Rajasthan is the land of festivals and fairs. People in this sparsely populated state look for any excuse to assemble together in celebration and take a break from their otherwise rugged, tough lives. The melas or fairs in the stark barren landscape of Rajasthan give a splendid insight into life here and a glimpse of the aura of romance that is always associated with this land, her people and her culture. The whole state comes alive in a riot of colours and joyous celebrations. The elaborate rituals and the gaiety with which they surrender themselves to the numerous fairs and festivals of the region shows their sheer zest for life.
A month rarely passes in Rajasthan which does not have a religious festival. Hindus and Muslims join in each others' festivals. Some traditional and religious festivals of Hindus and Muslims with a mythological origin are Holi or the festival of colours, Diwali or the festival of lights, Makar Sankranti, and Urs. A festival typical of Rajasthan is the Gangaur festival, when clay images of Mahadevi and Parvati, are worshiped by women of all castes for 15 days before the ceremonial immersion in water.
Other festivals commemorate a saint or a local hero. Ajmer is one of the most sacred Muslim shrines in India. Some 300,000 pilgrims visit the shrine of the Sufi mystic and saint Khwajah Moinuddin Chishti on his death anniversary or urs.
Rajasthan is known for its animal fairs where camels, horses, elephants and cattle are proudly displayed. These fairs are also a trading ground for sale of animals. An important festival held at Pushkar near Ajmer, which is of religious significance, is simultaneously accompanied by a colourful livestock fair. Farmers from all over the state bring their camels and cattle here. Other festivals mark the changing seasons. Among the better known fairs and festivals of Rajasthan are:
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People & Culture
Nagaur Fair, Nagaur (Jan-Feb)
Essentially an animal fair, it provides an opportunity to participate in some of the local sports.
Baneshwar Fair, Baneshwar(Jan-Feb)
A religious festival with simple and traditional rituals. This fair is the centre of attraction of a large number of tribals from the neighboring states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat who join their brethren from Rajasthan in offering prayers to Lord Shiva.
A festival dedicated to Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Young girls dress up in all their resplendent finery and pray for eligible grooms while married women pray for the well-being of their husbands. This 18-day festival is laced with various activities and culminates in a grand procession marking the arrival of Shiva to escort his bride home.
Mewar Festival, Udaipur (March-April)
T his festival welcomes the spring season and is marked by song, dance, processions, devotional music and fireworks.
Elephant Festival, Jaipur (March-April)
A festival to celebrate Holi, this is a great occasion to see the elephants turning out, bedecked in grand splendour. A game of elephant polo is also held.
Summer Festival, Mt.Abu(June)
Organised in the only hill station of Rajasthan, this festival provides ample opportunity for visitors to enjoy themselves in an ambience of folk culture with song, dance and attendant gaiety.
Teej, Jaipur (July-August)
Atraditional festival to mark the advent of the monsoon season which is heralded with great excitement and anticipation. It is essentially a festival for women who delight in applying mehendi to their hands, buying new bangles and other jewellery and celebrating with new clothes.
Marwar Festival, Jodhpur(October)
A chance to experience the music and dance of Marwar region performed on the night of the full moon.
Pushkar Fair, Ajmer (November)
On the occasion of the full moon during the month of Kartika, thousands of pilgrims flock to the small town of Pushkar for a ritual bath in the lake. During the preceding four days there is a huge cattle, horse and camel fair that takes place nearby. Bazaars, auctions, music and sports are the major highlights.
Camel Festival, Bikaner(January)
An enchanting desert city that comes alive to music and dance. It is fast gaining popularity as the Kolagat Mela and cattle fair provides an opportunity to see some unusual folk performances and camel rac es.
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.