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World Famous Fairs in India

Like festivals, the fairs are also an important part of the life of Indian people and celebrated with great pomp and grandeur. Related to any particular town, suburb or village, the fairs are generally held once in a year. Locals as well as people from far flung areas participate in fairs to enjoy various activities including trading.

Camel Festival

Rajasthan popularly known as the 'Land of Kings' boasts of Great Indian Thar Desert. Since time immemorial people use camels, also called the 'Ship of Desert' for exploring the unending expanse of desert. Even today camels are used in Rajasthan to pull heavy carts, transport grain and work at the wells. Every year a number of cattle festivals are celebrated in Rajasthan, the Camel Festival of Bikaner is one of them. An annual event, the Camel Festival is organised in the month of January by the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, Rajasthan. The Camel Festival showcases a number of lively and colourful events and it draws thousands of people from far and near. The festival provides a good opportunity to see the ships of the desert at their best. You can enjoy a spectacle of unusual camel performances during the festival that include camel races, camel dances, and the bumpy, neck shaking camel rides.

Historic record says that Bikaner was always an inaccessible land. During the ancient time the survival of the local people of the region was depended only on camels. In fact, the camels of Bikaner region were very popular for their unique characteristics including strength and beauty. Pages of history say that the Bikaner army had an elite camel corps known as the 'Ganga Risala' that took part in World War I and World War II as well.

The same 'Ganga Risala' camel unit was functional even after the independence of India and it actively participate in Indo-Pak wars. Often referred as the 'camel country, Bikaner still continues its bonhomie with camels. Still you can see the camels in this region used for pulling heavy loads on carts. Due to Bikaner's historic connection with camels, the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture chose to hold the Camel festival in the town. The Camel Festival starts with the colorful procession of beautifully decorated camels. Organised against the picturesque backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the procession head towards the open sand-spreads of the grounds. Some of the highlights of the camel festival include the best breed competition, the tug-of-war contest, camel dance and acrobatics.On the first day of the festival the Camel Pageant is held in which the camel owners show off decorations and jewellery of their camels. During the festival camel dance performances are held in which the camels display interesting footwork and dance gracefully on the direction of their trainers. Besides the colourful bridles, bejewelled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadows on dusky sands make the whole environs mystical.Other camel related competitions namely the best decorated camel, fur cutting design, camel milking and the best camel hair cut are also organized. You may also savor the special sweets and tea prepared by camel milk during the festival. On the second day of the festival, the camels of the region take part in the races and vie for the honors. As the race begins thousands of visitors including locals cheer the camels. On both days of the festival, the evening ends with special folk dances and music of the desert region. For entertaining the visitors local artists perform the skirt swirling dances, the thrilling fire dances and several other equally interesting performances. The Camel Festival commemorates with a magnificent display of fireworks which illuminates the desert city of Bikaner.

