The desert city of the Thar, Pushkar is one of the oldest cities of India and is believed to be one of the five sacred pilgrimage sites of Hindu devotees. Also, the home to the 2000 years old Brahma Temple, Pushkar is a result of a legend, if one is to believe; from a lotus flower!
According to that legend, Brahma, the supreme found the most suitable place for Mahayagna. After a while, he came to know about a demon called Vajransh who was killing people in this land. The Lord chanted a mantra on a lotus flower and killed the demon. The lotus flower, while dying fell on three places that later came to be known as Jyaistha, Madhya and Kanistha Pushkar.
Lord Brahma wanted to protect this place, Pushkar from demons. His consort Saraswati, were needed for Ahuti but in her absence, a Gurjar girl, Gayatri was married to Brahma who performed the Yagna. Saraswati, his first wife was angered by this act and cursed him that he would be worshiped in Pushkar only.
Today, the place called Pushkar stands epitome to this legend and unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan, it is the most prominent pilgrimage town with one towering Brahma Temple, 52 bathing ghats, 400 milky-blue temples and an enchanting air infused with spiritual echoes and an effervescence of bhang.
The world famous Camel Fair is held here in the Hindu lunar month of Kartika (October-November). The 5 day long annual fair starts in Nawami (ninth day) and ends in Purnima (full moon). Not only is the fair one of the world’s largest camel fairs, it has become one of the most important tourist attractions where people from all over the world, including filmmakers, photographers, researchers and tourists come and catch the glimpse of Rajasthan’s rural life.
Prior to the commencement of the fair, the camel trading starts. Livestock, including camels, horses, cows, goats and sheep etc. are brought from far off lands for trading to begin. The colorful turbans and the ethnic women wear; dazzling ornaments, beautified camels, textiles exhibitions and traditional camps encompass a visual treat for all travelers.
Once the camel fair begins, the charismatic sight lures the watchers to a whole new level. The overwhelming beauty contest is held for the camels. Yes, you read it right! The camels are adorned in the most dynamic and jaw-dropping attire to win the prize. One peculiar competition that is amusing to watch is when the decked up camels, carry a large number of people on its back, sprint across the desert sand and throw the riders off their backs. Amidst the cheers of the spectators, the camel which succeeds to carry most number of people on its back emerges as the winner.
The other highlights of the fair are the matka phod, Tug-of-war, wrestling, longest fascinating moustache and bridal competitions that draw maximum attention. The stunning display of textiles, tie and dye fabrics, artifacts, footwear, handicraft for people and stalls adorning the fine jewelry for the camels leave travelers craving for more. The art of body piercing and tattooing in the most astonishing rural method is one thing that is extremely loved by the tourists.
In the evening, cultural event is a sight for the sore eyes. The mystical tunes of folk songs, reverberating musical instruments and the frolic dancers will leave you in a transcendental state. Added to the platter are the authentic Rajasthani dishes, rich with spices and taste that will not fail to please you.
The entire fair ground is a sea of colors and invites more and more people during the week where the fair is at its busiest during the last three days. Beyond being a shopping festival (in a layman’s words), it holds a spiritual importance too. Deep Dan, celebrated a few days before the full moon witnesses people floating the candle lanterns on the lake and a spiritual walk, called Parikrama is taken around the lake. The evening gives way to the Maha Arti ceremonies at Varah Ghat beside the sacred lake to worship the supreme Lord.
It is also believed that the full moon day (when the fair ends) is when Lord Brahma, the Hindu God had sprung up the Pushkar Lake. Thus, people visiting Pushkar at this auspicious occasion dip in its sacred water to wash away all sins and pray to their deities. The whole town comes alive at the end of the Mela where the ambiance echoes with chants, hymns, folk music and horse races, camel dance and a prolific array of traditional competitions become the showstoppers.
Every year, a huge number of travelers flock at the Pushkar Fair to not only witness the spectacle and carnival of one of the largest traditional fair but also seek spiritual retreat in the holy water of Pushkar Lake. People say that each Ghat has its own distinctive powers to heal all kinds of sins and diseases.
Needless to say, Pushkar Fair is a great time to imbibe the traditional touch and seek the blessings of the divinity in order to attain the everlasting Nirvana.
This article was first published in Lifestyle magazine ‘The City Angle’ of Udaipur.