Pushkar is one of the most popular places in Rajasthan among tourists, both domestic and international. Pushkar Camel Fair is synonymous with this town. It called as Pushkar Mela among locals. Even though there are many other cattle fairs but none of them is as popular as this one.
I have been to Pushkar Mela many times during the last few years. I love this holy town for many things it offers. Given its huge popularity among the tourists and bloggers, I decided to share my opinion in this Pushkar Mela blog. The Cattle Fair is attended by a few hundred thousand visitors every year. The number of acclaimed photographers from around the world visiting the holy town during this period itself runs in thousands.
Pushkar Facts And Information
Pushkar is a holy town for Hindus having a sacred lake called Pushkar Lake along with the famous Brahma temple. There aren’t many temples of Brahma in India. Even though many people claim that this is the only temple in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma, I have not come across any factual information. This town is also famous for the Indian rose which was produced in a large number until a few years ago. That has changed in recent years as tourism has started taking over the cultivable land in the vicinity resulting in mushrooming of hotels and resorts.
Pushkar being a holy town for the Hindus, liquor and non-veg food is an absolute no-no in the town. It is located amidst Aravali hills in a picturesque setting.
Where is Pushkar Mela?
Pushkar Mela is held in the Ajmer district in Pushkar Town. It is a small town located close to Ajmer city in Rajasthan around 150 Km from Jaipur.
Pushkar Camel Fair Information
Pushkar Mela or Pushkar festival takes place during the Hindu month of Kartik which falls in Oct-Nov. It starts on Kartik Ekadashi and ends on Kartik Poornima when Hindu pilgrims visit the town for the holy dip in the lake. The dates for Pushkar Mela 2019 is 4-12 November 2019.
Officially, the festival is a five-day event. Pushkar Mela is held in Ajmer district. It is a cattle fair and popular the world over as camel fair. It can be divided into three parts. One, the famous cattle fair where locals trade camel, horse, buffalo, etc. Two, the religious aspect in which devotees visit for the holy dip & Darshan at Brahma temple. Three, the commercial aspect of fair promoted by the Rajasthan Tourism Board. I will be detailing my views on each of these.
What makes Pushkar Fair so popular among travelers, tourists, photographers, and bloggers?
Pushkar fair offers a convenient way to witness the rural life of Rajasthan. It is a great way to capture the rustic Rajasthani life which makes for a great travel experience. The age-old connection & inter-dependence between humans and domesticated animals can be experienced in this fair where people congregate to buy and sell all kinds of cattle. The other alternative to experience this is by visiting hinterland in the villages which is not exactly easy. Pushkar Mela makes for great travel experience and story.
Pushkar festival for the photographers – The other aspect one gets to capture and experience is people, culture and religion. You can find a variety of people and characters congregating during this period. The sellers, Babas, rural women… the list is endless. Where else can you photograph so much in such a short time?
This is a great opportunity for anyone to witness the “real Rajasthan”, its culture, traditions, people, rituals closely.
Pushkar Fair History And The Ugly Side
A few years ago when I visited Pushkar Fair, people associated with the tourism industry told me that this fair is finished and “it is over”. In other words, people have done it and are looking for something beyond this fair. I spoke to people in the hotel industry and I was told that hotels in Pushkar are down to 50% occupancy. When I met with the locals they did air a similar opinion.
The number of tourists visiting the town has dwindled over the last few years. Maybe it is their own doing. Pushkar Fair was so popular that hotels and guest houses used to jack up the room tariffs by 5 to 20 times! There have been jokes going around in the tourism industry that there are more photographers than camels in Pushkar during the fair!
A famous photography site, Petapixel published a write-up with a title – Pushkar Mela: A Fair for Camels or Photographers? I found this to be true during my trip this year and I’m sharing a picture to depict what I saw.
International photographers would camp in Pushkar for days to get the best shot and would often pay money to the locals. A staged show, you can say! This did ruin the local people and if you click a local they are sure to demand money. This is especially true for Sadhus and Babas for they definitely need money for the regular dose of Charas (dope). Money has corrupted locals who camp in the fairground to earn some extra money. Photographers started tipping locals to get the best picture and paying them to get the favorite pose. This might suit photographers who earn a few thousand bucks for pictures and paying 10-20 bucks seems inconsequential. This has led to a dangerous scenario where every person carrying a camera is expected to pay for their clicks. I feel the photographers are to be blamed for all this.
Is it worth visiting Pushkar Mela?
It is easy to answer. If you want to experience and see the rustic Rajasthani rural life, it is your best call. With a drop in the “mad rush” that this fair has seen in the past, it makes it all the more attractive especially for first-time visitors to India.