Desert Festival

Usually the desert winter offers warm balmy days and invigorating crispy nights. During winters the Great Indian Thar desert hosts a colourful festival, the looks of which you have never seen before. This Festival is held in February on the Sam Sand Dunes, about 42 km from Jaisalmer. One of the most popular festivals of Rajasthan, Desert Festival is celebrated for three days and commemorates on Purnima, the day of full moon. Desert Festival is a special feature of Golden city of Jaisalmer and it displays the rich culture of Rajasthan. During the festival the city reverberates to the sound of melodious songs and rhythms. Desert festival showcases the performing arts of the region and a number of competitions, artists perform traditional dances, sing local folk songs and speak about the lives of the local heroes. People dress themselves in the colourful attires and participate in various events and competitions. Camel races, camel dances, tug-of-war among musclemen, turban tying competition and Mr. Desert contest are some of the major highlight of this festival. On the whole, the activities that take place during the three day festival will surely keep you amused. If you wish to experience the rich traditions of Rajasthan, but running short of time, then weave your itinerary around the Desert festival, it will provide you a close look of the Rajasthan culture. Very little is known about the history of Desert festival, but the fun-filled festival is celebrated here for a long time. However, Jaisalmer has an interesting legend associated with it. According to the legend, Lord Krishna-the head of the Yadav Clan once told Arjuna that in future a descendant of the Yadav Clan would establish his kingdom atop the Trikuta Hi. In 1156 AD, the prophecy of Lord Krishna fulfilled as Rawal Jaisal, a Bhatti Rajput and a descendant of the Yadav Clan, founded his new capital on the Trikuta Hill. Desert festival provides a glimpse of the culture that has been flourishing here, since the foundation of the city in the 12th century A.D. An important cultural festival of Rajasthan, Desert Festival provides a cultural platform for the rich dance and music tradition of the state. Camel races, turban tying competitions, traditional folk music and dance performances, exciting competitions and contests are some of the highlights of the festival. Here you can see puppet shows, dancers, ballads and snake charmers as well. As the evening progresses, the sam dunes come alive with the soulful songs of the balladeers and dramas of the puppeteers. Local artisans present their artistic skills against the splendid backdrop of the Sam sand dunes on the milky white moon light. In the night the dancers perform the amazing acts like fire dance and acrobatic stunts.The Desert festival is famous for the turban-tying competition, in which participants try to turn the long colourful fabric into attractive turbans. Another much-awaited event is the tug-of-war, in which participants get together to lend their combined strength to pull the rope. Mr Desert contest is an important event organised during the desert festival. People with long moustache participate in the Mr Desert contest. In this contest size does matter, but only in the context of mustache and it attracts a lot of contenders, all vying to be the 'heariest of them all'. During the desert festival colourful craft bazaars are set up where one can check out locally made items. Camels, the ship of the desert are an integral part of the desert festival. Like other festivals of Rajasthan, in desert festival too, the camels are decorated beautifully and contests like camel dance and camel polo are organised.

Nagaur Fair

Nagaur one of the most picturesque townships of mighty Rajput, comes alive every year during the winter months of January and February. A beautiful town of Rajasthan, Nagaur is host to the annual Cattle fair, the second largest in the state. During the fair thousands of cattle are brought to Nagaur from far and near areas of Rajasthan and neighboring states. Traders visit the fair in large number to buy and see camels, bullocks, oxen, horses and other cattle. Bullocks of Nagaur are famous for their fleetness and their special characteristics. Cattle are lavishly decorated and their owners too wear colourful clothes and turbans. Some of the owners also posses long moustaches. Though the four day festival is known as the Cattle fair, but it showcases a number of fun-filled activities such as camel races, bullock races, tug-of-war and bull-fights. So, visit the Nagaur Fair this February to see the elegantly decorated cattle and also to enjoy the thrilling activities. Do not take any tention about the accommodation in Nagaur, as the RTDC puts up a Tourist Village for the tourists visiting the fair.History says that in the year 1242 Nagaur was bestowed upon Balban as his jagir. In 1542 A.D, Sher Shah Suri took control of the Nagaur region. During Suri Empire and the later Mughal Empire, Nagaur was a sarkar (governance) of Ajmer. Mughal Emperor Akbar constructed a mosque here, and the place also houses the shrine of a descendant of Khwaja of Ajmer, Moinuddin Chisti. Very little is known about the history of the fair, but it is believed that the fair was started by the past rulers of the region for exhibition of cattle. Beautifully decorated cattle remain the major attraction for tourists visiting the Nagaur Fair. However, the variety of games organised in the fair are equally interesting. During the four day festival you can enjoy the games like tug-of-war, camel races, bullock races, bull-fights and cock fights. Jugglers, puppeteers and story-tellers add more to your funny experience in the fair. Also enjoy the campfire evenings in the cool desert along with folk music and dance during the fair.Mirchi bazaar, one of the biggest red chilly markets of India is a major attraction of the fair. Also check out wooden items, iron-crafts, camel leather accessories, local handicrafts, cloths and jewelleries which are on sale during the fair. Buy the items on offer in the fair and take them as souvenir for your family members or friends.

