Camels gather with their herders at the Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan, India
© Anand Purohit/Getty Image
Ships of the desert. Celebrating the ships of the desert
Welcome to India's largest camel and livestock festival, the Pushkar Camel Fair. Thousands of people travel across mountains and through the Thar Desert to attend. The fair offers many diversions but the camels get top billing. Considered 'ships of the desert', camels were domesticated by nomads thousands of years ago to carry goods across forbidding landscapes. When well fed and hydrated, a camel can travel great distances without needing water or food, sometimes for weeks. The humps on a camel's back are fatty deposits that act as a source of nutrition. Here, on the edge of the Thar Desert, the camel remains a mode of transport for nomads. The camel is held in such high esteem, the Pushkar Fair even holds camel decoration contests.
But there's another reason why people flock to Pushkar. The fair coincides with the holy festival of Kartik Purnima, held in the Hindu lunar month of Kartik. The 8th-Century desert town itself is a beauty, with medieval architecture and more than 50 whitewashed ghats - stairs that descend into Pushkar Lake. Pilgrims consider the lake water to be holy, especially during Kartik’s full moon when they believe their sins can be washed away.