For two days every year in the month of January, the city of Bikaner comes alive with the celebration of the Camel Festival. The festival is organized by the Art and craft Department of Rajasthan Tourism with an intention of attracting more and more tourists to this city which is famous for its camels. Actually, camel has a very significant place in the history of Bikaner. In earlier times when technology was not advanced and when motor cars were still to roll out on roads in India, reaching Bikaner was an arduous task. Had it been a plain region like the many of the cities of the country, then transportation problems would have been minimal. However, Bikaner lies in the desert region and hence no other animal, with the exception of camel, could afford a comfortable foray into its heart. Hence, camel became an intrinsic part of the lives of the people who depended on it to ferry not only humans but also goods. Today, even when cars have taken away much of pressure from our Ship of Desert, camels continue to hold their place intact. In fact, it will not be wrong to say that the Camel Festival is also a sort of recognition of the importance of camel in this region and their tremendous contribution in easing up life here.
Situated in the heart of the desert belt, Bikaner was always an inaccessible land. Before the advent of modern motor vehicles, the survival of the people of this region depended on the 'Ship of the desert' - the Camel. The camels of this region were famous for their endurance as well as their strength and beauty.
In fact, the Bikaner army had an elite camel corps called the Ganga Risala which took active part in both the World Wars. The Ganga Risala was a Camel unit in the army even after the independence and it took part in Indo-Pak wars. Bikaner also boasts of the only Camel breeding center in India.
Camel can still be seen pulling heavy loads on carts in this region. With such a long association with Camels, it is but natural that the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture chose to hold the Camel festival in Bikaner.
Attractions of the Festival
The festival starts off with a parade of beautifully decorated camels from the Junagarh Fort. The camel owners make sure that their camels do not look lesser than the other camels. They decorate the camels with colourful bridles and saddles and tie anklets around the feet. The processions comes out in the open where the festivity takes another step forward. Competitions begin to judge the best breed camel, best decorated camel and best fur cut design of camel. Contest for camel milking and best camel hair cut bring a little focus on human beings, however, it is soon disappeared because there is a camel dance contest as well! This is perhaps the only time when the camels turn dancer, and that too a good one! Swaying to the direction of their masters, they surprise even their fiercest critics by their graceful moves. The audience cheers the camels with their applause while the anklets express their appreciation by tinkling along with every step.
Next day is even more exciting because this is the time when camels turn a bit competitive and throw a challenge before their brethrens to defeat them in a race. With loudest of cheers from their supporters, the camels rush to reach their finishing point. The winner, ofcourse, is a cynosure of all eyes. Sometimes there is a bit of entertainment during the race when the camels refuse to even get up, leave alone running towards the finishing post. The owners prodding their camels to make a move can present a very hilarious scene. Similarly, many a times camel make a U-turn in the midst of the race and come back to the starting point!
Both the evenings culminate with the finest of dance performances from the local artists. In addition, the dazzling fireworks at the conclusion of the festival add to its glittering charm. During the two day festival, sweets prepared from the milk of camel satisfies the sweet tooth of the visitors.
To conclude, the festival is a time when the people of Bikaner come out of their home to be part of a colorful and exciting festival. It is a time when the owner and his camel synchronies their efforts to emerge victorious in all the competitions. And above all, it is a time when tourists flock in large number to witness the rural lifestyle and culture of the Rajasthan.
The festival starts with the procession of beautifully decorated camels. The procession heads towards the open sand grounds. Here, the festivities begin in earnest. The Camel Pageant is held on the first day wherein the camel owners show off their Camels' decorations and jewellery. Camel dance performances are also held. A competition for best decorated camel, fur cutting design, camel milking and the best camel hair cut is organized The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their drivers. Colorful bridles, bejeweled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadows on dusky sands, cast a magical spell.
In this festival tea and sweets prepared by camel milk are made available to the visitors interested in enjoying them.
On the second day, the fleetest camels of the region take part in the camel races. The competition is fierce as the best camels vie for the honors. Thousands of excited tourists and locals cheer the favorites.
On both days, the evening ends with a rendezvous with the renowned folk artists of Rajasthan. The jubilant, skirt swirling dances, the awe inspiring fire dances and many other equally interesting performances entertain the visitors. The grand finale is a magnificent display of fireworks which illuminates the desert city of Bikaner.