Elephant Festival

Usually camels remain the highlight of any festival in Rajasthan, but a few festivals of the state mark elephants as well. Elephant Festival is an important festival of Rajasthan dedicated to the pachyderm. This Elephant festival is held in pink city, Jaipur the capital of Rajasthan. Preparation for the festival begins well in advance and elephants are groomed to perfection by their masters. During the festival large number of elephants, camels and horses take part in huge procession. Thousands of people from far and near reach the city to see the amazing catwalk of animals, beautifully painted and tastefully attired with glittering ornaments and embroidered velvets. The elephants also participate in the races, play the royal game of polo and finally participate in the colourful festival of Holi.Started only a decade ago, the Elephant Festival was included especially by Rajasthan Tourism to promote tourism. Each year on the day after the Holi festival, the Chaugan stadium at Jaipur, forms the venue for an impressive jamboree. In addition to massive procession, a programme of Dhaph and Gair dance demonstrating the spirit of Holi, dazzling display of fireworks altogether provide unforgettable experience to participants. Traces of Elephant festival has been found in the Jataka tales of Buddhism that refer to the tradition of Hastimangala or the Elephant Festival. Besides, the elephant has also been of symbol of strength and wealth for the royal families. For the Rajputs, the elephants were used for war and also for the royal festivities. .Usually the festival begins with a spectacular procession of elephants, camels and horses. Other highlights of the festival include the elephant races, elephant polo matches and tug of war between elephants and men. Local artists also perform the folk dances during the festival. A unique 'Gaj Shringar' exhibition is also held during the festival which displays elephant-ornaments, textiles (Jhoo) parapernalic howdahs and carriages, paintings, medicines, food etc.

Mewar Festival

One of the popular festivals of Rajasthan, Mewar festival is celebrated to greet the arrival of spring season. An annual festival, the Mewar festival coincides with the famous festival of Gangaur in Udaipur. This festival has great significance for women of the state and they participate in the festival by dressing up themselves in their best clothes. Women participate in the massive procession with idols of goddess and finally transfer the images to special boats in the lake Pichola. Folk music and dances, singing and a number of other programmes are organized during the festival, which highlight the Rajasthani culture. Like other fairs and festivals of Rajasthan, Mewar Festival showcases a lot of activity that keeps the participants in a joyful mood and all tend to enjoy every moment. Considered the jewel of Mewar kingdom, Udaipur had been ruled by the Sisodia dynasty for longer time. An interesting legend is associated with the foundation of the city. Legend has it that, Maharana Udai Singh the founder of the city, during his hunting expeditions met a holy man on meditation on a hill overlooking the Lake Pichhola. The holy man blessed the king and advised him to build a palace at this favorable spot with a fertile valley and an amphitheater of low mountains. The king followed the advise of the hermit and founded the city in 1559 A.D.Mewar Festival has no any specific connection with this legend, but it provides a glimpse of rich culture and traditions of Rajasthan. Besides playing an important cultural role, the festival is a fine occasion to cherish the century old values.Mewar festival marks a series of celebrations including the songs, dances, processions, devotional music, firework displays and much more. The festival is celebrated in Udaipur during the famous Gangaur festival and very significant for women as well as the best time for women to participate in the festivities at large scale. As the religious part of the festival finish, the cultural events begin and culture of Rajasthan is portrayed through songs, dances and other interesting programmes. Mewar festival commemorates with an impressive display of fireworks.

