Music and Dance is part of the fairs and festivals of Rajasthan and without it, a fair has no life. Most of the fairs offer wonderful opportunity to trade in cattle and leather goods, handicrafts, clothes, utensils. Rajasthan is at its colorful best during its fairs and festivals. Fairs and festivals break the monotony of routines and add color to people'lives.
The famous Nagaur Fair essentially an animal fair is held annually between late January and early February. Situated half way between Bikaner and Jodhpur, Nagaur awakens with the thronging of cattle, horses and camels accompanied by their colorfully turbaned owners. There is earnest bargaining between owners and buyers, and plenty of fun and festivity. Games, tug-of-war contests, camel races and strains of ballads create a joyful atmosphere with the setting sun in the background.
Desert festival of Jaisalmer is a magnificent spectacle of color, music and festivity. It coincides with the full moon in February when the cherished moments of its glorious past and rich colors are on display . A three-day journey into the heart of the Thar Desert and the golden city of Jaisalmer is a true show on the sands. The famous Gair dancers and the Fire dancers are the special highlights of the festival. Further excitement is in the air with the turban-lying competition and Mr. desert contest. The grand finale is a trip to the Sam sand dunes where one can have the pleasure of a camel ride and also view the musicians and dancers performing on the dunes.
Dedicated to the indispensable `ship of the desert', the festival starts off with a magnificent procession of bedecked camels. There are displays and competitions together with all the colour, music and rhythm unique to a fair in Rajasthan.
Held in Dungarpu in February, Baneshwar Fair holds a significant importance among the tribal of Rajasthan. It offers a unique and much awaited opportunity to the rural mass to take a break from their routine and enjoy the various colors of the festival. The fair starts with a ceremony in which saffron is applied to the Shiva Linga in the temple of Baneshwar Mahadev. The major attractions of the fair include Acrobatic feats by the skilled jugglers, traditional songs and folk dances, magic shows and joyrides etc.
This festival welcomes spring, offering the best overview of Rajasthani culture through songs, dances, processions, devotional music and firework displays. Groups of women dressed in bright colors carry images in a procession to the gangaur ghat of Lake Pichola. An unusual processions of boats on the lake offers a fitting finale to this splendid celebration.
A festival where elephants are the centre of attraction. The festival begins with a procession of elephants, camels and horses, followed by lively folk dancers. Elephant races, elephant polo matches and a most interesting tug of war between elephants and men, are all parts of this spectacular event. Elephant Festival is the major festival observed in Jaipur in March (Phagun), on the eve of Holi. The other attractions of the festival include playing of Holi on elephant back. Prizes are given to the most beautifully decorated elephant.
The most important local festival in Rajasthan, Gangaur celebrations last for 18 days. It is dedicated to Gauri, a manifestation of goddess Parvati. The festival is celebrated by girls and married women throughout Rajasthan. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands, young girls pray for a groom of their choice. The images of Gauri are ornamented and offerings are made. This is also an auspicious day for young people to select their life partners. Colourful procession with the town band playing, horses and elaborate palanquins make it a fascinating spectacle. In Jaipur on the 17th day following Holi a grand procession is taken out of the City Palace and the goddess Gauri is carried in an elaborate palanquin led by colorfully attired elephants, camels and horses. Dancers, musicians, drum beaters, bandsmen, and battle dressed chariots accompany the procession.
The Urs are held every year at the dargah of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, commemorating his symbolic union with god. Pilgrims from all over the world gather to pay homage. Qawalis and poems are presented in the saint's honour. Religious assemblies called 'mehfils' are held at night during the festival and fill the whole atmosphere with religious fervor. The 'mehfil' terminates late in the night with a 'fatiha', which is a mass prayer for the eternal peace of the Khwaja in particular and mankind in general. The Qul (end-all) on the 6th of Rajab marks the end of the Urs. The colorful ceremonies of the Urs begin with the hoisting of a white flag on the Dargah. The ceremony takes place on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), with the accompaniment of enchanting music. On the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and sandalwood paste and anointed with perfumes. On the last day people cross 'Jannati Darwaza' with a belief that by doing so, they will be assured a place in heaven.
