A Photographic Affair With Pushkar

I went to Pushkar a few days before the Pushkar cattle fair starts.

Nearby villagers had arrived at the fairground with their cattle, and some were still on their way. Animal trade had started, though the ground was still being set up.

Hundred thousands of tourists, photographers, and locals from the nearby villages attend the Pushkar Fair every year. But as the big influx of tourists was not to come until the camel fair started, the grounds were yet to fill up.

Even though I was only carrying a phone camera, I decided to treat my visit as a Pushkar photography tour. While walking in the tiny streets of the Pushkar bazaar and wandering on the ghats of the Pushkar Lake, I not only clicked some Pushkar photos that I am happy with, I also captured some deep-felt emotions.

Now without saying much, let me take you on this photo tour of Pushkar.

Related Read: Peru in Pictures 

 

A Photography Tour – Pushkar and Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan.

Please Note: All the below Pushkar pictures are clicked on One Plus 5 T in focus and portrait mode. Photos are unedited but sometimes cropped to zoom in and with reduced quality to minimize the filesize.

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While walking around the Pushkar camel fair one early afternoon.

 

Pushkar Fair. (Pushkar ka Mela in Hindi)

Before the Pushkar camel festival even starts, Rajasthanis bring their camels, horses and other cattle to trade at the fairgrounds.

Once upon a time, the Pushkar cattle fair was the only place to sell and buy animals. As people of Rajasthan needed camels to run their daily life, they would all go to the fair primarily for animal trade.

But a thick-mustached camel owner told me that now the fair has lost its charm. Machines, tractors, cars, trolleys, and other modern equipment have replaced animals.

Even though the camel trade is going down, these beautiful creatures don’t come for cheap. The man told me that the four thousand five hundred rupees that he had in cash were not enough to buy another camel. Healthy camels can cost as much as fifty-thousand rupees. But everybody gave me a different price of the animals traded in the Pushkar mela.

This grand affair of ten days also sees handsome horses sold to compete in races. Of course, the fortunate or unfortunate azure-eyed racehorses cost crores of rupees.

 

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Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan.

 

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The curvy neem tree and the pretty camels.

 

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I am the queen of the desert, she said proudly, while I clicked her from all angles.

In Pushkar festival, every camel cart driver would tell you that he will show you the best sunset ever. That he will take you to such beautiful rose gardens that you would have never imagined. That he would reveal the secrets of the farthest dunes only to you. 

As I have been to remote dunes in Jaisalmer, I politely declined their honest offers.

Then a young Rajasthani camel-cart owner invited me to sit on his cart. As Kushal had the most innocent face, I happily joined him. Later when men teased me, Kushal gently asked me to ignore them.

You wouldn’t find many Indian women traveling solo in India. I was a curious entity for the local men. Also, Rajasthan is a very traditional state, and locals still keep their women behind the purdah.

Related Read: Stories from India, by a solo female traveler

 

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And here I was giggling on the top of Kushal’s camel.

 

Before you judge me for sitting on Kushal’s camel, I will tell you that his camel was generously fed and well taken care of. Kushal asked me to sit on top of him as the other cart members enjoyed his camel ride one by one.

I couldn’t say no. I didn’t know how to say no. When I talked to Kushal about animal safari, he said that his camel is like his friend. They roam around together all day long.

I never visit a zoo, converted into a vegetarian, never buy leather, and don’t ride animals. But in this situation, I didn’t know if a camel safari is right or wrong.

In Rajasthan, people rely on camels for moving around, carrying loads, and food (milk and meat) for centuries. It is not only hard but impossible to explain to them that camels are sensitive living beings — just like us — and should be let free. Locals would shoo you away like you were some crazy eco-sensitive being.

Also, can Rajasthanis survive without employing camels to carry weight and travel distances? I am not sure.

But when I saw hundreds of animals driven around with a thread through their nose and a cart on their back, I wasn’t happy.

What can we do? To bring a change, we have to give people an alternative.

Please let me know in comments if you think of a solution, if there is any.

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Pushkar Mela. Picture of a camel wearing ghungroo.

 

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Gypsy women roamed around asking for money in exchange for clicking them. Why wouldn’t they? They were all gorgeous, traditionally dressed in rainbow colors and adorned exquisite tribal jewelry.

 

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One of my favorite from the Pushkar fair pictures. She said, as much as I understood, that you guys keep taking photos but buy nothing, in a bit of agitation. But when I started talking to her in Hindi, smiled at her, said the stuff she was selling, mostly heavy utensils, were difficult to carry, she calmed down and smiled back. She was happy to be just engaging with an Indian tourist. Behind the colorful clothes, heavy silver jewelry, big shops with tonnes of stuff, and their photos flaunting the timelines of so many of us photographers and writers, these villagers are just waiting for someone to buy something. And I saw that happening rarely at the Pushkar fair in Rajasthan.

