To Understand the phenomenon called the Pushkar Fair, it's important to view it not as one fair but a conglomeration of two or even three fairs. There is a religious fair, which spans the last days of the Hindu month of Kartik. This period , from the Ekadashi, or the 11th day , of the waxing phase of the moon, to Purnima Full Moon day translates usually into five., but some times four days, in November.
This is the most auspicious period to visit Pushkar The cattle fair, which has acquired much international fame, has an amorphous beginning and starts taking shape about a week before Ekadashi. Once any animal arrives at the Pushkar Fair, there is a traditional taboo on its leaving before Ekadashi. From then on, the cattle fair wanes as the moon waxes; the rising moon on the Purnima evening, with the sun setting on the other side of the sand dunes, signal the closure of the cattle fair.
The fairs origin can be traced to mythology. It’s said that Lord Brahma made Pushkar the ‘guru’ of all tirthas. This dominating presence so disturbed the god’s that they pleaded Brahma for a correction in this load sided situation. Brahma agreed to send the Pushkar tirtha into the astral sphere and to let it be present on earth only for five days. These were to be the last days of the month of Kartik, from Ekadashi to Purnima. These are the days in which the fair is celebrated.
The cattle fair is held in the grounds and dunes to the north-west of Pushkar town, beyond the Brahma Temple. This area is next to the highway to nagaur, on the northern boundary of the town. An enclosed stadium has been designated as the mela ground and it hosts the ‘events’ organised by the administration – races, games and fireworks.
To the west of the mela ground are the sand dunes, which function as the arena for camels, horses and cattle. Tucked in between the mela ground and north-west edge of the town is the exhibition ground, the site for the rural trade and entertainment fair, with shops, giant wheels , a circus and eating stalls.
Two days before Purnima, the town is closed to all vehicular traffic. If arriving from Ajmer, you have to park about half a kilometer ahead of the town. Only the outermost road through the east and the north is accessible. From the afternoon before Purnima, the Bazaar Road is made one way for pedestrians. This means that you can walk from the varaha Ghat towards the Brahma Temple through the bazaar.
During the fair, for the devotee, two things are considered as essentials : to take dip in the lake and to visit the temple. The offerings and their prices do not change during the fair. Many devotees take dip and visit the temple in all five days of the fair.
On the day of Purnima, people start to take a dip in the lake right after the midnight . The rush will surprise you unless you have been the part of Kumbh Mela. The crowd often takes a life of its own, or is given one by administrative fiat. After the Brahma Temple the crowd steer you north and then west towards the exhibition grounds. There are a few roof tops restaurant occupied mostly by the foreigners.
As you come out of the town , the blaring music from the circus hits you, as does the visual of young boys doing a raunchy dance dressed in drag. The place is teeming with dhabas, offering very chilly bazaar food. Past this village fair is cattle fair. Horses just behind the circus, camels further ahead, and cows beyond them. The camels are undisputedly the stars of the show. There are camels of all sorts – old and young, female and male, very shabby-looking and enormously bedecked. The mela ground hosts a variety of events- camel race, camel decoration and horse dance. Pushkar Fair is truly a remarkable fair that brings you close to the people and culture of the state Rajasthan.