If I were to sum it up, the cattle fair and the religious aspects are very interesting and unique. The commercial side promoted by the tourism board which consists of activities in the stadium can be skipped. Some travelers do enjoy that too. I will leave that decision with the readers.
Pushkar town is famed for the easy and relaxed pace of life. It draws people from across the world because of its inherent charm. Even though dope continues to be a big attraction, it is a peaceful place from all perspectives.
Pushkar Itinerary- How many days should you spend in Pushkar Camel Fair?
It is difficult to sum up on a general basis. Some photographers stay for the entire duration of Pushkar Mela as they want to capture as many pictures as possible, the reward for a good shot is a huge sum of money and fame. Some travelers spend 3-4 days whereas many others choose to stay for a day. Ideally, you must reserve two days stay for Pushkar Fair which will provide you good opportunity to explore the fair as well as other places in town.
How to Reach Pushkar from Jaipur?
Pushkar can be reached by bus, train, and car. There is bus service to Pushkar by Rajasthan Roadways and direct buses ply every few hours from Sindhi Camp in Jaipur. There are private bus operators too.
Another alternative to reach Pushkar by bus is by taking a bus to Ajmer. One can also use the train service to reach Ajmer. There are many trains between Jaipur and Ajmer. From Ajmer, a local bus or cab can be used to reach Pushkar. Ajmer to Pushkar is 16 km and is serviced by a local bus service. There is a train service to Pushkar from Ajmer too but services are not frequent.
How to Reach Pushkar from Delhi?
The holy town is well connected with Delhi via Ajmer town which is just 14 Km away. The best option is to take Ajmer Shatabadi from New Delhi station which reaches Ajmer around noon. You can hire a taxi or catch a local bus to reach Pushkar which only takes a few minutes. There is a regular bus service between Pushkar and Delhi by Rajasthan State Roadways. Another option includes taking a local or luxury bus service to Ajmer from Jaipur or Delhi. You can also fly to Jaipur from Delhi as there is a couple of flights every day.
Where to Stay in Pushkar?
Pushkar has all categories of hotels and resorts. There is a large number of budget hotels and guest houses in Pushkar in the lanes adjoining the lake. In recent years many high-end resorts and camps have also come up. Pushkar has also emerged as a popular wedding destination for Indian weddings. Most of these resorts are located away from the town largely beyond the railway station on Merta road or on Motisar Road. Many new resorts have come up offering tented accommodations – both basic swiss tents and luxury tents.
Overall, the budget category outweighs the luxury segment because for years this town has been catering to long-stay backpackers. Newly built budget category hotels and hostels in Pushkar can be found on Jamni Kund road while the older ones are located in the main market and the bylanes around Pushkar Lake. Another upcoming area to find budget hotels is on Parikrama Marg.
Here is a tourist map of Pushkar town.
Should you book a hotel prior to your visit to Pushkar Mela?
To be on the safe side, Yes! Many people say that the festival is on a rebound and you never know! From my last year’s experience, booking hotels via online portals was more expensive than on the spot option. If you are risk-averse, book ahead. For Pushkar Mela 2019, I will book a hotel in Pushkar after reaching the town.
Pushkar Mela Location in Pushkar
Pushkar Mela is held just outside the town area in front of the RTDC village resort on the sand dunes (fast disappearing). It is on NH89 road which leads to the Pushkar railway station. This location is better known as the Pushkar fairground. The tourism department holds many activities at a stadium close to the fairground. Activities & contests like the best-decorated camel, horse race, Kho-Kho, Kabbadi (local games) for the foreign tourists are organized along with musical evening. All these activities are free of cost. There are some activities that are on a paid basis like adventure sports and hot air balloon rides.
One of the unique experiences at Pushkar Fair is to experience a hot air balloon. Sky Waltz hot air balloon safari offers rides during the Pushkar Fair but their prices are considered steep by international standards. Brahma temple is close to the fairground.
Best dates to visit Pushkar Mela?
If your interest is in camels, the locals start camping 10-15 days prior to the official dates and many of them leave as soon as they sell their camels. The horse and other cattle sellers arrive later close to the official dates. If your interest is to capture locals then the best dates would be the last 2 days when devotees visit Pushkar in large numbers for the holy dip. Please note that clicking pictures of devotees bathing on Ghats is forbidden. Shoes are not permitted on Ghats.
For me, having seen this fair once, I generally avoid Pushkar during this period because for me Pushkar is all about relaxing, eating, and exploring. My preferred months are January and February because the town is at its best with excellent weather and devoid of the rush. I think it makes for a great short road trip from Jaipur, especially during the weekends.
Check out the related post on Places To Visit Near Jaipur