 

 

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Animal traders chilling under a neem tree.

 

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This one looked sick. In the Pushkar camel mela, owners try to get rid of their sick animals.

 

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Pushkar Mela is a grand affair of 10 days, out of which the first few days are only about the animal fair, where you can see the mela ground patted with handsome horses and quiet camels.

 

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Camel fair, Pushkar, Rajasthan.

 

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Most of the villagers and gypsies sat around smoking hukkas. Some women cooked over earthen stoves which were fueled with wood and dried animal dung. By the laid-down attitude of the animal owners, I could sense that they weren’t expecting a thriving trade.

 

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I saw many faces of children in the Pushkar fair.

Children ran around asking to be clicked for ten rupees or they just asked for the money audaciously. Sometimes they chased behind the camel cart to be driven around.

Handing them some mango candies, I wondered if they would even remember me the next day.

And then I saw this.

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All depends on the parents of these little-ones.

 

After walking around in the mela grounds, I went to the Pushkar market.

Pushkar Bazaar is a busy affair around the year and more so at the time of the camel fair in Pushkar. The streets bustled with international and Indian tourists and locals. Photographers raced through the streets while clicking away with their big Canons and Nikons.

Amongst all the chaos in Pushkar city, I tried capturing the real Pushkar.

 

Pushkar Bazaar.

 

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Singhada. How do we call them in English? I have been eating them since childhood and couldn’t resist clicking this cart. The guy knew that I was taking his picture, and he decided to act cool. You can eat Singhada either raw or you can boil them when they are more mature and eat them with black salt. At home, in winters, my father always bought them and then we relished them in the evening. This Diwali when I went home, he brought them again and said, I thought you can have a taste before leaving. I wonder if the coming generations would know about Singhade or many such other small delicacies that are soon becoming a thing of the past. My photo might be a good reminder. What do you think?

 

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Silver jewelry, precious stones, and antique accessories – you can get them all in Rajasthan. Pushkar was no different.

 

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The streets of Pushkar are fringed by artists. This man was kind enough to invite me to his shop to just talk without trying to sell me anything. He paints dancing figures, gods, and goddesses on old postcards – as you can see behind him. He also teaches this art and showed me a collection of his students’ work.

I will always remember him for the honesty and innocence he bore, like a true artist.

 

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Rajasthan also manufactures some of the best Indian clothes. Even if you go street shopping in Ahemdabad, which is also popular for local clothes, shopkeepers will tell you that they bought the items from Rajasthan. Go crazy with the colors.

 

 

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How would Rajasthan be without kachori? Little unhealthy deep-fried balls that I absolutely love since I was a little girl. First time I had proper Rajasthani pyaaz or onion kachori was when I had traveled to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur with a group of friends from college.

I didn’t tell my family about the trip, but I committed other sins, too. One of them was eating a handful of pyaaz kachoris. The ones you see in the picture are dal kachoris, which are also delicious.

In Pushkar, chat-wallahs serve kachoris with kadhi, a curry made with besan and sour curd. If you travel to Pushkar, please try these.

 

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Malpuas. Heavenly creamy, sweet things. The guy making them shied away when he saw I was taking his pictures.

 

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A usual scene in India. Do I give money or do I walk away? I always walk away. Most of the beggars in India are part of groups and work forcefully. The bigger mafia manages these groups. If we all stop paying maybe some people will not lose their limbs and might spend their lives doing something else apart from begging. Of course I must also miss some of the genuine people in need who cannot work and earn due to some illness or old age.

 

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Only in Rajasthan if you look up you will find peacocks.

 

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A handful of gooseberries. Rajasthanis make very delicious preparations and pickle out of these.

 

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You would only find such windows and balconies in Rajasthan. The state of artists.

 

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Ganesha sits on top and garbage fills the streets. Pushkar, Rajasthan.

 

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Do you see what I see?

 

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Children dressed as gods and goddesses to beg. The dragged me to the samosa shop and requested me to buy a few samosas for them. Food, much better than money.

Also See: Spiti Valley images – Behind the scenes in Spiti

Pushkar Lake and Pushkar Ghats.

 Karthik (a Hindu month overlapping between October and November) is auspicious for Hindus as it is dedicated to the worship of both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Pushkar mela is held in the Karthik month every year. During the fair, Hindus from distant places travel to pay their tributes in the Brahma temple in Pushkar and to bathe in the Pushkar lake.

