One of my favorite experiences in all of India was my visit to Pushkar.
Located in the state of Rajastan on India’s west side, Pushkar is a charming little town full of old homes, narrow streets and a beautiful lake said to contain holy water full of medicinal properties that make it a popular destination for religious pilgrims.
Those things alone makes Pushkar a travel-worthy destination, guaranteed to fill your heart with happy feelings. But what the city is really famous for, is its camel fair.
Now, at first glance, an event where people go to buy and sell camels might not seem that exciting. But throw in a week of quirky games, traditional performances, cultural exhibitions and several hundred thousand people, and you’ve got yourself one of the most popular and renowned fairs in the world.
When I arrived on the second to last day, I was determined to participate in something. Unfortunately, I arrived five minutes too late for musical chairs and my registration for Tug of War (Indians vs. Tourists) was revoked when too many people joined the list.
I finally got my chance to play, however, in the water pot contest during the closing ceremony. Limited only to women, the water pot race (I’m sure it’s officially called something else) involves carrying a large pot of water across the field to the other side – on your head. Think of the last scene in The Jungle Book when Mowgli falls in love with the Indian girl who is collecting water for her family, then walks away with the pot on her head.
I was like that girl. Only much slower.
All over India you see women, sometimes men, carrying ridiculously heavy loads of food, building materials and Lord-knows-what-else on their heads, as if it was the most natural form of transportation ever. Clearly, there was no way in hell I was going to win this competition.
My friend Gloria had done the contest two days previously and had warned me that you will get very wet. I have always been more of a fan of slow and steady wins the race, so instead of running to the finish line awkwardly trying to keep this heavy, liquid-filled pot from falling off my head, I took my time, careful not to spill, and gracefully arrived in last place. Though I did not win the competition, I like to think I arrived with the most style :). (Side note, an IRISH girl won the event. Go Team Tourists!)
Aside from the water pot contest, the closing ceremony in itself was spectacular. In addition to the games, the ceremony included a camel racing contest, a massive Indian dance performance and, my favorite, a closing parade around the stadium.
This spectacular sight featured traditional musicians, dancers and lots of long-mustached, highly-decorated camel riders, parading in front of the stands like kings. The costumes and make-up were amazing, full of bright colors that just shimmered as they danced in the sun. Best of all, everyone just seemed so happy, and it was hard not to smile when the Indian men with the long mustaches, swords and swirly skirts skip by you without a care in the world.
Definitely one of the coolest experiences ever :).