Summer Festival

Mount Abu, the only hill station of Rajasthan turns into festive mood during the summer season. For the local residents and people living in the plains the hilly town hosts the Summer Festival each year. With steep rocks, picturesque lakes and charming locations and the soothing climate, Mount Abu offers a perfect set up for the festivity. One of the most popular festivals of Rajasthan, the Summer Festival celebrates the warmth and cheerfulness of the local people and their unique lifestyle. An early extravaganza the Summer Festival is held in the month of May - June and celebrated for three days. Organised by the Rajasthan Tourism Department, Summer Festival is a good occasion to see and experience the rich cultural traditions of the desert state of Rajasthan. So, visit the beautiful hill station this May to enjoy the summer festival and refresh yourself amidst the serene environs. A number of legends are associated with Mount Abu, but those legends have no any connection with the Summer Festival. Legend has it that during the old days Mount Abu was the home of several saints and sages. According to legend over 330 million gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon used to visit this place. Mount Abu is believed to be the place where the great saint Vashishth lived and performed a yagna to form four Agnikula (four clans of fire) for protecting the earth from demons.Once the part of the Chauhan Kingdom of Rajasthan, Mount Abu served as a summer resort for the Rajput kings. The British government took the place on lease from the then Maharaja of Sirohi for using as the headquarter of the resident to Rajputana or Rajasthan. Very soon it became a favourite summer destination of the British and still it draws large number of visitors from rest of the country and various parts of the world. Summer Festival is a feast of folk music, traditional dance and it also provides visitors a glimpse of the tribal life and rich culture of Rajasthan. The three day festival starts with the singing of a ballad which is followed by folk dances of Rajasthan. During the festival the sporting events like the boat races are organised on the Nakki Lake. Here, folk performances of Rajasthan and neighboring state of Gujarat are organized. On the second and third day of the festival various competitions are organised. Some of the highlights are skating race, boat race, horse race, skater's show, CRPF band show, tug of war, panihari matka race and deepdan.

Pushkar Fair

Pushkar Fair or Pushkar Camel Fair, as it is also known as is one of those events when people from all over Rajasthan make their way to the small town of Pushkar. This is more so for camel riders, people with a religious bent of mind and not to forget tourists from all over the world. For traders, it is a unique opportunity to meet traders from different parts of the state and earn some profit while for devotees; it is a means to purify their soul by taking a dip in the holy Pushkar Lake. It is a good opportunity for those who wish to see trading in full swing, however once the fair begins business no longer remains so important. It is the festivity that takes over the commercial aspect of the fair. As per mythological saga Lord Brahma (the creator of the universe) was once in search of a place to perform his holy yagna. During his search, a lotus accidentally dropped from his hand and lead to water sprouting from the place where it fell. Lord Brahma performed his yagna there. Today, the otherwise quiet town of Pushkar in known as housing the only Brahma temple of the country. During Kartik Purnima, devotees come to take a dip in the water of the holy Pushkar lake (the place where the lotus fell).The fair is replete with colours and joyous activities. Camels form an intrinsic part of these activities. There are camel shows, race and a competition for best decorated camel. Apart from this, folk dances of Rajasthan also draw huge crowd. Women have other attractions to look forward to inform of jewellery stalls and few items that make for good purchase in the fair include woolen blanket, bead necklace, textiles, brassware. Tourists can pick up these items as memorabilia of the fair. For domestic visitors, saddles, ropes and other household items are also on sale.Tourists should also make it a point to visit the ghats of the Pushkar and the only Brahma temple of the town. There are actually 400 temples in this small town. Tourists who do not like crowd and are allergic to dust must carry their medication. It is the same for those who have a problem with animal hair.

Marwar Festival

Every year in the month of October the beautiful city Jodhpur prepares for the Marwar festival. It is held over two days and one of which coincides with the full moon. During the festival the people of Jodhpur celebrate the rich cultural legacy of Marwar (Jodhpur) and honour the region's heroes. The festival features lots of regional folk artists, the great art of turban tying and a moustache competition. This festival was originally known as ' Maand festival'. The main theme of the festival is the music and dance centered on the lifestyle of the Rajasthan king's. Marwar festival is the best time to see the rustic life of Rajasthan. Tourists get fascinated by the variety and colourful activities of the Jodhpur. People can enjoy the folk dancers with pot and folk singers sing the story of the bygone era. Other attractions of the fair are camel tatoo, and camel polo. The huge Mehrangarh fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace are the ideal location for the festival. Marwar festival is also celebrated at Mandore located 8 km outskirts of Jodhpur. Earlier it was the capital of Marwar.

