India: Of costumes and camels in Pushkar
Hundreds of thousands of visitors gather annually for the Pushkar Camel Fair. In addition to the traditional camel and cattle market, a colorful carnival delights tourists from around the world.
Costumes and camels
With colorful costumes, dances and competitions, the camel fair in Pushkar, India, delights thousands of visitors. Every year, cattle breeders and camel herders meet at Pushkar Lake in the northwestern state of Rajasthan. In addition to camels, textiles and jewelry are traded; fairground rides and performances accompany the festival, which lasts several days and in 2023 ended Tuesday.
A celebration of facial hair
The traditional camel market has become a popular tourist attraction. For a few days during the Hindu month of Kartik, cattle breeders camp on the banks of Pushkar's lake, around 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Rajasthan's capital of Jaipur. Traditional and colorful tournaments include tug-of-war competitions, camel races and a legendary mustache contest.
From a camel fair...
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Kartik Purnima festival of Hindu pilgrims in Pushkar became a cattle market. Camel herders and cattle breeders in the region met to trade on the shores of the lake. Initially, the shepherds of the region only traded camels, but soon the exchange grew to include cattle, horses, goats and sheep.
...to a tourist attraction
In the late 1990s, the camel and cattle market turned into a colorful carnival and one of Rajasthan's biggest tourist attractions — an important source of income for Pushkar, which sits on the edge of the Thar Desert. The small town attracts up to 600,000 visitors during the festival.
On the high wire
The next generation of artists starts practicing early in Rajasthan, preparing to entertain visitors to the festival. Here, a girl balances on a tightrope as part of a street performance. The festival's entertainment also includes folk music and dance performances, acrobats and puppet shows.
Camel herds from the desert
There are around 80,000 camels in the state of Rajasthan, which borders Pakistan to the west. The vast Thar Desert stretches across large parts of the region into eastern Pakistan. Nomadic cattle herders have inhabited the arid region for generations. They breed camels, sheep and goats. Today, some of them also offer camel riding excursions and tours for visitors.
A multi-day extravaganza
In the evening, the camel herders in Pushkar sit in front of a picturesque sunset. The festival traditionally ends on the Kartik Purnima, the Hindu festival day on the full moon of the month of Kartik. For Hindu pilgrims, the festival is held in honor of the god Brahma. A ritual bath on Kartika Purnima in Pushkar Lake is said to lead to salvation.