As pilgrims come for the annual ritual of bathing in Pushkar’s holy lake at the time of the autumn full moon, thousands of camel herders also gather for the world’s biggest camel fair.
Although not entirely accepted, as a foreigner and photographer, I am welcomed with smiles and tolerated as a potential source of income as I wander through the encampments. However, this annual gathering is not a tourist extravaganza. It is their party, their fair and their festival. Smiles and laughter add to the air of festivity at the camel races and beauty contests. Giggles suggest the lightness of the moment while scores of young women wait in line at the Ferris wheels that tower above the desert horizon. Families indulge in music, dances, games and shopping after the business of the day is completed.
The fair is a chance for Rajasthan’s nomadic tribes to meet old friends and enjoy a break from the harshness of their daily lives, for young people to meet potential husbands and wives, and marriage arrangers to start making deals.
As the desert swallows up the sun, which blazes on the horizon before giving the stage to the full moon, campfires spread like a carpet of stars. Music and song, laughter and whirling dances bring the night to life with all the dignity and richness of India. Ancient melodies and tales of the heroes of old entertain this colorful mix of peoples from all across its vast and varied landscape.
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