I entered the bizarre world of the Pushkar Fair: Camels, sadhu holy men, pilgrims, touts, tourists, snake charmers, lepers and little blue boys dressed as the Hindu god Lord Shiva. They were all there. The full moon of November brings a bit of insanity to the local atmosphere–fireworks, glitter, Rajasthani fashionistas–all side-by-side with the filth. But that’s India.
The novelty of the Pushkar Mela (or fair) never seems to wear off–this was my fifth visit in two decades. Each year the camel fair culminates on the final full moon day, Kartik Poornima. It’s a holy event, but one that seems to have become the capitalistic god-focus for the ever-growing onslaught of vendors from afar who are drawn to Pushkar’s sanctified lake this particular week…and to the money they can garner from selling their trinkets. Hotel rates can skyrocket as much as 500 percent during the event.
But this particular year perhaps the gods were incensed. Humankind hasn’t been kind to the environment. And so the gods must have decided to drain the holy lake of Pushkar. It was empty. Bone dry. Well, there was a little bit of water in one corner that the local authorities had pumped in for the festivities.
And at the traditional bathing ghats there were some manmade cisterns for the hordes of dipping devotees who had come for a ritual submersion in the lake. Like the Ganges, no matter how polluted the water might be, devout Hindu followers seem determined to immerse themselves. At least there wasn’t any pollution in Pushkar’s lake since there was hardly any water–only the dust from 20,000 departing camels.
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