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