Rajasthan in India is a colourful desert. The unconvincing Thar Desert of Rajasthan and with it all the barren land of Rajasthan in India has much to offer through the plethora of celebrations. Festivals and fairs of Rajasthan in India with all the music and dances turn the land to a creative fertile basin. Rajasthan is a vibrant, exotic state in India where tradition and royal glory meet in a riot of colors against the vast backdrop of sand and desert. Referred as the “Desert Jewel of India”, Rajasthan shimmers with even more vibrancy during the time of its colourful fairs and festivals. The desert glitters with the colors of joyous celebration and gay abandon with every fair and festival of Rajasthan in India. There is a celebration for every religious occasion, every change of season and every harvest, all invariably a reflection of the genius of their arts and crafts and their ascetic refinement.
These festivals of Rajasthan born out of age-old traditions, adorns the golden land and unveils the best with vulnerable colours. The festive colours of Rajasthan are alive and unrestricted and unify each soul who visits this magic land of Rajasthan in India. There’s a rhythm, there’s a jest, a passion, a spirit of romance, valour and a feel of being one with the blonde landscape. This spirit of celebration is like Desert Rains, hidden in the Aravalli bosom, unfolding its feather with each festival. Rajasthan is known as the most vibrant, colorful and culturally rich state of India. The vibrant and lively people of Rajasthan are famous for their passion for colorful costumes, dance, music and various festivals. In fact, the true color of Rajasthan can best be seen in the colorful and passionate celebration of various festival and fairs, all round the year. Each region has their own form of Folk entertainment, own Traditions, own dialect adding to the Indian diversity. Be it men or women, young or old, everyone wear new and colorful costumes. Everywhere you can see men wearing red turbans and women vibrantly colored lehangas and odhnis, which show the joyous spirit and passion of the people towards life. Various colorful cultural programs of folk dance and music add to the charm of these fairs and festivals. Folk dances, folk music, puppet shows, buying and selling of cattle, cock fights, bull fights, camel races, colorful clothes and all the other paraphernalia associated with rural festivals can be seen at the massive annual gatherings that mark these fairs and festivals in different parts of Rajasthan, India.
Camel Festival : A lively and colorful event, the Camel Festival is organized by the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, in Bikaner every year.January is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner just the right place to see the ships of the desert. In the camel country Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cartloads, transport grain and even work at the wells.The Camel Festival begins with a colorful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance, acrobatics, etc.
The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridal, bridles, bejeweled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadow on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organized especially for the tourists.The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers.The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe-inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner.
Nagaur Fair : This eight-day fair held every year during the month of January – February, is popularly known as the cattle fair and is the second largest in Rajasthan.Nagaur Town is the most picturesque of Rajput townships. The town becomes a sea of animals, trading over 70,000 bullocks, camels and horses every year. The bullocks are known for their fleetness. Not only are the animals lavishly decorated, even their owners flaunt their colorful turbans and long moustaches.
From shearing sheep to handsome marwari horses to spices all compiled in one fair. Attractions include the ‘mirchi’ bazaar (largest red chilly market of India), wooden items, iron-crafts and camel leather accessories. Sports like tug-of-war, camel races, bullock races and cockfights; jugglers; puppeteers, storytellers; and exciting campfire evenings are held to entertain the tourists. Folk music of the Jodhpur variation echoes the tranquil desert sand.
Teej Festival : Teej is one of the most widely celebrated festivals of Rajasthan. Swings, traditional songs and dancing are the unique features of Teej celebrations in Rajasthan. Women perform traditional folk dance dressed in green colored clothes and sing beautiful Teej songs while enjoying their sway on swings bedecked with flowers.
Teej is celebrated with immense fun and fanfare in the capital city of Jaipur. On this day, women and young girls wear their best clothes and adorn themselves with fine jewellery. They gather at a nearby temple or a common place and offers prayers to Goddess Parvati for well being of their husbands.
On the occasion of Teej, markets in Jaipur are stocked with trendiest women accessories and clothes. Most of the fabric clothes display ‘laheria’ (tie and dye) prints. Sweetshops keep different Teej sweets but ‘Ghevar and Feeni’ is the main sweet of the season.
All over Rajasthan, swings are hung from trees and decorated with fragrant flowers. Women both married and unmarried love to swing on these swings to celebrate the ‘Sawan festival’.
Pushkar Fair : The Pushkar Cattle Fair is one of the largest in India and the only one of its kind in the entire world. During the fair, Lakhs of people from rural India flock to Pushkar, along with camel and cattle for several days of livestock trading, horse dealing, pilgrimage and religious festival.
This small town, becomes a cultural phenomenon when colourfully dressed devotees, musicians, acrobats, folk dancers, traders, comedians, ‘sadhus’ and tourists reach here during Pushkar fair. According to Hindu chronology, it takes place in the month of Kartika (October or November) beginning on ‘ashtmi’ 8th day of Lunar Calendar and continues till full moon (‘Poornima’). The camel and cattle trading is at its peak during the first half of festival period. During the later half, religious activities dominate the scenario. Devotees take dips in the holy “Sarovar” lake, as the sacred water is known to bestow salvation.This small town is transformed into a spectacular fair ground, as rows of make shift stalls display an entire range of objects of art to daily utility stuff. Decoration items for cattle, camel and women, everything is sold together. Small handicraft items are the best bargain for buying souvenirs. The camel and horse races have crowds to cheer. Camel judging competitions are quite popular with animal lovers. Each evening brings different folk dances and music of Rajasthan, performers delivering live shows to the roaring and applauding crowds.
Pushkar fair has its own magic and it’s a lifetime experience for travellers. It has featured in numbers of travel shows, films and magazines. According to the Lonely Planet: “It’s truly a feast for the eyes. If you are any where within striking distance at the time, it’s an event not to be missed.
Urs – Ajmer : The lakeside city of Ajmer is located in central Rajasthan, and is held in great reverence by devotees of all communities who call it ‘Ajmer Sharif’ (Holy Ajmer). It is here that the mortal remains of the highly respected Sufi saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti lie buried.
The Khwaja came from Persia and established the Chishti order in India. He is popularly known as Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor) because he dedicated his entire life to the service of mankind. His spartan life spanned almost a hundred years and he embraced death in solitude while he had withdrawn to his cell for six days, asking not to be disturbed. The Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the place where the Saint’s mortal remains lie buried and is the site of the largest Muslim fair in India. More than five lakh devotees belonging to different communities gather from all parts of the subcontinent to pay homage to the Khwaja on his Urs (death anniversary) during the first six days of Rajab (seventh month of the Islamic calendar.)
The pilgrims who come to seek the blessings of the Khwaja make rich offerings called ‘nazrana’ at the holy spot where the saint has been entombed. The offerings of rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense contribute to the fragrance that floats in the air inside the shrine. Also offered by devotees are the ‘chadar’, ‘ghilaph’ and ‘neema’, which are votive offerings for the tomb. These are brought by devotees on their heads and handed over to the ‘khadims’ inside the sanctum sanctorum. Outside the sanctum sanctorum of the ‘dargah’, professional singers called ‘qawwals’ in groups and sing the praises of the saint in a characteristic high pitched voice.