With the annual Pushkar Fair around the corner, photographer Tejas Soni reminisces about his many visits to Rajasthan’s famous cultural carnival, with a delightful visual ode.
What started as a congregation of cattle, horse, and camel traders to do business has transformed, over a century, into a colourful carnival attracting lakhs of tourists every year—from India and around the world. The Pushkar Fair is generally held over five days—from Kartik Ekadashi to Kartik Poornima (full moon day) according to the Hindu calendar. The full moon day is when the Pushkar Lake is believed to have been created by Lord Brahma, so the festival is also a pilgrimage for many devotees who come here to take a dip in the Brahma Kund and pray at the Brahma Temple. But the activity calendar of the modern-day Pushkar Fair is not limited to worship and trading; it is a smorgasbord of Rajasthan’s cultural offerings. Last year, the event featured hot air balloon flights, rural sports, controversial shows like horse and camel dances, handicraft bazaars, innovative contests of turban tying and moustaches, stage plays, live performances of traditional dances, concerts, and adventure activities. But the pièce de résistance remains the showcase and trading of camels, often adorned with lively colours that contrast the stark desert landscape. The evening air rings with the sound of aarti bells ringing at the various ghats of Pushkar. I have visited the fair nearly every year for the last decade. The festival was supposed to be held from November 22 to 30 this year, but the pandemic has cast a shadow of uncertainty on it. pushkarmela.org