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Rajasthan Fairs and Festivals

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 significance.

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 background.

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 traditional skills.

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 Rajasthan’s 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 their choice.

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 firework displays.

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 Palace.

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 saint’s 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 Rajasthan’s 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 Rajasthan’s 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.

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