pushkar-mela-photo-blog

Pushkar Fair Demystified: Everything You Need To Know

Pushkar town is one of the most popular places in Rajasthan among the tourists, both domestic and international. Pushkar Camel Fair or Pushkar Mela is synonymous with this town. Even though there are many other cattle fairs but none of them is as popular as this one. I have been visiting Pushkar on a regular basis during the last few years and have also attended this famous event. I love this 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.

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Camel camp at Pushkar Fair.

 

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Everything to know about Pushkar!

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 till 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.

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Brahma Temple

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.

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Pushkar in a picturesque setting

Where is Pushkar?

Pushkar is a small town located close to Ajmer city in Rajasthan. It is around 150 Km from Jaipur.

Things to know about Pushkar Mela or Camel Fair

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.


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Devotees taking a holy bath in the lake

Officially, the festival is a five-day event. Though it is a cattle fair it 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 about my views on each of these.

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A buyer inspecting a horse in Cattle Fair

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 a great travel experience and story.

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Locals in their traditional clad attire in Pushkar Fair camps

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?

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This is a great opportunity for anyone to witness the “real Rajasthan”, its culture, traditions, people, rituals closely.

Pushkar Fair History – 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 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 the 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.

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For every camel in the festival, there was an equal number of photographers.

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 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.

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Camels in one the camps located in Pushkar Fair in Pushkar town, Rajasthan

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 the first time visitors to India.

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A religious procession passing through the Pushkar market

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.

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Tourists enjoying local music at sunset point in the holy town

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 perspective.

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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 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 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 take a few minutes. There is a regular bus service between Pushkar and Delhi by Rajasthan State Roadways. Other 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.

Pushkar Hotels – Where to Stay?

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 luxury segment because for years this town has been catering to long stay backpackers. Newly built budget category hotels and hostels are 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.

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Pushkar Map

Here is a tourist map of Pushkar town.

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Should you book ahead?

To be on the safe side, Yes! Many people say that the festival is on a rebound and you never know!

Where is Pushkar Mela held?

Pushkar Mela is held just outside the town area in front of 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 Pushkar fairground. 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 which are on a paid basis like adventure sports and hot air balloon rides.

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Pushkar Stadium is where all the Pushkar Mela activity takes place

Sky Waltz hot air balloon safari also operates their services during the fair dates but their prices are considered steep by international standards. Brahma temple is close to the fairground.

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Colors of Rajasthan captured during the festival

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 best dates would be last 2 days when devotees visit Pushkar in large number for the holy dip. Please note that clicking pictures of devotees bathing on Ghats is forbidden. Shoes are not permitted on Ghats.

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Road trip to Pushkar from Jaipur

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.

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122 thoughts on “Pushkar Fair Demystified: Everything You Need To Know

  1. Great photos as always, Arv. I’ve been intrigued by Pushkar myself though I’m torn on the idea of going to the fair. On the one hand, I grew up in a region with its own agricultural fair. I’d be curious to see what feels familiar and what doesn’t. On the other hand, the crush of tourists at tourist events can make it less fun. Perhaps, like you, I should go visit Pushkar when the fair is out of town.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Todd, I will highly recommend it to you because you are curious. If you visit a place with high expectations, there are chances that you will be disappointed. Just let it flow and I’m sure you will enjoy it. The agricultural fair that you mentioned must be full of activities? Entertainment?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hopefully I’ll make it there sometime then. I won’t be able to make it this year, but perhaps in the future.

        Where I grew up it was the classic North American style agricultural fair. People would bring their finest livestock to show, and also they would show off things they grew – biggest pumpkin, nicest looking tomatoes, etc. People would show off crafts they made and there would be contests for things like best pie, best preserves, and in my region, best maple syrup (that’s a big product where I am from). Outside of that there are, of course, musical guests, carnival rides, historical displays and the ever present fair food – fried and sweet delicacies. The little town where it takes place has about 1,300 people but the fair in the course of a long weekend gets about 150,000 visitors so the place totally transforms.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hilariously, no. I was there back in 2016 and it hadn’t changed much at all. I’ll try to pull together some photos for an entry one of these days soon. It’s a uniquely rural-North American experience.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I have always been intrigued by Puskar mela after having seen so many photographs but haven’t thought about it for a while. In the recent past, haven’t seen much on Pushkar as much I used to before . Possibly the reason is what you mention in your post. Whatever be it, I love to go there sometime and experience it myself.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Neel, for a traveler like you, I highly recommend Pushkar. There is a catch though – the timing! Whenever you plan to visit, let me know I do have some info to share. To be fair, there is a lot of things to do as well as nothing much to do! surprised? well, it depends on you! If you love mountains, you will love Pushkar! I’m not sure about the camel fair but otherwise, I do recommend this town. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, I think I may not be going to Kutch as it’s a trip with parents and I need to go slow so places like Dwarka, Somnath, Gir And Diu will take up all the time as those are in one side. Let’s see

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Very informative and interesting article !
    The pictures are the best I’ve ever seen of Pushkar!
    You won’t believe it I just missed the fair! I had planned to accept the invitation of TeamArt and be present for 4 days! Couldn’t make it for unforeseen
    events!
    Also because I am very scared of the monkeys 🐒🐒 roaming around the place!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Are you referring to “The sacred”? I think one should visit Pushkar at least once. Of course, the timing has to be right. I love the atmosphere of this town. I have met some people who didn’t like it but I guess it also depends on what you expect and sometimes your expectations are wrong. There is no reason to be afraid of monkeys. The town is not infamous for its monkeys… they are like every other place. I will definitely suggest a visit. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I am talking about the sacred Pushkar and a program of sacred music, yoga, meditation et al by the same people who organized the Jaipur Zee Festival earlier this year. My friend from Jai sent me the monkey pictures. But I could not make it for other reasons.

