18 April 2014

Pushkar, Rajasthan

Day one: the camels have started arriving, tethered to rusty truck beds and driven through the night from villages in the furthest reaches of Rajasthan, from Gujarat to the south-west, from Madhya Pradesh in the east. They converge in this sacred city where desert sands wash up against the holy waters of Pushkar Lake. Here Hindus scatter marigolds and Brahmans sprinkle precious water droplets onto the heads of the faithful, chanting prayers of purification and goodwill. At the fairground the camels are rising up onto wobbly legs and exiting the ramshackle trucks via ramps fashioned from vast mounds of soil. They're led away by entrepreneurial boys whose pockets are empty and stomachs hollow. Ponies whinny an excitable, communal joy while Marwari horses from Jodhpur stand askance, resplendent in their glossy coats. Now nomads and gypsies and villagers flow into the fairground, bright with anticipation, saris flowing, lips blazing scarlet, hennaed hands outstretched in solicitation of the rupees tourists have tucked into their pockets. This is India’s annual Pushkar Camel Fair. Let the festivities begin.

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