On the full moon of the Karthik month, the fair ends.

Pushkar lake, located in the center of the city, has many ghats. Each ghat has its pujari or a priest who holds his own aarti at sunset. 

While crossing one of the ghats, a pandit stopped me to check if I had performed the prayer that they suggest everyone should do. When I told him that I didn’t, he said I was entangled in greed and money.

The pandit called himself the original priest and were one of the many there.

Each ghat has its own small lake where you are asked to sit, listen to the many attendants of the main pujari who tell you religious stories, then you pray, and throw a coin in the water to fulfill your wishes. Of course, you also pay the attendant.

Hidden behind the shield of god and religion, some of these pandits were just making money. When I refused, the pandit started harassing me.

You might want to tie a red thread on your right wrist if you want to stay away from those who trade religion for peanuts.

 

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This scene represents India in many ways.

 

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Pushkar temple image.

 

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I found these swans to be the purest and the most peaceful at the Pushkar lake ghats.

 

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Pushkar Ghat.

 

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Many schools enter in rangoli making competition during the Pushkar Mela at the Pushkar ghats. Teachers, principal, and students together make meaningful designs and then a winner is chosen.

 

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The lakes, the temples, and the decorations – as seen from the top of one of the buildings around the Pushkar lake.

 

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Locals and foreigners making music.

Back to the Pushkar Fair for the night.

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Eating some Rajasthani food.

 

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Gatte ki sabji with roti.

 

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A Punjabi singer whose name I can’t recall was called to entertain the crowd.

 

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Something for the children, too.

 

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Pushkar Fair, India.

 

As the Pushkar animal fair progresses, classical Rajasthani dancers perform their shows and musicians make music, villagers do puppet shows, experts walk on ropes, and many more cultural acts are performed.

During these prime days of the mela, the animal traders also start leaving the fair. But the show goes on to keep the tourists entertained. A local from Pushkar told me that camels also dance towards the end of the Pushkar mela.

Having no intention and heart to see camels dance at the instruction of humans, I was happy to leave the fair early before it became a touristy affair.

And to be fair, I have had my share of fun.

 

My Stay in Pushkar, Rajasthan.

I stayed at Saral Shambhala, the eco hut and luxury tents located in the Chawandiya Village of district Pushkar.

Please Note: This was not a sponsored trip. I was introduced to the owner of the place, a sweet lady called Nivi, by a common friend. Nivi invited me to stay at Saral Shambhala because she is kind. The opinions here are my own and, of course, honest.

I arrived in Saral Shambhala after a long-delayed train ride. Settled amidst a big farm and gooseberry fields, the eco-community environment of Saral Shambhala made me feel at home within minutes.

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The eco hut, made from cow dung, mud, and glass bottles. A structure made completely out of waste.

 

I had to go close to find the face hidden in the mud.

 

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The earthen jars that my mother used to keep pickles.

 

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Sitabai, the next-door neighbor brought freshly made poha, beaten rice, every day.

 

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Regular scenes in Rajasthani villages.

 

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Doors of Pushkar, Rajasthan.

 

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My recluse in Saral Shambhala. Under this neem tree, I found some shade and wrote. But behind the tree, you can see dry fields. Farming doesn’t work here. Fruits trees die. Water is scarce. Underground water is a foreign concept. Even in big cities like Pushkar and Ajmer, water is only supplied for forty-five minutes once in two days.

 

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Handheld fans and baskets are hung on the roof. I loved how they have put the place together.

 

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The common dorm. These books are special. You cannot find most of these editions now.

 

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Hang out place.

 

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Let’s sleep under the moon tonight.

 

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At Saral Shambhala, they end the day with a bonfire.

 

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Who knows what hidden treasures you might find inside these old editions?

 

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Eating homemade barley rotis straight out of a chulha at Sitabai’s home.When you would need food, Sitabai, the next-door neighbor would invite you to her home. You can eat fresh roti made in an earthen chulha, with some dry Rajasthani sabji. If she offers you more roti than you want and insists, scare her by telling her that you will send a camel to eat her. She would back off. But the same Sitabai would ask you to never leave and to return as soon as you can. She would suggest to sleep near you if you are scared. After all, you are in the countryside of a big desert.

I would love to back to Saral Shambhala to stay for a month, at least. To read the ancient books and write. To watch the birds. To hang out with Sitabai. To talk to the people who run the place with so much love. 

Until next time.

You can book a stay at Saral Shambhala luxury tents and eco hut here.

 

Do you think Pushkar has lost its charm? Or do you think tourism is essential for Rajasthan?

What do you think of my Pushkar fair photography?

 

Like my Pushkar Photo essay! Please pin it!

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