Sonepur Fair

A visual extravaganza awaits all at the Sonepur Fair, where multitudes congregate on Kartik Purnima (month of Oct – Nov) to offer obeisance to Harihar Nath and participate in the biggest cattle fair in Asia. Festivities stretch over a fortnight, giving visitors a feel of the pulse of Bihar. According to the Indian almanac, the full moon day or Purnima of the month of Kartik, which usually falls in November, is one of the most auspicious days. A number of big fairs are held at important places of pilgrimage and the Harihar Kshetra Mela, so called Sonepur Fair is one of the biggest cattle fair in the world.Sonepur is located in Saran district in the northern part of Bihar. Three mighty rivers - the Ganga, Gandak, and Ghagra, demarcate this district, which is shaped like a triangle. Sonepur stands on the confluence of the Ganga and Gandak.The Sonepur Fair is of great importance and in the olden times, it attracted traders from as far as Central Asia. Like the origin of the Harihar Nath Temple, the reason for the inception of the Sonepur Fair is lost in the labyrinth of time. The site of the present fair was originally at Hajipur, and only the pujas used to be offered in the temple at Sonepur. During the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, the fair was shifted to Sonepur. In the pre-independence era, the European indigo planters used it as an occasion for social and sports gathering. The original temple is believed to have been built by Lord Rama on his way to the court of King Janak to win Sita. The age and origin of the present temple has puzzled scholars but it is said that Raja Man Singh had repaired it. The builder of the present temple was Raja Ram Narain, a prominent figure during the late Mughal period. The Birlas recently conducted repairs and extension work in the temple. Visiting the temple of Harihar Nath is naturally the main objective of the visitors to the fair after they have taken their ritual bath in the swirling waters of the Gandak. As in many other famous places of worship, a number of smaller temples of other deities surround the temple of Harihar Nath Mahadeo.Once the pujas are over; the visitors abandon themselves to the various attractions offered in and around the sprawling mela ground. The village folk, as well as the others, are attracted to the array of shops selling all sorts of garments, weapons and furniture, toys, utensils, agricultural implements, jewelry and various handicrafts. The fair becomes a virtual explosion of colors, music, dances, magic shows, cattle, merchants and handicrafts.The area that attracts all is the one where elephants are lined up for sale. The Sonepur Fair is the only one where such a large number of elephants are sold. These are mainly purchased by different forest departments and people involved with logging operations. Apart from elephants, a large number of cattle and a wide variety of animals are also bought and sold in the fair.The fair continues for about fourteen days but the few days before and after the auspicious day of Kartik Purnima draw the maximum crowds. The sleepy mango grove, where the fair is organized, turns into a wonderland, sure to overwhelm the sophisticated urban visitor as well as the simple rural folk.Like so many places of pilgrimage in India, Sonepur also has its legend.

Gangaur Fair

Gangaur Festivals holds a special significance for the Rajasthanis. It is celebrated in honour of Gauri, the goddess of abundance. Young girls adorned in their best clothes and pray for a spouse of their choice. The married ladies pray for the welfare of their husbands. This spring festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and zeal all over Rajasthan. The celebrations at Jaipur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, Nathdwara and Jaisalmer are full of pomp and are a must-see. At an auspicious hour in the afternoon, a procession is taken out to a garden, tank or a well with the images of Isar and Gauri, placed on the heads of married women. Songs are sung about the departure of Gauri to her husband's house. The procession comes back after offering water to the image of Gauri, which faces backwards on the first two days. On the final day, she faces in the same direction as Isar and the procession concludes with the consignment of all the images in the waters of a tank or a well. The women bid farewell to Gauri and turn their steps homewards with tears in their eyes and the Festival comes to an end.Parvati or gauri is the consort of Shiva, the destroyer. The festival is held in her honour as she is the symbol of virtue and fidelity and as such is the mythological role model of married women. Gangaur is the most important local festival in Rajasthan. It is believed that if unmarried girls observe the rituals of this festival they will get married to the spouses of their choice and married women observe the same for the happiness and long life of their husbands. The celebrations in Jaipur and Udaipur have a unique charm and attraction.The festivities begin almost a fortnight before the actual day. Girls worship the goddess throughout the preceding fortnight. Colorful images of Gauri are taken out in procession accompanied by the town band. Thousands of people from the countryside come to take part in the procession of the image from village to village. Another unique thing about this festival is that on this occasion, tribal men and women have an opportunity to meet and interact freely and during this time, they select partners and marry by eloping.