When a state is as colourful as Rajasthan, it’s only ‘fair’ to assume that the desert land would have many fun fairs and festivals. Here are five traditional celebrations that further add a bright hue to the Western state’s colourful canvas. By Bayar Jain
Every year, throngs of travellers visit Pushkar for the iconic annual weeklong camel and livestock fair — the Pushkar Mela. Jaisalmer’s vast sands come to life with mesmerising performances as a part of the annual Desert Festival. Bibliophiles throng Jaipur for the city’s iconic literature festival. Udaipur draws global attention at the Udaipur World Music Festival. The entire ‘Land of Kings’ lights up with vivacious musical concerts, harmonious religious chants, captivating film festivals, army pageants, a police tattoo show, heritage fashion shows and much more at Rajasthan Festival. Beyond these modern-day celebrations, however, lies a calendar full of traditional fairs and festivals of Rajasthan.
Kumbhalgarh fort, to the north of Udaipur near the Aravali ranges, is an icon in its own right. Every year, the 15th century architectural marvel delights travellers with the three-day Kumbhalgarh Festival. Organised by Rajasthan Tourism, the festivities are divided into two: day, and night. The daytime sees folk performances by traditional artistes, as well as competitions such as turban tying and henna pattern making. As the sun sets, the festival paves the way for an impressive explosion of lights, sounds, colours, and dances.
Dates: Kumbhalgarh Festival will be held from December 1 to December 3, 2022.
Pushkar Camel Fair
Credited as one of the world’s largest camel fairs, the Pushkar Fair (or colloquially, Pushkar mela) is an annual week-long camel and livestock fair. Ordinarily held between October and November, this fair extends beyond animal trade, making it a much-loved tourist attraction. Competitions such as matka phod (breaking of pots), longest moustache, and bridal competitions lure travellers. An exhibition cricket match between the local Pushkar Club and a team of foreign tourists has also been added to the mix in the recent years.
Dates: Pushkar Fair will be held from November 1 to November 8, 2022.
Gangaur Festival (or Mewar Festival in Udaipur)
Ordinarily celebrated in March, Gangaur—gan meaning Shiva, and gaur meaning Gauri or Parvati—marks the end of winter and onset of summer. The festival is also a celebration of the two Hindu deities’ union and is seen as a symbol of conjugal and marital happiness. On this day, unmarried women worship clay idols of Gan and Gauri in order to seek their blessing for a happy marriage, while married ladies pray for a long and healthy life for their husbands. Applying mehndi, or henna art, is another popular practice during this festival.
In Udaipur, where Gangaur is also known as Mewar festival, a procession is carried out where the idols are ornamented and dressed in colourful attires. A boat procession—with the Gangaur boat—culminates at Lake Pichola in the evening with prayers and oblations. Post the religious ceremonies, cultural events and celebrations take place. Picture local musicians playing Rajasthani folk songs, dances, and a captivating fireworks display to end the evening.
At the state capital Jaipur, a traditional Gangaur procession commences from Zanani-Deodhi of the City Palace and converges at Talkotra. The procession is headed by a pageantry of camels, palanquins, chariots, bullock carts, and performing folk artists.
Dates: Mewar Festival will be held from March 24 to March 26, 2023. The Gangaur Festival in Jaipur will be held on March 24 and March 25, 2023.
Desert Festival, Jaisalmer
Organised by the Department of Tourism around January-February, Jaisalmer’s Desert Festival, a three-day-long affair, transforms the desert into a riot of colours. Picture crowds dressed in bright costumes singing and dancing to ballads of valour, romance, and tragedy. Local musicians attempt to enthrall people with several renditions of popular folk songs, while puppeteers, acrobats, camel tattoo shows and races, polo matches, decked processions and camel-mounted bands add to the festive fervour.
Dates: Desert Festival will be held from February 3 to February 5, 2023
Nagaur Festival—or the cattle festival of Nagaur—is held annually between January and February. During this period, a large number of bullocks, camels, and horses are traded. These animals come lavishly decorated, with owners showing off their colourful turbans and long moustaches alongside. Other attractions include Mirchi Bazaar—the country’s largest red chilli market, sale of wooden items, camel leather accessories, and iron crafts. The festival also includes sports such as tug-of-war, camel races, and bullock races.