The Pushkar Camel Fair
28.10.2011 - 04.11.2011 25 °C
Hello – We have been in Pushkar for the Annual Camel Fair for the past week and it has not been disappointing. Every year the fair attracts 100,000 camels and 1000's of horses, cows, goats and elephants for buying selling, racing, showing off and general debates about the size of your camels humps, or how many people you can fit onto your camel. Myself and Annie have already been on a camel ride, but we thought we would try out the camel taxi! I'm fascinated by camels, there are so many uses for them! The camel taxi (basically a camel which pulls a four poster bed on a truck) took us on a journey around the fair for about an hour and only cost us 250rupees, which was a bargain. Annie received many complements (and she did actually look beautiful in her newly acquired dress) from turban wearing camel and horse men along the journey. As the sun sets over the camel field you can hear the moans and groans of thousands of camels and the arguing and busking of local camel traders and gypsys. What a sight to see and hear.
We arrived on 31st October, a few days earlier than expected because we'd heard good things about Pushkar – not just the camel fair. Pushkar is a holy place, and this means that it is a vegetarian city (including no eggs) and no beer/drugs/dressing provocatively, and it is set within a valley and centred around a holy lake with holy men and ghats aplenty. Holding hands is strictly forbidden as is other forms of affection and inappropriate dressing and nudity. Despite these very strict we saw at least three contraventions within two minutes of walking round the lake – a little old lady smoking what can only be described as a crack/opium pipe whilst having her babs out in the lake! Annie skipt around her whilst I got a full on view of the merry lady who nemaste'ed me to complete the comedy picture, and had to laugh out loud trying to keep myself from falling in the lake!
The entrance to Pushkar lake is littered with 'holy men' giving you flowers, whom then lead you to the side of the lake to participate in a Puja, which is basically a prayer to the Gods for health, goodwill, prosperity in your family and friends. You need to repeat a mantra over and over again (however Hindu's do this 108 times – for this is a good number) then have to give money dependant on how much you love you family and friends – basically, its a bit of a gimmick to give money – I've never been emotionally blackmailed before from a 'priest' as he called himself, so I called his bluff and told him to shove it! Actually, I gave 60 rupees for me and Annie. This whole procedure is called a Pushkar Passport! And yes, it is a con for the toursist, but I actually enjoyed the mantra. Sorry to say that Dad, Ian Sue Sophie Will, you were only worth 60 rupees! I'm sure Dad would be more proud of me for not getting conned out of £50!
The camel fair was meant to start on 2nd November, but in true Indian relaxed style the fair started on the 3rd November and a few hours late. In fact most of the fair including the fairground and parts of the circus were also incomplete. The program started with some dancing girls, and then a camel race around the stadium. I did not care much for the dancing but the camel race was more impressive.
The Chak de Rajastan Football Match!
The fair is internationally renowned and it rightly attracts many tourists, locals and the regional /national press. I'm told that the the first days activities are the best, which includes local dancing, a camel race and the Chak de Rajestan football match between the local team and a team made up from budding tourists who fancy their chances. Being fit and healthy, not to mention an excellent football player (dont laugh!) this match was right up my street. The match was due to start at 11am, and I turned up at 10am to register myself for the tourists team – I was the first on the list too! The Mela Stadium began to fill up, however only 5 tourists had registered by 11am, so I took it upon myself to rally people by asking every tourist in the stadium if they wanted to play. This enthusiastic act was rewarded by the organisers making me captain of the tourist team! Never before have I captained a football side, and I was determined to do a good job by organising the team, sorting out positions for the squad of 16. Our team consisted of English, Italian, Australian, South African, Israelis and a Dutch girl who was probably our best player. The time was about 1pm and we were given a proper football kit to wear, then we had to line up in the centre circle (which was only laid about ten minutes before with chalk from a bag) to meet the dignitaries (of whom we did not know), but looked really important. Being captain, I had to introduce the important people to the rest of the team and I was given a some flowers which I had to present to this important man! It was so crazy, I felt like David Beckham (only for a brief second!). The actual football match was for 25 minutes a half and playing on sand in the middle of the day, and was pretty difficult. Just before we kicked off, our Australian goal keeper pointed out that the only people out in the mid day sun are mad dogs and Englishmen – and he was correct, being India there were mad dogs on the pitch... and us Englishmen , as well as the odd cow... it is India after all! We started the match brightly, and I nearly scored within the first 2 minutes from a cross by the Dutch Girl which I had to leap high in the air, but unfortunately it just grazed the cross bar. This was to be my only chance in the match! Despite the good start and a few more chances from our team, we went 3 nil down by half time (our goalie had never played football before!) At the interval all of the national media wanted to do a half time interview with the captain of the Tourist Team – which was me! It was a real media scrum, about 5 cameras, 10 microphones (all with names branded on them like TV24 India, News Now, India Today, etc..) I have to say that I gave a good account of the occasion by thanking the organisers and the opposition. I said that even though I’m from Manchester, unfortunately I cant play football like Manchester City or Manchester Utd football stars aka Wayne Rooney, but I did say that people say I look like Peter Crouch. I cant help but think my little joke fell on deaf ears. Needless to say my name went into the Times of India (page 2) as 'Peter'. Anyway, we started the second half brightly and managed to bundle in a goal from 6 yards. The final score was actually 4-1, but we didn’t care, we all just loved being involved. I was interviewed after the match again by all the media again, and they just let me ramble on for about 10 minutes. It was such an amazing experience, we even got trophy’s and certificates presented in the stand by the mayor and other important people. My trophy is now proudly sitting in the hostel on thr highest shelf in the reception area, alongside the 2010 turban tying competition trophy! I loved every minute of the Chak De Rajestan Football Match – an incredible memory. Apparently I was on national TV at 7pm that day but didn’t see it.
Pushkar was a great place to stay and I would recommend anyone to go there because you get a real flavour of the Rajastani culture and customs.
Hope you enjoy the blog. Peace and Love. Andy x