Faces at the Camel Fair, Pushkar, India

Indian man in a colourful turban, Pushkar, Rajasthan

Man in a Colourful Rajasthani Turban
At the Camel Fair in Pushkar, the turbans are as colourful as the “characters” you meet!

That direct, forthright gaze!

Eyes red from the ubiquitous dust and the smoke from the dung-fires; skin weathered by time and the elements; teeth broken and stained by hard-living and tobacco – but still happy to stare at the foreigner’s camera with a complete lack of self-consciousness.

For me, one of the many joys of being in India is the ease of making “environmental portraits”: candid, street-style pictures of people (or animals) in their natural environment.

The annual Pushkar Camel Festival or Kartik Mela – in Rajasthan, Northern India, ends with the full moon this Saturday, November 4th. A number of my friends – including photographer Karl Grobl and local guide DV Singh – are there, and I can’t help but feel a little envious as I watch all the pictures coming through my news feed, especially as it has been four years since I was there with them and enjoyed the Camel Fair myself.

But seeing their pictures reminds me that I still have countless photos I have yet to process. So, I was motivated to return to old files and revisit some of the wonderful faces from Pushkar’s dusty fair grounds. I have shared some pictures from the fair before (See: Scenes from a Fair and A Gypsy Portrait), but it has been a while!

Please enjoy these environmental, candid portraits of some of the fabulous faces at Pushkar’s Camel Fair.

Indian men around a camp fire in the dark, Rajasthan

Around the Fire
The people who bring their animals or other trade-goods to the Pushkar Fair grounds sleep on site: in tents or under their carts. When I arrived on my second morning there, it was cold, and still dark. Those people who were up were huddled around their camp fires.

Indian man around a camp fire in the dark, Rajasthan

Young Man at a Fire
There are only small twigs and branches in the surrounding desert – the resulting fires are thin, and don’t give off much warmth against the cold November morning.

Pup tent with a camel in the background, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Pushkar Campsite
The campsite comes to life slowly, as dawn starts to lighten the horizon.

Indian man feeding a Marwari horse, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Feeding the Horses
The Camel Fair is not just about camels: the prized and rare Marwari horses, with their strong bodies and inward-curving ears, are also a feature.

Indian man in a Blanket, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Blanket

Seated camels eating, Ferris Wheels in the background, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels and Ferris Wheels
The camels, with their carefully shaved coats and painted markings, are everywhere.

Camel, Ferris Wheels in the background, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camel and Ferris Wheels
Their soft eyes and long lashes, and the flowers and pom-poms they wear, belie their notoriously bad tempers.

Indian man in a Green Turban, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Green Turban

Closeup of an Indian man in an Orange Blanket, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in an Orange Blanket
Cigarettes, pipes, and cheroots are everywhere.

Rajasthani camel heroes gathered into an impromptu family grouping, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Impromptu Family Group
If I see a camera, I duck for cover, so I’m always surprised by how enthusiastically I am met when I walk around with mine! A patriarch in this household (the man whose picture leads this post) insisted I stay at his campsite until he gathered up the whole family for a group shot. He then proceeded to give them stage directions from over my left shoulder, so that half the group is looking at him rather than me!

Closeup of an Indian man in a Cream Turban, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Cream Turban
Rajasthan is an arid, sandy place. November days are hot, but the nights are cold, necessitating the twig- and dung-fires that burn all around the campsite. It is not surprising that everyone has red and irritated eyes.

Closeup of an Indian woman in a green dupatta, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Woman in a Green Dupatta
These people spoke no English, so I’m not sure how many of the children in this group belonged to this woman. I can’t imagine how difficult her life in the desert must be.

Indian men in a circle, Camel Herder Camp, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camel Herder Camp
Cover a camel cart in tarpaulin and throw a few woven mats on the ground, and Presto! you have a campsite.

Young Indian man and his Marwari Horse, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Young Man and his Rajasthani Horse
My presence there prompted the youngest member of the group to leap up on his Marwari horse …

Closeup of a young Indian Man, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Young Man
… to practice his Bollywood smoulder.

White and brown Marwari horse, , Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Marwari Horse – Equus Ferus Caballus
From the Marwar (or Jodhpur) region of India, these beautiful horses were originally bred by the Rathores, the rulers of Marwar until the 12th century. Today’s horses are descended from a careful cross between native Indian ponies and Arabians. During the feudal period, only the Rajput families and the Kshatriyas (the warrior caste) were allowed to ride them, as they were considered divine.

View of camels feeding, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels Feeding
Smoke and dust hang in the winter morning air.

Camels at the Water Trough, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels at the Water Trough
One of my favourite spots was the water trough …

Fancily-clipped camels bellowing, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Camels Bellowing
… where the beautifully decorated animals gave voice to their discontent.

Young Indian boy watering several camels, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Watering the Camels
The job of giving the huge animals their drinks can fall to the very young.

Closeup of an Indian man in a Blue Scarf, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Blue Scarf
That direct gaze with strangers – so common in India – is something I see much less often in other parts of the world.

Closeup of an Indian man in a Blue Scarf, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Blue Scarf
Once you have eye contact, it doesn’t take much to elicit a radiant smile.

Closeup of an Indian Girl in Yellow, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Girl in Yellow
The rising sun finally cuts through the smoke and dust, …

Closeup of an Indian boy, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Boy in a T Shirt
… casting a yellow glow over everything, and reflecting in the children’s eyes.

Indian Man Drinking from a tap, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man Drinking
The central water supply is a busy place.

Camel with shaved patterns on its side and rump, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Shaved Camel
I just loved all the different shaving and painting designs the camels sported, …

Close up of a camel in pom poms, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Decorated Camel
… and their colourful pom poms!

Closeup of an Indian man in a red Turban, Pushkar Fair Grounds, Rajasthan

Man in a Red Turban
But, it was the people, and that direct gaze, that I kept coming back to.

There really is nowhere quite like India!

Until next time, Text: Happy Travels

Happy Travels!

Photographs: 13November2013

  • Jan Lively - November 2, 2017 - 1:24 pm

    Oh Ursula Dear, what a joyous look back on our time together at Pushkar !! That was probably my favorite part of the entire India trip and now thanks to you, I get to relive it again. So thank you for your pictures and for your studied research and narrative. Seeing you in my Inbox always, and I do mean always makes my day. Do hope you are well and yes, we are good too. We love to go, but we love being home too.
    Thanks again and keep them coming. . . .ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - November 2, 2017 - 2:56 pm

      Darling Jan!
      So glad you enjoyed the pictures and the memories. You do make me smile. ?
      I’m happy you and the Handsome-One are enjoying some home-time.
      Catch you again on the trails one day! xReplyCancel

  • Gabe - November 2, 2017 - 1:36 pm

    Beautiful portraits & animal shots. Love the horse earsReplyCancel

    • Ursula - November 2, 2017 - 2:57 pm

      Always glad to hear from my number one fan. ?ReplyCancel

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