What is the Pushkar Camel Fair

In the dark I can hear the background noise from afar, especially the deep camel calls that the animals utter from time to time, even if a bit muffled because of the distance. The tension rises after I walked from my accommodation well before sunrise towards the largest camel fair in the world on the 1.5-kilometer walk. At some point I can make out the still faint outlines of the first tents and camels; a sloppy fence lets me enter Camel Camp straight from the dirt road.

The first photo
Farther away a couple of night lamps light up the night, but here on the edge of the camp it is still pitch dark. Luckily I put a small travel flashlight in my pocket, because who likes to trip over a sleeping camel? I still feel very strange here, somehow out of place, I neither know the area nor, as a city councilor, have any idea about camels! Do they bite? Do they snap at you, or maybe kick out like horses? So I'd better make a safety bow around the animals first. It's 5.30 a.m., most of the camp residents are still asleep, but one or the other is already rattling his metal pots, fetching water from the well or coming out of the bushes, a campfire is already burning. Suddenly I am standing in front of my first camel! So I take my Nikon out of my pocket, turn up the ISO number and just take a first test photo - after all, I made the long journey here especially because of the camel fair. The battery is full, the memory cards have been reformatted - you're ready to go!

The first campfires are already burning

The first impressions

The Pushkar Festival is actually a combination of two seemingly completely different events. It starts with the Pushkar Camel Fair (or: Pushkar Mela), the largest camel market in the world, my actual destination of the trip, and then flows smoothly into the Pushkar Puja, one of the highest religious celebrations in honor of the Hindu god Brahma, the lord of creation. Every year in November, the otherwise sleepy 20,000-inhabitant nest of Pushkar in the north Indian state of Rajasthan really comes to life, and it pretty much bursts during the camel fair and the Pushkar Puja, or the "Festival of Kartik Purnima" all seams. Kartika Purnima is a holy festival for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs that takes place during the full moon (= Purnima) in the month of October or November (= Kartika), depending on the position of the moon. Pushkar's hotel capacities are then many times over, so that large tent camps are set up around the city for the many pilgrims and visitors to the events, in all imaginable standards, from luxury camps with running warm water to flatbed collective tents with communal toilets.

Off to the Pushkar Mela!Pushkar is one of the oldest Indian cities and has been attracting people from all over the world with its festival since time immemorial - the Pushkar Festival is said to be one of the oldest "continuous gatherings" in human history - wow! The existence of the city - and of the festival - is already mentioned in the two oldest Hindu national epics "Ramayana" and "Mahabharata" from the 4th century BC. proven.

The mythology of the Hindu creator god Brahma describes the origin of the Pushkar lake: When a demon killed Brahma's children, he killed him with his weapon, the lotus flower. The lotus leaves fell on three different places on the earth. One of them was Pushkar, where a lake sprang up at this point. Brahma is said to have made an offering on this lake during the full moon in the month of Kartik to bless the place. In return, the city of Pushkar is dedicating a large temple to "its" god Brahma, the only one of its kind in the world. A bath in Pushkar Lake and a prayer in this temple have ensured salvation for the believers ever since.

Pushkar lake

"Calm Before the Storm": Ghat on Lake Pushkar

The only Brahma temple in India from the 14th century

Horse dealers at the Pushkar Mela
During the Pushkar Mela camel fair, hundreds of traders and breeders sell mostly camels, but also horses, bulls and cows in a huge, sandy and slightly hilly area on the outskirts of the city - the fair originally began as a general cattle market. Only the "Camels rubric" has taken on huge dimensions over the years. Over 20,000 camels, rumor has it that the number is 50,000, but that seems really exaggerated to me, are brought from everywhere and from far and wide and sold there.

Through these two almost simultaneous events, faith and commerce are blended into an inseparable unit in Pushkar; and what is more of a contradiction in terms for Europeans probably embodies the spirit of India on a small scale - a good opportunity to get a glimpse of the country when the small town of Pushkar is transformed into a large, colorful festival with the most colorful scenes and sounds .

In the meantime, the camp is largely awake, the warming campfires are burning, animals and humans are having breakfast, the tea has been made. Since camel dung is usually used for the campfire - firewood is too expensive for most - a slightly acrid smoke wafts through the air in the morning and in the evening with a very distinctive smell.

I see a few Asian visitors walking around wearing face masks, like in an operating room, but that is really uncool and seems to me to be a bit exaggerated. The simple, archaic atmosphere reduced to the bare minimum is impressive, almost overwhelming, but very authentic, nothing has changed in a very long time. Almost everything takes place on the ground and - at least in this part of the camp - there is hardly any evidence of the modern, electrified and plasticized world; with the exception of the ubiquitous mobile phones, of course. The smell is not unlike that of a huge cowshed, the impressions convey the feeling of a journey through time, i.e. I feel a little like a character in the novel "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells, only that the trip goes back in time. I marvel at the hustle and bustle, the people, and how they have set it up: wrapped in woolen blankets - it gets cool at night, during the day it is warm to hot, we are here at the edge of the Thar desert, which is also the "Great Indian Desert" is called - they sit around the campfire, the water for cooking is fetched in pretty metal jugs, the tents are simple, some sleep in the open air.

