Pushkar mela, thousands of traders and their camels flock to the small town of Pushkar for the annual Camel Fair, which is divined by the waxing and waning of the moon. The city of Pushkar is one of the five sacred Dhams which according to Hindus is a holy place and a journey that must be undertaken to attain eternal salvation.
As I wander through the golden sands of Pushkar the town came alive during the mela. It’s the annual 5 day mela during which sees over 50000 camels being traded. It’s a fascinating and out of the world colorful experience with camels getting decorated and dressed with great care and attention.
The Pushkar Camel Fair was originally conceived to attract local camel and cattle traders to engage in business during the full moon lunar month holy festival of Kartik Purnima. The city gets its name from Sanskrit words ‘Pushp’ and ‘Kar’ which refer to the lotus flower. According to legends, Lord Brahma, believed to be the creator of the Universe dropped a lotus to the ground leading to the immediate creation of a lake and hence the name. Pushkar also houses the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma.
One of the oldest and largest camel fairs in the world, Pushkar has grown to become a desired attraction for foreign tourists in recent years. Cow dung cake fires with dry rotis roasting, or even lentils cooking, camels waiting for new masters to own them. The nomadic traders consider the camel as God’s blessing. The camel doesn’t compete for food, but for these nomads, the camel is the vehicle of sustenance-it is the plough, car, and tractor. The mela also offers a window into the life of these nomadic traders.
The camels traded in the mela have been drastically falling year over year. At its hey day there were close to 10 lakh camels being traded back in early 90’s. Now the number is very much less with they hardly reaching upto 50000. Young traders do not want to be stuck with an animal like the camel, instead, they aspire for motorised vehicles like the tractor. This has also compounded the problem for traders with vehicles replacing Camels as the mode of transport in remote areas.
It is estimated that about 80 per cent of the camels sold at the Pushkar fair today, are sent for slaughter with some even sent to middle east where there is a high demand for camel meat. The Raikas and the Rebaris, Rajasthan’s traditional camel breeding communities, have been campaigning for years to save these animals. Even the Government has stepped in and stipulated a five-year prison term for slaughtering camels. Causing injury to these graceful animals is a punishable offence now. Only time will tell how long this pageant of livestock, people, lights and fires will last but without the camels Pushkar will never be the same.