Centuries of tradition at the Pushkar Camel Fair

I have just spent three weeks inIndiawith two days at Pushkar in Rajasthan during the annual Camel Fair. The fair coincides with the full moon and attracts around 25000 animals (17000 camels, 5000 cattle, 2000 horses and assorted buffaloes, goats and donkeys) for trading in two enormous ‘paddocks’ in the sand on the edge of the desert. Total turnover is up to Rupees 100 million ($3.5 million) measured at road checks on the way in and out of town.

Pushkar has an immediate population of less than 20,000 but this swells to more like 50,000 during the week of the fair, with all the livestock sellers camping beside their animals, cooking on camp fires, women to prepare the chappatties and the food for the men, and large piles of stock feed beside the road weighed out with scales on the back of a cart.

There is one big arena with grandstands on the edge of town where they hold the various competitions during the week such as Best Camel Decoration, camel dance, horse dance, camel race, best horse, camel and bull competitions, champion cattle and milking competitions, also turban tying, moustache, Indian bride competitions and Art and Craft bazaar.

I was lucky enough to meet a well known journalist who was staying at our hotel who introduced me to various camel and cattle traders, as well as the Regional Deputy Director of Animal Husbandry responsible for administration of the show. My contact interpreted for me, since all the traders were tribesmen farmers who spoke Hindi or the local dialect.

One had come down from the north with his whole family, including a niece to do the cooking, intent on buying five camels for which he expected to pay about $5000 each. I spoke to several farmers who had walked to the Fair, aiming to trade bullocks. Cattle are sacred to the Hindus and are never slaughtered, with the heifers being retained for milking, a bull for stud duties and bullocks either being kept for tilling or sold.

These farmers walk in with their stock from the surrounding countryside and find a spot in the ‘paddock’, where they stay until they have bought and sold as much as they want. One Muslim farmer farms fiveJerseysand five buffaloes producing 70 litres a day for collection He had already bought a bull for $500 and sold two two-year old bullocks for almost the same amount. Another farmer had sold four calves and had another five to sell, expecting to earn about a profit of $550.

The cattle are mainly Bos Indicus, notably Nagauri from north India and Gir from the local area, but there are some 20,000 exotic (mainly friesian and jersey) cattle in the area around Pushkar and Ajmer, with the calves being sold once a year at the sale in Ajmer.

The slaughterhouses in each district are local government controlled and process goats, although mutton and chicken slaughter by private butchers is permitted under municipal control, but there are plenty of loopholes; for instance Muslim butchers slaughter beef and we saw pork on sale in Jaipur.

The Fair is like nothing I’d ever seen before, a cross between the Easter Show, Royal Show and a massive paddock sale in the desert, but it represents a centuries old farming tradition and tribal culture. Long may it continue!

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2 Responses to “Centuries of tradition at the Pushkar Camel Fair”

  1. Rohit Says:

    Hellow Allan,

    Even I was in this year’s Pushkar fair. This was my second visit to the fair. I am an Indian and even i was surprised to see such a sea of animals and people. What other places you visited in India?

    Vijay Dubey

  2. Rural round-up « Homepaddock Says:

    […] Centuries of tradition at the Pushkar Camel Fair – Allan Barber writes: […]

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