Rajasthan, a barren desert land, becomes resplendent
with the colours of joyous celebration and gay abandon of its fairs
and festivals. There is a fair for every religious occasion, every
change of season and every harvest, all invariably a reflection of
the genius of their arts and crafts and their ascetic refinement.
Rajasthan has all the
usual Hindu and Muslim festivals, some celebrated with special local
fervour as well as a number of festivals of its own. The exact
dates, determined by the lunar calender have specific religious
The year unfolds with the
Camel Festival at Bikaner in January. The enchanting desert
city comes to life with joyous music, lilting rhythms and gay
festivities. There are camel races and camel dances, and onlookers
are fascinated by the languid charms and grace of the decorated ships
of the desert.
The famous Nagaur Fair
essentially an animal fair is held annually between late January and
early February. Situated half way between Bikaner and Jodhpur,
Nagaur awakens with the thronging of cattle, horses and camels
accompanied by their colourfully turbaned owners. There is earnest
bargaining between owners and buyers, and plenty of fun and
festivity. Games, tug-of-war contests, camel races and strains of
ballads create a joyful atmosphere with the setting sun in the
One of the most popular
of the festivals, the Desert Festival of Jaisalmer coincides
with the full moon in February. A three day journey into the heart
of the Thar Desert and the golden city of Jaisalmer it is a true show
on the sands. The desert pulsates with a myriad of Rajasthani
dances: Ghoomer, Gangaur, Gair Dhap, Moria, Chari and
Tehratal. The famous Gair dancers and the Fire dances are the
special highlights of the festival. Folk performers like musicians,
ballad singers, snake charmers, and puppeteers all exhibit their
There are exciting camel
dances, camel acrobatics, camel races, and camel polo, competitions
for the best decorated camel, tug-of-war between musclemen, a turban
tying competition and a Mr. Desert contest.
The culmination is a
sound and light spectacle on a moonlit night amidst sand dunes.
The Rajasthan Tourism
Development Corporation specially sets up a Tourist Village
and organizes regular bus services during the festival from Jodhpur,
Bikaner and Barmer.
Here also in March around
Holi (festival of colours) is the Elephant Festival of the
capital Jaipur, a tourists delight. The mighty mammals claim
centre stage and stride majestically parading their decorated trunks
and tusks. The festival begins with a procession of elephants,
camels and horses followed by folk dancers at their entertaining
best.The god worshiped on the occasion, Ganesh or Ganapati, is the
elephant son of Shiva and Parvati.
At the Chaughan Stadium
spectators are enthralled with the elephant polo matches, elephant
race, and an exciting Holi by elephant race, and an exciting Holi by
elephants. The most hilarious highlight of the festival is a
tug-of-war between elephants and men and a prize for the best
decorated elephant is announced.
One of Rajasthans
most important local festivals is the spring festival is the spring
festival of Gangaur celebrated in March-April. Dedicated to
Gauri, a manifestation of goddess Parvati and the consort of Lord
Shiva, it symbolizes conjugal bliss and marital happiness. A
festival of maidens and married women, it begins on the day following
Holi, and is celebrated for 18 days. While married women pray for
the well being of their husbands, young girls pray for a groom of
Wooden image of Gauri are
colourfully dressed and bedecked with jewels. Offerings are made in
every home accompanied by the singing and dancing of women.
The festival is
celebrated with great pomp in Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nathdwara and
Jaisalmer. Around Bundi, Kota and Jhalawar the fields are covered
with blossoming poppy flowers at this time. Maidens collect these
flowers and make wreaths for the goddess.
In Jaipur on the 17th
day following Holi a grand procession is taken out of the City Palace
and the goddess Gauri is carried in an elaborate palanquin led by
colourfully attired elephants, camels and horses. Dancers,
musicians, drum beaters, bandsmen and battle dressed chariots
accompany the procession.
The Mewar Festival
of Udaipur welcomes spring, offering the best overview of Rajasthani
culture through songs, dances, processions, devotional music and
The evenings are made
colourful with Gangaur processions. The grand finale is seen when
gorgeously dressed groups of women carry images to the Gangaur Ghat
of Lake Pichola and a stately boat procession starts from the Lake
Held according to the
lunar calendar, in memory of the saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti,
helper of the poor, Urs Ajmer Sharif celebrated at
Ajmer is one of the biggest Muslim fairs in India. The six
days that the saint is said to have gone into seclusion, to shed his
mortal coil off and fee his soul, are dedicated to his memory and
pilgrims converge here from within India and al over the world.
