Rajani Ramanathan  

Pushkar Camel Fair by Rajani Ramanathan
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September 2020 - Pushkar Camel Fair

About the Image(s)

Pushkar is in the centre east part of Rajasthan, on the western side of Aravalli mountains in India. Held each November at the time of the Kartik Purnima (full moon), Pushkar Camel Fair is a spectacle on an epic scale, attracting thousands of camels, horses and cattle and visited by thousands over a period of around fourteen days. The Pushkar Camel Fair attracts Indian pilgrims and merchants drawn by a devotion to religion or business. The festival and the camels have been featured in magazines and television programs around the globe. I was fascinated by this unique event, but was hoping to depict more than what is usually portrayed. I wanted to showcase the vibrancy of the culture and people here which is fast disappearing due to modernization.

I came across two different local tribes here. The Bopa and Kalbeliya are very different but both are called “gypsy” in the local languages. The lowest level in the Hindu caste system, they live without permanent homes and are seen as squatters and hustlers. Moving from place to place, sleeping beneath the stars on the outskirts of towns, the Bopa and Kalbeliya share the bad reputation of gypsies the world over. Once much sought after by kings and maharajas, they were hired to provide exotic entertainment. ”The Bopa are talented musicians and singers and the Kalbeliya are dancers and snake charmers. However, as royal audiences disappeared, the Bopa and Kalbeliya gypsies lost much of their livelihood. Today, they subsist as semi-nomadic street performers, traveling between fairs and festivals that draw large crowds. I spent a couple of hours with a family of the Bopa tribe in Pushkar fair and hence was able to capture moments with them when they relaxed.

I was looking for some of the most beautiful people on the planet, the Gypsy women, queens of the desert. The first two minutes of the video showcases the women of this region. Music for the first two minutes is the song called “Man Mohini” from the Hindi language Indian movie called “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” (Translated “I have given my heart away, darling). The song is describing the beauty of the woman and raves about her. Moreover the music is typical Rajasthani folk music so I thought it appropriate for the first 2 minutes.
The next section of the video again has typical folk music from Rajasthan. The song is "chudiyan khanak gayeen” from the movie Lamhe, which was picturized in the desert of Rajasthan. My intention is to portray here the vibrancy of the camel fair and showcase the people, especially the men. The Moustache Competition is one of the most popular activities at the Pushkar Mela (fair). At this war of moustaches, the men folk literally go great lengths to showcase their fine whiskers. What you see them smoking is a pipe called Chilam which is a straight conical pipe with end-to-end channel, traditionally made of clay or metal and used since at least the eighteenth century and was invented in India. You will find it being smoked for sure all over Pushkar and common to see weed being smoked in it also.


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