The town of Pushkar in the state of Rajasthan witnesses colourful festivities in November every year. Celebrated around the full moon night of Kartik Purnima, this famous seven-day-long camel and livestock fair sees thousands of camels, horses and cattle being traded. It is the world’s largest camel fair! The fair is now a staple on many travel itineraries with hordes of tourists and photographers thronging the small town each year. In 2017, the Pushkar fair was celebrated from 28th October to 4th November.
On a trip to Pushkar, a bright burst of colours and small-town exotica are guaranteed. It is a heady and well-orchestrated spectacle, one that is bound to overwhelm all your senses. There are frenzied negotiations as traders across Rajasthan and the country congregate to sell camels and other livestock. Over the years, a number of cultural events have been introduced leading to much pomp and fervour – hot balloon rides, camel races, bridal and longest moustache competitions, talent hunts, rock concerts, photography contests.
Five things to plan a trip to Pushkar camel fair
1) Taking a camel cart ride
– No better way to jump into the action! Many locals will be keen to offer a camel cart ride for a negotiable fee. Perhaps the best way to comb the area as you ride past clusters of locals and traders selling camels. You will spot women and children decked up in their traditional finery and jewellery – all ready to pose for a photograph. Do take their permission before taking a photo though – many expect payment in return. Over the years, the festival has introduced many tourist-friendly features. In 2017, an ‘Elevated Seating Arena’ made its debut, it offered tented viewing galleries equipped with all amenities – best for those who seek comfort and prefer to view the action from a distance.
Traders selling camels at Pushkar Camel Fair. (c) Gitika Saksena
2) Sign up for an activity – marathons, guided walks, safaris et al
Many events are now organised around the seven-day festivities. There is a half marathon event, with the 21.1 km long route stretching from the Dargah at Ajmer Sharif to the Brahma temple at Pushkar. Many guided walks are also organised in and around the Pushkar fairgrounds. Vedic Walks offers two walks a day, at 9:00 a.m. and at 3:00 p.m. A top attraction are the hot air balloon rides offered by SkyWaltz, scheduled at 6:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. each day. An aerial view of the fairgrounds promises to be breathtaking. Sunset camel safaris on the dunes are also scheduled at 5 p.m. each day.
A decked up camel at Pushkar Fair. (c) Gitika Saksena
3) Shopping at Pushkar
A trip to Pushkar or Rajasthan is incomplete if you do not pick up some souvenirs. The Shilpgram Handicrafts Bazar is inaugurated on the first day of the Pushkar fair and is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the first five days. There is a weekend market that comes up around the Brahma Temple as well; with stone and silver jewellery, Rajasthani puppets, tie & dye Bandhani print fabrics, clothes with mirror work embroidery, Rajasthani jootis, local tools for sale. The timings are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Friday to Sunday. You can also pick up handicrafts, jewellery and other items from the shops in the alleys leading to the Pushkar Lake. Do not forget to visit the Roots of Pushkar store on Varah Ghat – a great place for checking out vintage music records.
Fancy buying a walking stick at Pushkar? (c) Gitika Saksena
4) Visit the Pushkar Lake on Kartik Purnima
According to Hindu mythology, all the Hindu gods and goddesses assemble at the Pushkar lake on the day of Kartik Purnima. You can see a number of locals taking a dip in the holy waters. Walk past narrow alleys dotted with old houses, temples, kitschy cafes, and you will arrive at a Ghat (a flight of steps leading to the Lake). It is a sight to behold, the whites of the buildings flanking the lake offset by the vibrant blobs of locals taking a dip in the holy waters. Be careful though, you may be approached by beggars and hawkers goading you to buy flowers. And avoid a dip in the lake unless you are bound by religious sentiments. The Lake and its Ghats look particularly pretty at evenings when lit up by lamps during the evening prayers (aarti).
The Pushkar Lake. (c) Gitika Saksena
5) Eating at Pushkar
There is a food street in Pushkar, where you can try out local savouries as well as sweet delicacies. It is located at Gau Ghat. Top rated restaurants and cafes include Out Of The Blue, The Laughing Buddha Café, Funky Monkey Café and Pink Floyd Cafe Sunset Café.
How to reach Pushkar: You can fly to Jaipur and drive down to Pushkar. Another option is to fly to Delhi and take the Shatabdi train to Ajmer. Pushkar is a breezy 45 minutes drive from Ajmer through the scenic Snake Mountain (Nag Parbat).
Outside the Brahma temple at Pushkar. (c) Gitika Saksena