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Pushkar and The Crazy Camel Fair

Saying goodbye to the South and ready to start our adventures in North India, we headed to Goa to catch a flight to Jaipur, Rajasthan. Straight off the plane in Jaipur we got a three hour taxi share to Pushkar to ensure that we would be in time for the highly celebrated Camel Fair.

The Ferris wheels that could be seen from the main town.

We instantly fell in love with the bustling market streets. The silk shops, antique emporiums, countless silver traders, and enchanting dream catchers hanging around every corner instantly got our attention.

A man sells chai in the street.

Market shops.

I wish I had a bigger suitcase!

Much of our six days were spent bartering with dealers and buying Christmas presents to send back to the UK. If you’re after cheap silk kimonos and beautiful Indian treasures, I would highly recommend a visit to Pushkar’s Sadar Bazaar.

SO many throws and cushion covers!

Behind the stalls, and taking centre stage of the whole town is Pushkar’s magnificent lake. It is believed that Brahma (Hindu God) dropped a lotus flower in the desert one day, and from there sprung the town’s life source, it’s lake. As a tourist you have to fight past flower dealers, but once you do the lake is truly magical.

One of the many entrances to the sacred lake.

The lake on a hazy day.

Candle offerings.

At sunset people gather to sing, play drums and dance, encouraging tourists to join in the evening’s festivities too.

A group of children gather to watch the setting sun.

Where to begin with the Camel Fair… Many of my favourite travel/documentary photographers have captured the fair, so I was very eager to take my camera there and see what it was all about. It turns out hundreds of other photographers had the same idea!

A general view of the madness.

Throughout the camel camps were countless lenses trying to capture the unbelievable sights. I found this a little off-putting and in honesty, the situation put me in a bit of a moral dilemma. Walking around the grounds of the fair I felt quite shocked by some of the treatment of the camels, and if photographers keep returning then are we just encouraging the continuation of the fair?

These camel carriages were everywhere. I couldn't believe people signed up to putting the camels under this strain.

I really believe that the owners have the right intentions, but the traditional way of handling the camels seems to involve tying up the two front legs to prevent them from escaping. The same went for many of the horses we saw. I will not say this is right or wrong because each country has their own process. I did not, however, agree with the mass trading of these innocent creatures. It turns it from a love of animals to a greedy business, which in turn leads to certain mistreatments. This kind of trading happens worldwide, not just in India; we need to open our eyes and confront it.

While I was faced with these thoughts, I couldn’t help but photograph this other world I was seeing before me.

I was particularly focussed on capturing the sellers, their traditional Rajasthani turbans were a wonderful nod to generations of camel ownership and breeding, each turban signifying where they were from and what their profession was. Trying to focus on the men and women also meant that I avoided just photographing the camels!

A mother and daughter on their way to collect camel food.

These men read a leaflet given to them by 'Help in Suffering.' A very inspiring charity who were offering free veterinary services during the fair.

Admittedly I am quite pleased with my images from the fair because they are nothing like I have ever captured before. I do feel, however, that they conceal some of the more difficult sights we saw, sights that I couldn’t bring myself to photograph. And so the moral dilemma continues…

Temporary homes in the campsite.

We visited the camel fair only a couple of times because that was plenty enough. As the days went by the streets became busier and busier with excited fair-goers, and we became ready to leave for Udaipur. I really hope to return to Pushkar because the town has such charm and treasures. Next time, however, I think I will be avoiding the camel fair.

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