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  4. You showed the dark side of tourism very well and how it can ruin the reputation of a great place or event by attracting too many people, who in turn make the locals change their ways of life. But over all the good aspects of Pushkar prevail and the drop in the number of tourists is mostly likely of benefit to the city of the famous cattle fair and for the place of the holy lake for the Hindus.

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    1. These are the ways of the world. When something becomes popular it becomes “hot”. Everyone wants to have a piece! I keep visiting this quaint place for all that it offers. It is a holiday home for long stay foreign tourists. I will write more about it. BTW, have you ever read on Hinduism?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great article on Pushkar Arv, when I think about Pushkar camels and the vivid colors comes to my mind! But yes your are right the ones tourism sets in its streached too much in India and spoils the whole fun!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Our tourism industry is like that only. I’m happy that mad days of Pushkar fair are over. Pushkar is my favorite place and often if I’m short on time, I go for a long drive to Pushkar. This post isn’t about the charms of Pushkar rather just to settle the question people often ask me. For a photographer friend (you) I will recommend a visit a few days before the conclusion of fair. There is a lot to shoot and I’m not even talking about the “famed” pictures you see in the magazines or the internet. I too didn’t click any such picture. My focus was on life and I used only a point and shoot. No DSLR!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you will love it. Are you headed there during the fair? It is a month away. I can’t claim that this is a detailed post on Pushkar. I have only covered Pushkar Fair. 🙂

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      1. So there’s more to it? Let it all come. I plan only for next year. The wheels need to get rolling. But soon. I would love to attend the fair but having just returned from a trip to Ladakh, I am low on finance right now. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Fantastic! I especially like the photo of the tent with two camels–we used to make the same kind of tents (well, lower to the ground, because we had to lug the blankets with us on our backs …) for youth camps. Alas, no camels to lug our stuff around … 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Arv, thank you for sharing Pushkar’s beauty. Being there on my trip I really enjoyed sitting at the lake for the sunset time a bit away from the usual place and connecting with Indian people by chatting with them and sharing great thoughts. I didn’t do a camel ride, I just wanted to inhale the spirit of this place and so I did with much joy. I am just more of a traveler and photographer who likes to embrace the soul of places. Indeed I loved Pushkar and stayed at a really wonderful place.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cornelia, the essence of traveling is experiencing something new. It is not necessary to follow the “usual” path. The key thing is that you should enjoy what you are doing. On every trip to Pushkar, I have spent a good time sitting around the lake. There is some magic in this town. Don’t you think so? How many days did you stay in Pushkar?

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      1. Hi Arv, yes there is absolutely magic in this town, it was just different from any other place I had visited on my trip. The evenings I spent at sunset times at the lake were an magnificent experience. I spent two nights in Pushkar, from my hotel I would walk like 20 mins to the Lake, since it was more on the outskirt of the town.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Cornelia, I feel sunset in Pushkar is a must experience. I can practically sit near the Ghat and spend hours. Jaipur Ghat allows you an opportunity for the best sunset experience in Pushkar.
        I feel both Pushkar and Udaipur are magical places! 🙂 Have you been to Udaipur?

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      3. Arv, I agree with you, as well with Udaipur. I got to spend there 4 days and I fell in love with it. Have you gotten up there on that mountain by tram, I forgot it’s name, but the view over the lake is just mesmerizing. I spent every evening at the lake side enjoying the sunset and watching people doing their laundry, chatting or playing cards. This town has a wonderful vibe, that totally spoke to me.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yes, I have been on a cable ride to the top of the hill. The has a popular temple and offers stunning sunset view apart from the lake. You got it right. The city has a great vibe and I think someday it is Pichola lake which has added to its appeal. I’m not sure if you are aware of the fact that one of the James Bond movies was extensively shot in Udaipur?

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love it when travelers post ‘real’ pictures rather than sourcing images from Google searches. These pictures look amazing. Pushkar is high on my travel to-do list, right after Spiti Valley 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Roy, all these pictures were shot with either a compact camera or a smartphone. The idea was to capture the moment and none of these have been “photoshopped”. If you want to visit Pushkar during Pushkar fair, the good time to visit would be next month. BTW, people who “actually” travel never use google images. It is only bloggers who never travel have to rely on google for the pictures! 🙂

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  9. I have heard so much about Pushkar fair and I just long to be there. It is very popular among photographers and you said it well that it is more of a photographer fair than a cattle fair, even I heard the same. I visited Pushkar during some other time and then it was just a sleepy town. It was just a day visit from Jaipur and back, a few years ago. Your post is so informative and a proper guide to Puskar fair. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Sarmistha, it is still a cattle fair but the dates promoted by the tourism authorities are towards the end of the actual fair. It is still sleepy yet so much goes on (behind). You will find lots of boards on the street written in Hebrew. I do feel you should visit fair someday and experience it yourself. Did you visit Pushkar more than a decade ago?

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Arvind, I would have never ventured anywhere near Pushkar or any fair because of my fear of crowds. But you’ve changed my mind. It reminds me of the time we drove through the desert villages near Jaisalmer and how amazing the experience was. It sounds like an awesome opportunity to witness rural lifestyle and the process of cattle trading. There must be delicious rural Rajasthani food too.
    A little less crowd and fewer photographers couldn’t hurt 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jyoti, it all depends on when you visit. I also stay away from the crowd scene. There are many smart ways to stay within your comfort zone yet capture all the action. You are right it is a great way to capture the rural lifestyle. As for the food, in Pushkar, it is the Mediterranean cuisine which can be found easily across the town. 🙂

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