Fairs In Rajasthan


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A Celebration of Fairs and Festivals

Festivals hold an unusual lure for the Rajasthanis, and they find any number of reasons to celebrate. While some of these are traditional festivals, there are also a large number that have been recently introduced by the tourism department to showcase the heritage of a region. Chances are, when travelling in the state, you will come across any number of local fairs and festivities in which you can participate. However, some of the larger and more important celebrations are listed below. (This list does not include those festivals that are common to all parts of the country such as Holi, Diwali and Dussehra.)

BANESHWAR FAIR: Held at Baneshwar at the time of Shivratri (January-February), this is a tribal fair on the banks of the Mahi and Som rivers in the forested area around the border of Rajasthan that it shares with Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Bhil tribals from all three states gather here to worship Shiva, and set camp in colourful groups.

BRIJ FESTIVAL: Staged a few days before Holi (March) in the Brij area around Bharatpur, it celebrates the festival of spring with spontaneous expressions of music and dance.

CAMEL FESTIVAL: Held in Bikaner in January, this celebration is a recent introduction in the desert city with the only camel breeding farm in the country. Not unexpectedly, most of the events are staged around this beast, with camel races and camel dances. There are also several folk performances, and this may also be your chance to exerience the rare fire dance staged late at night.

CHAKSU FAIR: A gathering of people from Jaipur's rural pockets collects here in almost all forms of transport- laden into tractor trolleys and jeeps - at what must be one of the most colourful events on the Rajasthani fair calendar.

DESERT FAIR: Jaisalmer exercises immense charm, but with the staging of the annual Desert Festival (January-February), it has also become one of the more important events on the annual calendar. Essentially, it is a showcase of the performing arts of the region on the stretching sands around this desert citadel. A number of amusing events at the stadium include turban tying competitions and camel races.

ELEPHANT FESTIVAL: On the occasion of Holi in Jaipur, this festival of pachyderms includes several interesting attractions including elephant polo. The caparisoned elephants, their bodies painted with floral decorations by the mahouts, are a sight to behold.

GANGAUR FAIR: Idols of Issar and Gangaur, manifestations of Shiva and Parvati, are worshipped by women, and particularly those unmarried who pray for a consort of the like of Shive. Celebrated all over Rajasthan, it has women taking out processions through the streets of towns, carrying images of the divine couple. The festival is especially colourful in Jaipur, Udaipur, and at Mandawa in the Shekhawati region.

KOLAYAT FAIR: The sacred site where Kapil Muni is supposed to have meditated, a fair is held here on the banks of its lakes, and the air bristles with excitement. Kolayat can be visited from Bikaner.

MARWAR FESTIVAL: Held in October in Jodhpur, this annual event attempts to showcase the art and culture of the Jodhpur region. It is devoted almost exclusively to song and dance, and the Maand Festival has become a part of this huge regional celebration.

MEWAR FESTIVAL: Held to coincide with Gangaur in Udaipur, the whole city turns out to mark the culmination of the 18-day festival, with procession of floats on Pichola lake.

NAGAUR FAIR: A trading fair for cattle and camels in January-February, it is a wonderful opportunity to catch up on rural life as owners from all over the state come to camp on the outskirts of Nagaur while they buy and sell animals. The hides of the animals, cut into beautiful patterns are particularly interesting.

NAVRATRI: The nine days preceding Dussehra are marked by fasting, and on ritual meal a day. In the case of the martial Rajputs, a goat is sacrificed as food for consecration, and the worship of their weapons is obligatory. Usually in September-October, it is a private celebration with no public fanfare.

PUSHKAR FAIR: Easily the most easily identifiable of Rajasthan's many fairs, Pushkar has come to symbolise the febrile heartbeat of the people of the state. Held in November in Pushkar, the temple town close to Ajmer, where an 8th century temple of Brahma draws the faithful, it is located on the banks of a lake. Pilgrims bathe at the ghats and pray at the temple, while the actual fair is held in the vast stretching desert around it. Here, traders set camp to strike deals at India's, and probably the world's largest camel fair, though horses are also sold. It is also a time for friends and families to get together, camel fair, though horses are also sold. It is also a time for friends and families to get together, camp in the desert, entertain each other with folk songs and dances, cook meals over camp fires, and wander through the exuberant melee of people looking for handicrafts, or merely to stand in a queue for the giant wheel... Special tented camps are set up on the occasion for visitors but such is the draw of this fair internationally, that even these are soon exhausted, and people may have to stay in nearby Ajmer, or even as far as Jaipur, visiting here by day.

SITLA MATA FAIR: A large fair is held to propitiate the goddess of war whose wrath can be the terrible scrouge of smallpox unless appeased by her followers. Consecrated food on this day consists of stale food left out the previous night. The fair is held in and around the temple dedicated to the goddess in Amber, Jaipur.

SUMMER FESTIVAL: Held in June in Mount Abu, this is one of the few celebrations during the summer months (though it coincides too with the marriage 'season' which spans, according to planetary chartings, from May-July). In the cool environs of the hill town, it is time to relax while folk performances are staged, particularly of the Bhil tribes of the region.

TEEJ: Another festival dedicated to the worship of Shiva and Parvati, this time it is married women who pray for a long, happy marital life during the monsoon months of July-August. Though celbrations are held all over the state, they are particularly colorful in Jaipur where a procession wends its way through the hear of the old city. Women dress in their finery and spend time in groups at swings that are specially erected for the festival.

URS AJMER SHARIF: Held in the holy town of Ajmer in honour of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, special prayers are offered at the mosque, and huge amounts of conserated food offered from the large, steaming cauldrons that were a gift from Akbar. While quwwallis are sung at night, the celebrations unite people of all faiths, and the complete town is decorated with buntings, and wears the spirit of festivity.
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