Our programme finalized one week before the start of fair. Usually, hotels sell out in advance and rooms rents go a few times higher but and we were fortunate to get a room in RTDC Sarovar hotel. Though Rajasthan tourism had also increased the room tariff for during the event. There are always many tented accommodations available during fair near Mela ground but they charge a lot usually. If in case there is a problem getting room or tariff is too high for budget travelers then it’s advisable to stay in Ajmer, which is 14 km and very well connected with bus service.
I was fortunate to book a room but couldn’t get the train tickets for Ajmer because all trains were full 🙁 We decided to travel by Rajasthan tourism’s bus and took an overnight Volvo bus from Bikaner house in New Delhi. The bus dropped us in Ajmer next morning. To be honest bus ride was uncomfortable in comparison of the train.
Pushkar is 14 km from Ajmer and we decided to take a tuk-tuk to cover this distance but due to the fair crowd, we could not get a tuk-tuk. Meanwhile, we came to know that Rajasthan govt is running extra buses during fair and there is a bus every 15 minutes from Ajmer bus stop. A bus for Pushkar came and but we could not get in it due to heavy rush. After few minutes another bus came and we placed ourselves with the crowd, they pushed us inside the bus. That’s how I & my friend managed to get inside the bus with quick thinking and push from the crowd… ha ha…. It was jam-packed but fortunately, we got seats and within 5 minutes driver started for Pushkar. The moment bus started many local village women’s started singing folk songs in chorus. Free music 😛 There was a lot of noise but it was fun in its own way.
All the roads lead to the city are closed at a certain point and we have to walk approx 200 meters with luggage to get to our hotel premises. As we reached early reception person told us to wait for another hour before we get our room. Instead of waiting in the lobby, we left our luggage at reception storage and came out on the road to pass time. Outside our hotel’s main gate we saw people standing with baskets of marigold’s petals. I enquired with them and informed me that a procession (Jhaki) is expected in few minutes. We also stood with them on side of road, after few minutes the procession started. There were tableau, people on horses, buggies, camel carts, dancers, they were dressed in different costumes or dressed like gods or goddesses. The whole procession lasted for 40-45 minutes. It was an excellent beginning of our trip after tiring journey.
After the procession, we checked into our hotel and freshen up. Now it was time to head for Fair 😀
Traditionally this annual fair was all about selling and buying of livestock specially Camels but in last 2 – 3 decades it has become a tourist attraction for Indian and International travelers. Everyone comes here to see a display of traditional India and to click vibrant photographs of villagers in traditional attire (Which is not seen elsewhere in the day to day life). Village people come here with big hoards of camels for trading. They pitch the tents in open area near the fairground. They cook in open and stay here for at least a week or 10 days for the trading of animals. These people and camels are a big attraction for photographs.
It is said that approximately 50,000 camels are brought in for trading every year and buying/selling starters even before the formal start of Fair. Some farmers start leaving after selling of livestock even before the fair starts and many stays back. I saw thousands of Camels in big or small groups sitting or roaming around outside the fairground on the small dunes or grounds.
The Fair organizers organize programs and events during 5 days, these activities starters in morning and go on until evening. These events and activities are designed in a way to attract tourists. People can participate in these activities, they can make teams with other tourists, they can watch. The popular games held here are a tug of war, turban tying competition, dance programs, Kabaddi matches are some of those. In these games, they usually make two teams, in one team they have locals people & Indians tourists and other they have foreign tourists. These activities happen in Fairground area and they post the schedule for these events 2-3 months in advance on tourism dept website.
The stalls and shops in the fair area are very vibrant and they sell local items. I had bought some for decoration purpose or to gift as souvenirs.
We walked around in fair and market area. There were people everywhere buying different items. After walking around we were very tired and returned to our hotel.
Next day we got up at 5 am and headed for the fairground. We went further ahead to the open ground outside the fair area, to the place where local people stay with camels in open grounds. Everyone was busy, some of the people were cooking food, some were bathing from temporary water tanks, others were organizing camel hoards and some were giving food to camels. We roamed around to see and to click some pictures. There were groups and groups of photographers. Few of the local men didn’t start shouting when I tried to click pictures when I said ok I am not clicking then they said: “You can click picture by paying up some amount, no free pictures”. It is also a source of income and they want people to pay them if they click them.
Then we went to Brahma temple, they don’t allow camera, mobile’s etc inside so instead of keeping our stuff in lockers of the shops we opted to go one by one in the temple. Then we went to one of the famous shop of Pushkar for local breakfast of kachori and malpua.
After breakfast, we walked towards the Pushkar Sarovar’s eastern ghat, which was less crowded. Even here pundits started forcing us to perform puja and they kept nagging us. It was very irritating because they don’t go away even after request. Then suddenly I told one of them that we had already done puja on another ghat near the temple and shown them red thread on my forearm. After seeing the thread they went away and we saved ourselves from their nagging. The volunteers around ghats don’t allow photography around Sarovar (Lake) as many women take bath in it, we agreed to follow the sentiments.
We spent a lot of time roaming around Sarovar and had lunch in a small restaurant next to Sarovar. After a power nap in the hotel after lunch, we went to the fairground. Even in the month of November, it was quite hot. It was dusty in Fair area and there were people in colorful cloths moving around. We came back to eastern ghat to view the sunset from ghats of Sarovar. Volunteers allowed us to photographs as people were not taking bath. We watched the beautiful sunset here.
We stayed in Pushkar for two days as there is not much to do other than visiting fair, market & Sarovar lake. The trip was a unique experience for us. It was a perfect short fun-filled trip.
Few things to take care when you go to Pushkar fair –
- Pushkar is a holy town and due to this, you will get only vegetarian food in the city. But this doesn’t mean you have to eat boring food, one can get wood fire pizza, pasta, Falafel (Very popular and many small shops selling it), Puri Sabzi or Potato gravy, many Indian snacks like samosa, jalebi, kachori etc are available apart from regular Indian roti and vegetable. I didn’t want to miss LMB’s famous malpua, so we had in the morning.
- Be prepared to walk as, during the time of Mela, vehicles are not allowed inside city and Mela area. In Mela area, if you don’t want to walk then Camel carts are available for rent and they take you around.
- For the overview of Pushkar town and Mela ground, climb the hill or some dune.
- It is very crowded every where, so keep your stuff safe while walking around.
- If you are into photography, then reach a day or two before the Mela starts to click camels. Also go very early in morning to see camels and locals people involved in their day to day activity.
- If you want to click pictures of locals/villagers be prepared to give them some rupees because the moment they realized that you are clicking their pictures, they will ask money and if you refuse then they may cover the face or shout at you.
- Download the schedule of activities and program from tourism dept’s website, so that you can enjoy the activities by seeing or may be by participating 🙂