|I am writing this having just been pickpocketed so the impression of the Indians I may give may be slightly tainted.
Pushkar is a small Hindu pilgrimage town. The town has grown around a small holy lake which was said to have formed when Brahman dropped a lotus flower. Pushkar is also famous for its camel fair - which we timed our visit to coincide with.
The town was absolutely jam packed with pilgrims from all over India, tribal people from all over Rajasthan, and tourists from all over the world. We spent a few days here, the first few days was when we saw the majority of camel trading (although apparently the big trading happens a week or so before the fair). These first couple of days we found, were just the lull before the storm, with low key events happening in the local stadium, fair ground rides and stalls selling all sorts of paraphernalia. For example, they have locals vs tourists in a tug of war and even a water carrying race.
When the full moon came out on the 13th thats when it became really manic - all the pilgrims headed for the lake for their ritual cleansing, overloading the narrow streets around it. This was also when all the pickpockets have a field day, we were not the only ones in our hotel who were targeted - another English couple had their wallet stolen and even some locals we met said they had been targeted. Unfortunately it has tainted our view of Pushkar as the rest of the time we spent here we just treated everyone as a potential thief.
I have now just read what Shaun has written and whilst he is out punching a few locals, I thought I would fill you in on the rest of the fair. Actually despite our money being stolen, we were having a pretty good time in Pushkar. It is absolutely manic with the streets heaving with colourful saris, women with huge nose rings, snake charmers, acrobats and of course the sadhus wanting money and loads of beggars. I can imagine that Pushkar would be a pretty chilled out kind of place when the camel fair was not actually on. The streets are lined with hippy clothing shops, jewellery shops and there is a plentiful supply of bhang about (marijuana) - smoked for spiritual reasons here although the touristy hippies have a lot of fun with it as well! For spiritual reasons there is no meat in town or eggs or alcohol (much to Shaun's disgust), however despite this we managed to find some fantatsic cakes which a local man sells in his front room - very very nice and we frequented his place at least twice a day while we were here!).
The camels themselves are all decked out with jewellery and make-up - yep, and they even have patterns shaved into their fur. It really is quite funny. We had actually thought that the fair was just about camels when actually the main purpose of it is a spiritual pilgramage to bathe in the lake on the night of full moon (called Pushkar Mela). So there were probably more locals here enjoying themselves than tourists which was great to see - even if the bastards did nick our wallet!
The other thing I should mention is that the local lads like to use their hands for more than just stealing. Walking past or through crowds of guys I would often be groped which was slightly disconcerting. After the first couple of times it happened however I was ready for them only not to have it happen again!
Its now off to Udaipur which we are looking forward to..............hopefully Shaun has calmed down a little by then as well!