|The Pushkar camel fair (northindiatour.theindiancenter.com)|
Centuries ago, when there were no cars and bikes, (forget airplanes and space shuttles), people, be it the royalty or the commoners were all united by the means of transport they used. The animal means of transport varied from camels, elephants and bullocks.
The camel (along with other cattle) is once again ruling the roost in the annual Pushkar Mela that started from yesterday in Ajmer in Rajasthan.The world famous Pushkar fair is known for its beautiful and colourful display of Rajasthani traditions and customs. Its camel fair is the largest of its kind in the world and camel related events would be going on for the first 4-5 days of the Pushkar fair.
It will truly be a sight to behold to view camel-centric activities-camel safaris, racing competitions, buying and selling of camels, camel games like musical chairs, camel rituals and even a 'beauty contest' where elaborately and colourfully decked and groomed camels would try to outdo one another at it!
|"I am way beyond competition!"(courtesy:webexhibits.org)|
Camels have a variety of uses that not many are aware of:
- In rural Rajasthan, camel is the source of livelihood to around 200 thousand people and their families, who use the camel and a cart for transporting carts in remote areas where cars cannot commute.
- India is the only country where the Border Security Force employs and trains camels to be part of the Camel Corps wing of the BSF to guard the frontiers.
- Specific camel breeds brought to the fair are purchased for their specific qualities:Bikaneri is known for its excellent navigating skills, Jaisalmeri is popular for its race potential and carting goods,Kutchi is known for yielding great quality milk.
- Scientists regard camel milk to be healthier than goat/camel milk and have identified many useful properties in it.
- Crafts made out of camel hide are popular buys of the region and are important for supporting the cottage industries of Rajasthan
- Camels are known for their resilience. They don't suffer from illnesses and can carry loads of upto 450 kilos.
Given the role of the camel in the Rajasthani rural economy it is surprising that the animal is largely ignored in policy and overlooked by development planners. Recently Lokhit Pashu-palak Sansthan (LPPS) - an Indian NGO that has been working with the traditional Raika camel breeding caste to provide camel health care and secure access to grazing - held a meeting of national and international camel specialists at their headquarters in Sadri, Rajasthan. A list of recommendations to government was drawn up to ensure the continued supply of strong, healthy camels... The number of camels in Rajasthan is estimated to have fallen by 50 per cent in the last decade.(New Agriculturalist)The Pushkar camel fair is then, one of the grandest fairs in the Indian cultural milieu and the economic milieu too, as it attracts a huge number of visitors from across the world, not just India. The camel is glorified and so are its uses in an artistic manner.And that large scale attention is necessary. It is only if the unusual uses of the camel are tapped by the people and the Government, will it translate into greater survival chances of the creature, the rural economy and the hopes and aspirations of thousands of people.