For two days every year in the month of January, the city of Bikaner comes alive with the celebration of the Camel Festival of Rajasthan. A lively and colourful event, the Camel Festival is organized by the Department of Tourism of Rajasthan in Bikaner every year. January is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner just the right place to see the Ships of the Desert of Rajasthan. Camel is known as the Ship of the Desert, the Camel has been a fundamental part of the lives of the Rajasthani lifestyle since time immemorial. In the camel country Bikaner of Rajasthan, these desert leviathans pull heavy cart loads, transport grain and even work at the wells. In order to acknowledge the importance of this useful animal, the Camel Festival of Bikaner is celebrated on a grand scale in Rajasthan. Desert region's Folk dances and Music of Rajasthan; add on to what is otherwise an exclusive camel affair of Rajasthan. A festival when the ships of the desert are seen at their best. Camels of Rajasthan fascinate tourists from all over the world with their movements, charm and grace. A spectacle of unusual camel performances in Rajasthan: camel races, camel dances, and the bumpy, neck shaking camel rides.
History of the Camel Festival of Bikaner in Rajasthan, India
The camel 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 Rajasthan. Situated in the heart of the desert belt of Rajasthan, Bikaner was always an inaccessible land of Rajasthan. Before the advent of modern motor vehicles, the survival of the people of Rajasthan depended on the 'Ship of the desert' - the Camel. 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 of Rajasthan 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. The camels of Rajasthan were famous for their endurance as well as their strength and beauty. Today, even when cars have taken away much of pressure from our Ship of Desert of Rajasthan, camels continue to hold their place intact.
In fact, the Bikaner of Rajasthan, 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 of Rajasthan also boasts of the only Camel breeding center in India.
Camel can still be seen pulling heavy loads on carts in this region of Rajasthan. 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 of Rajasthan.
Activities and Flavours of the Camel Festival of Bikaner in Rajasthan
The Camel Festival begins with a colourful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort of Rajasthan. 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 procession comes out in the open where the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds. 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 camel dance is something that enthralls all visitors who come to Camel Festival. The trainers train their camels very skillfully and they present a very fine synchronization of footwork. This is one event that leaves everyone almost breathless. To see camels dancing together to drumbeats and music is truly an awe-inspiring incident. The dancing shadows of the camels on the golden sands of the desert against the setting sun are truly a picture perfect moment. It is sure to bedazzle you when you come to visit this beautiful festival of Rajasthan in India. The audience cheers the camels with their applause while the anklets express their appreciation by tinkling along with every step. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair organized especially for the tourists.
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, of course, 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!
On both days, the evening ends with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers. 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 fortified desert city of Bikaner adding to its glittering charm. During the two day festival, sweets prepared from the milk of camel satisfy 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 colourful and exciting festival of Rajasthan. It is a time when the owner and his camel synchronize 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. Not to miss the excitement of shopping, the handicrafts and curios stalls are the best places to shop for small souvenirs and knick-knacks. One of the most popular and sought after events of Rajasthan, the Camel Festival of Rajasthan attracts lots of visitors from not just India but also the rest of the world.
Location and Transport of Camel Festival in Bikaner, Rajasthan
Bikaner lies in the north-western part of Rajasthan state of India. Bikaner is well connected with rail and road network with all major cities of the country.
Distances from major cities in km are
Delhi 494 Jaipur 324
Jodhpur 278 Jaisalmer 315
Agra 560 Udaipur 625
Ajmer 325 Chandigarh 594
Bikaner of Rajasthan is directly linked by rail with major cities. Some important travel connections are from Delhi, Sarai Rohilla, Jaipur, Mumbai, Calcutta, Jammu, Kalka, Ambala, Ahemadabad, Baroda, Surat, Agra, Allahabad, Kanpur, Chandigarh, Bhatinda, Jodhpur etc.
A wide network of bus services link Bikaner of Rajasthan with several destinations. There is Rajasthan Roadway Deluxe, Super deluxe and AC buses as well as private travels also available from the major cities to make your travel comfortable. Rajasthan Roadways run very comfortable deluxe buses from Delhi (Bikaner House, Near India Gate) to Bikaner. The roads are very good, and it takes around 8-9 hrs from Jaipur.
With good road conditions you can also travel by private car/taxi.
Nal Airport is 17 Km from the city center. At present there are no commercial flights. Nearby airports are Jodhpur (254 km) and Sanganer airport Jaipur (325 km).
Un-metered taxis, auto-rickshaws, and Tongas are easily available for local transport.