One of the largest and most popular festivals in India (and that's saying something), the Pushkar Camel Fair, or Pushkar Mela, takes away from the hustle and bustle of Rajasthan's cities. Thousands of camels, horses, and cattle descend on the sand dunes of holy Pushkar to be traded by villagers and witnessed by worldwide travelers.
The festival is as much of a business venture for farmers and shepherds, as it is a spiritual celebration of epic proportions. If there was ever a bucket-list gathering to attend in the Eastern world, the Pushkar Fair—with its vibrant display of camel capers and religious significance—is it.
Pushkar Camel Fair Dates
The Pushkar Camel Fair is directly linked to the Hindu lunar calendar. This annual 14-day festival takes place in the lead up to the full moon in the auspicious Hindu month of Kartik (October and November), the most prosperous time to absolve past sins. During this moon phase, locals bathe in the holy waters of Pushkar Lake, hoping their wishes will come true.
The fair has two components: camel trading and religious rituals. The camel trading—which is the main attraction for tourists—happens at the beginning of the festival, with competitions and activities. Rajasthan Tourism conducts an official program of events. Towards the end, the focus shifts to the religious ceremonies.
The official future dates of the Pushkar Camel Fair are as follows:
- In 2020, the Pushkar Fair will be held from November 22 to 30.
- In 2021, the Pushkar Fair will be held from November 11 to 19.
- In 2022, the Pushkar Fair will be held from October 31 to November 8.
These dates mark the time when the government-sponsored cultural activities take place. However, if you're interested in seeing the camels (and other livestock), plan to arrive a few days before the official start of the fair. Camel traders arrive early and leave early, making the start of the festival the best time to view the animals in their elaborate decorations.
Arrival of the Camels: November 17 to 22, 2020
Before the official beginning of the festival, camels, herders and traders come to set up camp in the sand dunes. As the days progress, the arrivals continue, the gathering grows, and lively trading takes place. This is a great time for photography, as it's possible to move around freely and observe the scene. By the fourth or fifth day, the sand dunes are at their most crowded and the vibe is hopping with camels, horses, livestock, traders, and herders.
Competitions and Activities: November 23 to 30, 2020
As more people arrive in Pushkar, the festivities start to unfold. Camel races, competitions, such as "the best mustache" and bridal competitions, and artisan activities take place at the fairgrounds. The atmosphere becomes lively with camel cart rides, vendors, musicians, gypsies, and tourists. Around this time, the camels and traders start disappearing back into the desert as their business concludes.
The town of Pushkar also starts to swell—especially around the temples—during the prime fair days, as pilgrims arrive to participate in religious offerings at the fair. Official events for tourists continue at the stadium, and amusement park rides, folk dances, music performances, and other entertainment— including turban-tying contests—carry forward, entertaining visitors and locals alike.
Religious Ceremonies: November 28 to 30, 2020
A few days preceding the full moon, the town is busy with pilgrims. Bhajans (devotional hymns) and religious ceremonies take place at the various temples around town. A religious festival honoring Lord Brahma (the creator) becomes the center of the celebration. And then, on the holy full-moon night, thousands of pilgrims gather to bathe in the lake and absolve themselves of sin, drawing the fair to a close. A grand finale of events includes a maha aarti (worship with fire) by the lake and a fireworks display.
Attending the Pushkar Camel Fair
This Pushkar Camel Fair travel guide has more information about the festival and how to visit it.