Breakfast at Camel Camp

On the edge of the "Great Indian Thar Desert" it gets chilly at night

Right at the beginning of my tour, still at the edge of the camp, I am greeted with a friendly “Which yourr cantrrie?” From the son of a hawking dealer for plastic jewelry, frippery, tinsel and other trinkets. "Germany". "Ohhh, veerry nice cantrrie, soo nice, soo bjutiful!". "Thank you" (~How do you want to know?‘). "Please come, visit my father shop, I will show you evrryting! No need buy, only luking ...! ”He walks next to me and is quite persistent.

Because he is a simple but clearNo would never ever accept - on the contrary, that would only seem one of my most cunning negotiating tactics and it would only fuel his salesman's ambition even more - I try it with a friendly "May be later, OK?" It works immediately, he hesitates for a moment and then tries: "OK, you prromisd me!". "No, wise guy, I only said" may be ". "OK OK, may be latrr". He stops and smiles. The hope of a small business must be allowed to live on, always!

Everywhere the camels are now munching their hay, which has either been brought with them or can be bought on site in any quantity; some animals stand by, but many prefer to eat comfortably lying down; and so the camel breeders and traders' first trade fair day slowly begins. Above all, it consists of one thing: waiting. And so they sit there alone or together with and between their camels, waiting for potential buyers, chatting, drinking the obligatory tea (chai) and possibly indulging, for a small fee, of course, there are enough internationally clear hand movements, also gladly taking photos. Before the beginning of the fair, all camels are washed and decorated with great care, many are sheared or painted with interesting patterns; Specialized booths offer camel jewelry in all sizes, colors and variations, from woolen ribbons, mirrors and plastic stands to jewelry made of silver and pearls, silver bells and ankle bracelets for the shackles are also very popular, because then it rattles so nicely when the camels to run.

It's easier to eat when lying down

A trade fair day like this can be long, patience is required ...

If possible camel buyers then come, the dealers act ostentatiously disinterested, talk about this, the weather and that, non-business small talk, but 'between the lines' the real thing happens, the business rapprochement, the negotiation. If you get closer, the camels are shown, and if you are really interested, they are also examined more closely. Most of the camels are quite obedient, but some are also quite stubborn, which makes the seller visibly nervous!

The camel buyers are coming!

Camel shopping

If something doesn't suit them, so can camels
get quite stubborn

Buyers inspect a camel

I soak up everything and take photos with concentration but enjoying myself, I feel safer and more comfortable from hour to hour, I also become more and more familiar with the camels, whom I sometimes get on the skin when photographing in the confines, and watch the whole colorful scene with me great curiosity.

A small section of the 'Camel Camp'

During the day there are more and more camels

The photos also become more intense and closer over time. Once I was frightened by a camel, whose large head sniffs at me curiously from the side; I shrink back, which also frightens the camel, it also shrinks back and we stare at each other for a moment with wide eyes and curious looks. I really like this unanimous movement, especially because it didn't want to bite me! A scene at the drinking trough also amazes me when a boy, who stands on a ledge and waits, gently strokes his camel over the head and keeps it absolutely still and visibly enjoys it! I wouldn't have believed these animals to be so intimate. I move on across the Camp Ground towards the city.

The closer I get to it, the more the full extent of this market reveals itself to me. A huge fair has developed around the Pushkar Mela and the Pushkar Puja over the years.

I didn't trust camels with so much "intimacy"

A huge fair has arisen around the Pushkar Festival

Little tightrope walker in the Pushkar stadium

Mobile snack bar

Greengrocer on a hurrying cart

The specially traveled mobile tea and snack stall owners, greengrocers on carts or in hasty tent stalls, shopkeepers without stalls and tables, take care of the physical well-being and the necessary flow of goods for all the camel breeders and traders, camel buyers, jugglers and tourists on the camp ground. who simply stack their fruit and vegetables on the floor, wandering peanut roasters, camel dung and camel food sellers, camel jewelry sellers and cigarette and other water smugglers as well as a flying shoemaker in his beautifully decorated tent.

And among all the entertainers such as high-wire artists, traveling sitar players, magicians, traveling preachers, snake charmers, dancers and circus artists, there are countless tourists and photographers; the first sadhus, a kind of monks, already arrive for the Pushkar Puja, the holy festival, as well as pickpockets and quacks, beggars are always there anyway, there have just become more; As always, cows looking for something edible trot undeterred through the colorful crowd, a few pigs and goats running around are not noticed.

To keep everyone entertained, there are fixed facilities such as the three Ferris wheels, which are still busily screwed and built on the first day of the fair, ship swings, the "New Kamal Circus", which has yet to be set up, two fully loaded hot air balloons, information booths from any state Organizations, Indian "mantra music" trickles out of tinny rattling loudspeakers throughout the day and spread across the entire complex and city; Camel carts carry people who can afford a few extra rupees from A to B; or just in a circle: the tourists.

Wandering peanut roaster at the horse market

Flying Schumacher

Local camel feed seller

Camel taxis

Traveling Tea Seller ('Chai Wallah')

The first sadhus are already arriving

Sleeping camel dealer

snake charmer

The 'New Kamal Circus' still has to be worked on in a hurry

Cow in Pushkar looking for something to eat