here.
In the distance you can see the large illuminated wheels of the modern fairgrounds contrasting with the plain of the campsites. Here, as everywhere else in the world, the fair with its rides and sensational stalls rubs shoulders with the cattle fair. There is enough to satisfy the consumption needs of passing pilgrims. Junk jewellery rubs shoulders with the most beautiful works of art, there is something for every budget.
Stop to taste some chapatis cooked on the fire by a charming young woman and savour the curry that accompanies them. Settle the meal of a passing family who cannot afford to pay for it as this is part of the local customs of the Pushkar Fair pilgrims, to make sure they have good karma afterwards.
Wander the aisles of the big fair again and get lost in the oversized and colourful crowd.
Admire some of the award-winning sand sculptures at the Pushkar Fair. Works of art that remind us at every turn of the ephemeral and fleeting aspect of everything.
The market has invaded all the streets, there are no landmarks except for the railway track and the big wheels that spin tirelessly against the backdrop of the full moon and the surrounding hills.
Admire the unique sunset of Pushkar and find yourself face to face with yourself, man or woman among the multitude and immensity of India and its unfathomable mysteries.
Nature plays with men and sends us back to our eternal questioning to the point where the sun sets between the two horns of a bull.
At the end of the evening, return to the tent and fall asleep under the canvas and its charming decorations, with a light heart, an exhausted body and a spirit filled with a thousand encounters.
Next episode : soon !
Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)