Rajasthan State in Western India is famous for its architecture, culture, and hospitality and is a popular destination for tourists. However, most tourists see only a small part of this royal state.
Many go to the city of Jaipur, which is part of the famous Golden Triangle (Together with New Delhi and Agra). And while they see some magnificent palaces and experience the hustle and bustle of city life, they miss out on the real heart of India; it’s villages.
The Pushkar Fair in the state of Rajasthan is an annual fair (Mela) that is usually held in October or November.
It is also called the Pushkar Camel Fair and is the world’s largest livestock fair. For the visitor, it is a great opportunity to experience rural India and the vibrant colours of Rajasthan.
The Pushkar Fair has a 100-year history of attracting camel and cattle owners from far and wide who come here to trade livestock. Besides cattle trading, the festival also has a religious significance.
It is celebrated in the month of Kartik. The last day of the festival is a full moon day. Legend has it that the Hindu God Brahma created the Pushkar Lake on this day. That’s why many followers of the Hindu faith flock here to take a dip in the sacred waters. It is believed that the holy waters absolve all past sins.
For tourists, the Pushkar Mela is a grand celebration with a carnival atmosphere. There are several cultural and musical events. You can enjoy a camel safari, watch an acrobat in action, or shop till you drop.
The atmosphere is lively with musicians, gipsies, vendors, and snake charmers. The fair is a bucket list item for many world travellers who want to experience the real India. The Pushkar Mela attracts nearly 200,000 visitors every year.
When to Go.
The dates of the Pushkar Mela are decided every year according to the Hindu lunar calendar (cycle of the moon). In 2019, the fair was held from November 4 to 12.
The 2020 dates for Pushkar Fair are November 22 to 30. In 2021 Pushkar Mela will be held from November 11 to 19.
The Entry to the Pushkar Mela is free.
What to See and Do in Pushkar.
The initial days of the fair are more business-oriented with cattle trading being the main activity. Arrive early if you want to see camels and other livestock being traded. The owners of the animals dress them up in elaborate decorations, making for great photographic opportunities.
Towards the end of the fair, the focus shifts towards religious rituals and cultural shows. Some of the activities to enjoy at Pushkar Fair include:
Matka Phod (a competition in which teams create a human pyramid to break an earthen pot hanging at a height)
Longest Moustache competition
Turban Tying competition
Folk Dances and Classical Dances
Amusement Park Rides
Hot Air Balloon Rides
Desert Safaris by Jeep
Friendly Football Matches (between locals and foreign tourists)
Kabaddi Matches (a contact team sport)
Traditional Games like Langri Tang (something like hopscotch) and Satolia (seven stones and a ball)
Mandana and Rangoli Competitions (folk art)
Maha Aarti (religious worship at the lakeside)
For more information about activities and what to do at Pushkar Fair, click here.
How to Reach Pushkar Fair.
Pushkar is a tiny desert town in the state of Rajasthan. It is 400 km (approximately 8-hour drive) from Delhi. The distance from Jaipur to Pushkar is 150 km which makes it a 2.5-hour drive by car or taxi cab.
There are direct buses from Jaipur to Pushkar, but they may take up to 3 hours for the journey. It is possible to visit the fair as a day trip from Jaipur, or you can stay overnight in Pushkar.
Visiting Ajmer Sharif.
Just 10 km from Pushkar is a place called Ajmer, home to the holy Ajmer Sharif Dargah. This world-famous Sufi shrine is dedicated to the Persian saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti and is revered by people of all faiths. It attracts an estimated 150,000 pilgrims every day.
The belief is that if you ask for something with a pure heart at Ajmer Sharif, your wish will surely come true. The shrine has huge silver doors with beautiful carvings and a dome made of pure gold.
Many people report experiencing a great sense of serenity here. But beware, it is extremely busy, and you will get pushed and shoved quite violently as you make your way to the sanctum sanctorum (the saint’s tomb).
The access to the shrine is by rickshaw through incredibly narrow (and smelly) streets. I would recommend going there if you are a believer or if you want to experience the immense power of faith. But it is not for the faint-hearted.
Where to Stay in Pushkar.
Thousands of people visit Pushkar during the Mela days, so I highly recommend making reservations in advance. There is a wide variety of accommodations available, ranging from tented camps that offer a unique experience to brand name luxury hotels such as the Westin Pushkar Resort. I recommend staying in a traditional mansion or haveli for a more authentic experience.
During the Pushkar Mela, prices of lodgings, especially those located near the fairgrounds, can be exorbitant, but budget deals are still available if you book early. There are hostels in Pushkar such as Zostel, Madpackers Hostel, and Backpacker Panda.
Best Places to Eat in Pushkar.
Because Pushkar attracts so many visitors, there is an array of restaurants and cafes here serving all kinds of cuisines, including international food and healthy options.
It is a haven for vegans and vegetarians as the town itself is completely meat and egg-free. Some places worth trying include the Laughing Buddha Café, La Pizzeria Garden Restaurant, and Café Nature’s Blessing.
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