All night Qawwalis
are sung in the mehfils and poets recite verses specially
composed in the saints honour. Unlike most fairs no special
stalls are set up for the occasion. At the main centre around Nala
Bazaar, shops are rented by merchants from Delhi, Agra, Jaipur,
Ahmedabad and Ajmer. Flowers, perfumes, rosaries, silver ornaments,
beads, mussallahs (prayer carpets), velvets, brocades,
blankets, caps, jackets, religious books, drums and harmoniums (a
wind instrument) are sold.
Kheer, a milk
pudding is coked in huge 16th century cauldrons placed in
the outer court.
Teej, the festival of
swings celebrated mainly in Jaipur, marks the advent of the monsoons.
Celebrated on the third day of the bright lunar half of the month of
Shravan (August) it is, like Gangaur, dedicated to the goddess
Parvati, commemorating the day when she was united with Lord Shiva
after an agonizing separation.
The monsoon rains bring
water to the parched land filling the many lakes and tanks and the
scent of wet earth rises intoxicatingly in the air. Swings are hung
from the trees and decorated with flowers. Women dressed in their
best collect near these swings and sing songs of love and rain. A
royal procession of the goddess Parvati is taken out from the city
Palace with a retinue of elephants, camels and dancers, signifying
her departure from her parental home to take up abode with her
husband Lord Shiva.
Organized by the
Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, the Marwar
Festival was originally known as the Maand Festival.
Maand is a classical style of folk music centred on the romantic life
style of Rajasthans rulers, and Maand Raag recreates the
old world charm and graceful dances of the desert. Held for two days
during the full moon, Sharad Purnima, in October it is
celebrated mainly in Jodhpur. Folk artists bring to life the
inspiring mythologies, folk stories, tales and legends of battles,
war victories and valour.
Pushkar, separated from
Ajmer by Nag Pahar, the Snake Mountain is right on
the edge of the desert. The town clings to the small but beautiful
Pushkar lake with its many bathing ghats and temples.
An important pilgrimage
centre for Hindus, it is internationally famed for its huge Camel
and Cattle Fair. During the fair, Rajasthani tribals, Indian
pilgrims, film makers and tourists from all over the world converge
here. If you are anywhere near striking distance at the time its an
event not to be missed.
The fair is overwhelming
in its magnitude and visual impact and is held on the full moon of
Kartik Purnima in November. Each year upto 200000 people
flock to Pushkar for the Camel Fair bringing with them some 50000
camels and cattle for several days of pilgrimage, horse dealing,
camel racing and colourful festivities.
The Rajasthan Tourist
Office has promoted the fair as an international attraction by adding
Rajasthani dance programmes and other cultural events. A huge tented
city is put up for the Indian and foreign visitors and can
accommodate almost 1600 people. A bed in the tented colony, however,
has to be booked six months in advance.
The tented Tourist
Village is a self contained village with a dining hall, coffee
shop toilets, bathrooms with hot water buckets, foreign exchange
facilities, post office, medical centre, safe deposit, shopping
arcade and a tourist information counter.
Farmers and breeders buy
and sell camel, cattle and horses. Gaily canopied booths selling
sweetmeats, leather products, bangles, brassware and necklaces of
glass beads, are a photographers delight.
In the evening the entire
atmosphere reverberates with the ringing of bells. At night, after
aarti puja, is deepdan when hundreds of small oil lamps
placed on green leaves, set the lake alight.
There is an endless
process of Rajasthans fairs and festivals on the Indian
calender; the Chandrabhaga Fair in Jhalawar, Summer
Festival at Mount Abu, Kapil Muni Fair along the Kolayat
lake, Sri Mahavirji Fair of the Jains, Shitala Ashtami
held at Chaksu near Jaipur, Ramdeoji Fair near Pokhran in
Jaisalmer; al these in addition to the major Hindu festivals of Holi,
Dussehra, Diwali and Raksha Bandhan.
Ajmer: 131 kms
from Jaipur Nearest railhead/airport: Ajmer/Jaipur.
Bikaner: 249 kms
from Jodhpur. Nearest railhead/airport: Bikaner/Bikaner.
Jaipur: 261 kms
from Delhi. Nearest railhead/airport: Jaipur/Jaipur.
Jaisalmer: 312 kms
from Bikaner. Nearest railhead/airport: Jaisalmer/Jaisalmer.
Jodhpur: 332 kms
from Jaipur. Nearest railhead/airport: Jodhpur/Jodhpur.
Nagaur: 135 kms
from Jodhpur. Nearest railhead/airport: Nagaur/Jodhpur.
Pushkar: 11 kms
from Ajmer. Nearest railhead/airport: Ajmer/Jaipur.
Udaipur: 407 kms
from Jaipur. Nearest railhead/airport: Udaipur/Udaipur.