A small place near village Kelwara of Barran district, this fair of religious importance, is held from Baisakh sudi punam to Jeth amavas. The fair is at its peak on Chandra amavas and Padwa dooj. Thousands of people take a body dip in tanks called Sita kund, Laxman kund and Suraj kund. Sitabari marks the place where Sita was left by Lakshman in the forest.
Mount Abu, the venue for the Summer festival, is covered with mango groves, beautiful bauhinia trees and thickets of wild berries. Rocks and lakes of Abu combined with the folk and classical music are a window to the tribal festivities.
Teej, the festival of swings celebrated mainly in Jaipur, marks the advent of the monsoons. Celebrated on the third day of the bright lunar half of the month of Shravan (August) it is, like Gangaur, dedicated to the goddess Parvati, commemorating the day when she was united with Lord Shiva after an agonizing separation. Swings are hung from trees and decorated with flowers. Women, colourful and attired, swing on them and sing songs in celebration.
Organized by the Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, the Marwar Festival was originally known as the Maand Festival. Maand is a classical style of folk music centered on the romantic life style of Rajasthan's rulers, and Maand Raag recreates the old world charm and graceful dances of the desert. Held for two days during the full moon, Sharad Purnima, in October it is celebrated mainly in Jodhpur. Folk artists bring to life the inspiring mythologies, folk stories, tales and legends of battles, war victories and valor.
A cattle fair which takes place at Chandrabhaga near Jhalarapatan. On kartik purnima day devotees throng this place and take a dip in the holy river.
Celebrated on the ninth day of Navratra. It is held twice a year - April/May and Oct./Nov. Devotees come to Deshnoke to attend this fair and offerings are made to the charan mystic karni mata . This festival has a distinct religious flavour.
One of the most popular and colorful fairs of the Thar desert is the Pushkar fair, which begins on Kartik Shukla Ekadashi & goes on for five days till Kartik Purnima. On kartik poornima, thousands of pilgrims come to take bath in the holy water of the Pushkar lake. The visit to all the shrines is completed in seven days and is known as chaubis kosi parikrama. The lake at Pushkar is one of the most sacred in India. Like Varanasi, Pushkar is one of the sacred places for the Hindus, with 400 temples of which the most important is dedicated to Lord Brahma - the creator of the universe. Fifty-two ghats bind the lake. During the days of the mela, the otherwise tranquil lake is engulfed with religious fervor. In the afternoons, people crowd the stadium where camels, horses, and cows are paraded and raced. Camels are bought and sold during the Pushkar fair. An interesting part of the Pushkar Fair is the mass trading of camels. Of course, cattle and other livestock are also traded, but it's camels that hold center stage at Pushkar. Camel-traders and villagers from miles away converge to Pushkar with their humped beasts. Over 25,000 camels are traded; making this world's largest camel fair. Races and competitions are organized. An interesting event is the camel beauty contest, where they are adorned and paraded. On the roadside, stalls of all kinds are set up to sell a cornucopia of items. It is impossible to drive around because of the large crowds. Either you hire a camel or you walk. Since Pushkar is a religious place alcohol and non-vegetarian food is prohibited.
Some of the magnificent crafts of Rajasthan displayed at a colourful festival held in Udaipur.There is an endless process of Rajasthan's fairs and festivals on the Indian calendar; Kapil Muni Fair along the Kolayat lake, Sri Mahavirji Fair of the Jains, Shitala Ashtami held at Chaksu near Jaipur, Ramdeoji Fair near Pokhran in Jaisalmer; al these in addition to the major Hindu festivals of Holi, Dussehra, Diwali and Raksha Bandhan.