Date: 30th October – 4th November 2017
Hotel: Paramount Palace
Lordy lordy, where do I start and end with Pushkar and the 2017 fair?
Getting there by train was part of the fun. We shared seats with a Sikh family on their way to a wedding in Ajmer, the jump off point for Pushkar. They have a hotel and shop and bloke didn’t mind flaunting their wealth with a Bvlgari watch that would drag you to the bottom of a stepwell. Bloke was only 22 but looked mid 30s and spoke enough English that we learned a lot about Sikhs, weddings and other things.
A walk the length of the train was an adventure within an adventure.
Most people were friendly and likely wondering why western tourists would be walking up and down the train.
This woman seemed to be the class clown. She insisted on doing some henna on my hand and could hardly see, so the result was as you might expect.
She was hamming it up in photos, that’s her on the right, I think the other women were strangers. Not sure about the placement of her right hand :o)
The arrival at Ajmer Junction was an insanely crush. People coming down the overbridge stairs and people coming up the stairs. It likely wouldn’t have been a problem but for the people sitting on the stairs. We all became quite separated. We all got off the train at the same time, yet somehow I was already at the top and could see Tiff and Dawne struggling to get started at the bottom.
Then there is a lineup of tuk tuk drivers waiting at the other end of the overbridge. We were about to settle on a 500R tuk tuk for the trip to Pushkar when Tony stepped in with 400R in a taxi, sharing with another couple. Of course this caused a bit of a Hindi shouting match, but we let the drivers all sort it out.
Ahhh…Pushkar Fair! It is a mix of gaudy lights, deeply spiritual pilgrimage, rides with really loud music, loads of temples, crazy competitions, people bathing and doing Puja in the lake, religious music and chanting through the night, hawkers and beggars…and of course, camels. Lots of camels.
There are two part to the Pushkar Fair. The first half is the livestock trading where camels, horses and water buffalo change hands. There seems to be much at stake with animals groomed and prettied up in an attempt to get a good price.
There is also a holy festival happening as part of the Hindu holy month of Kartik. Thousands and thousands of people make a pilgrimage to bathe in the lake. The crowds build then drop for a couple of days then build to a peak for the last couple of days.
While walking to the Mela field (the fair stadium) our way was blocked by a bit of a crush. Rather than fight it we went into a hotel an up to the restaurant to watch. There was already heavy traffic in both directions and a bunch of people were trying to get into a temple causing a blockage. 30 minutes of entertainment for watchers from rooftops and of discomfort for those caught in the crush.
Crowd watching is awesome. If eating or drinking we would always park ourselves with a good street view to watch the seemingly endless crowd pass. Immediately obvious to even a casual observer is the number of women in the streets, most often in groups ranging from 4 or 5 to 20+. I never managed to work out where they were coming from or going to, but the stream goes on and on.
Many people seem to be from rural India and quite poor. We westerners are a constant source of fascination for them. The reactions include delight, curiosity, fear, uncertainty and more. It is so easy to engage by smiling, waving and saying hello. Inevitably they would smile back, want to be in a selfie, want to talk…or try to.
This is a very typical scene that happens over and over throughout the day. It is so much fun.
These women came up to Jasmine and, while it is hard to know exactly what they were feeling, they seemed amazed by her. They were touching her hair and fawning over her while saying Ram Ram Sa over and over. In Rajasthan Ram Ram Sa is an alternative to Namaste to say to someone as a hello or goodbye.
A walk around the lake on the ghats is everything you come to India for. I am running out of time, here are some shots that don’t even nearly tell the story.
The girl on the left had the unusual green eyes. Gorgeous.
I am running out of time…again…and to do the next part of Pushkar justice I need time. But here is a teaser…
Hilarious turban tying competition, Jasmine and Cameron in a bride and groom competition.