The Pushkar Fair

A few miles north of Amber is the sacred town of Pushkar (Lotus), situ-ated on the shores of a jewel – like glacial lake. Dun – colored temple – topped hills and sandy fields surround the town. Normally quiet, Pushkar sees a small but steady stream of visitors to its temples and wide bathing steps leading down to the lake. But once a year, at the time of the full moon in November, the town explodes with colorful crowds of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. The great Pushkar Fair has become an internationally known attraction. And justifiably so, since it is one of the world’s most dazzling traditional gatherings.  Mentioned in the two thousand year old Mahabharata as India’s foremost pilgrimage site, Pushkar was also described by the eleventh – century Islamic scholar Alberuni as a place of high veneration for Hindus. Thus, the brilliantly garbed pilgrims who come to Pushkar to bathe on the most auspicious bathing day of the year are following ago – old traditions that will undoubtedly continue far into the future. Visitors can only watch in wonderment as the pageant unfolds.

For the five days leading up to the full moon, the crowds begin to gather. All around are exuberant faces amid a sea of bright hues and shimmering ornaments. Among the crowds  are large numbers of turbaned Rajputs and their gilt – veiled womenfolk. Members of other groups wear distinctive costumes.

At their sandy campgrounds on the outskirts of town, the pilgrims cluster around campfires, cooking picnic suppers. Huge numbers of camels and cattle are on hand, and men examine the animals and dicker over sale prices. Traders’ stalls draw hundreds of customers buying camel saddles, embroidered horse decorations, hand – forged daggers, snacks, bangles, ribbons, metal storage chests, and wooden pitchforks. Freak shows and ferris wheels attract hundreds of patrons. In the evenings, capacity crowds throng to huge theater tents to enjoy traditional musical dance – dramas in the Marwari regional language.

But the serious business of Pushkar is the pilgrimage. Worshippers crowd into the Brahma Temple, one of perhaps two or three temples in all of India dedicated to this divinity. Each visitor reaches up to ring a bronze bell announcing his or her arrival to the god. Offerings are made to the unique image of the four – headed deity. Al another temple, built by a wealthy patron in a South India style, pilgrims crowd around a pillar encrusted with panels of gold.

On the night of the full moon, the air is alive with the enchanting sounds of groups of women singing hymns and bards chanting of the heroic past of the Rajasthani people. Then, in the chill hours before dawn, a great spectacle begins. In the dark, crowds of people went their way through the narrow lanes down to the bathing steps. Through morning mists, the golden light of the rising sun illuminates the fair’s crescendo: thousands upon thousands of devout bathers moving to the water’s edge all around the lake. In the cold air, they doff much of their heavy drapery, quickly bathe in the chilly water, and dress again. With the completion of their baths in the sacred waters, hopes of salvation are raised, and a deep sense of community with pilgrims of the past and present is enhanced.

Their spiritual duties fulfilled, the fairgoers enjoy the afternoon at competitions in camel racing, horsemanship, and tugs of war. Spectators roar at camel strength contests, in which the braying beasts are loaded with as many riders as they can bear. The overloaded animals stubbornly drop to their knees, dumping their riders in hilarious heaps. Finally, the throngs of happy pilgrims pack their bundles and head home, their hearts overflowing with memories of holy Pushkar and their spirits filled with peace.

Upcoming Pushkar Camel Fairs Dates

Years

Pushkar Fair Dates

2012

20-28 Nov.

2013

09-17 Nov.

2014

01-08 Nov.

2015

18-25 Nov.

India is a place full of different spices of life. Here you can find snow dipped mountains, seducing beaches, wild-life enriched forests and acres of barren but gorgeous deserts.

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