Jaisalmer also known as the “Golden City” is located in the heart of the Thar Desert in the western state of Rajasthan, India.
The Jaisalmer Desert Festival is a vibrant event which is arranged by the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation. This festival takes place every year in the month of Magh of the Hindu calendar or better known as February for three consecutive days prior to the full moon.
It is celebrated amidst the gorgeous sand dunes of the Thar Desert known as Sam sand dunes which are at a distance of 42 kilometers from Jaisalmer and can be reached in an SUV or on a Camel safari. This three-day affair had begun because of the marketing aspect of it, as foreigners and non-overseas tourists both could come to this festival, explore the rich heritage of Rajasthan and also facilitate the sale of locally produced goods and handicrafts.
This is one of those few Indian festivals which don’t have a religious aspect to it and attracts tourists from all over the globe to enjoy the three-day extravaganza of fun events like moustache contest, camel tug-o-war and turban tying competitions.
History Of This Festival
According to the legend, Lord Krishna who was the ruler of the Yadav community told Arjuna, one of the Pandavas that one of his successors from the Yadav community will establish a kingdom on the Trikuta Hill. His prediction came true in the year 1196 when a Yadav descendant, Rawal Jaiswal, set up his kingdom in Jaisalmer. Celebrations were carried out all over the kingdom when it was discovered that the prediction had actually come true. These celebrations over the years took the name and form of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival. This vibrant and cultural festival is organized by the government today and draws thousands of tourists both local and overseas.
Ways Of Celebrating This Festival
The events of this festival make the whole desert come alive with happiness, enthusiasm and vibrant colors. The festival starts with a ceremonial procession from the Jaisalmer Fort to Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium, called ‘Shobha Yatra’ in the local language, during which men carry swords and ride atop horses, elephants and camels as they enter the stadium. The local people and Rajputs dress up in their colorful and traditional attire during this festival and sing and dance to folk music.
A group of local nomads called the Kalabaz or the Nat’s are famous for the gymnastic acts that they put up. The Gair and fire dances performed by the traditional folk dancers of Rajasthan are one of the most popular acts of this festival. Other elements of the celebration include snake charmers, puppeteers, balladeers, acrobats and folk musicians performing live. The visitors can satisfy their taste buds with mouth-watering local dishes as well as purchase silver jewelry, woven goods, artifacts, souvenirs and embroidered cloths from the stalls.
The Langhar and Manganiyar folk musicians create an enrapturing atmosphere with their voices. Moustaches and turbans symbolize honor according to the people of Rajasthan and thus, competitions like turban tying and best moustache came into practice. The judges decide which person has the best moustache depending on the length and quality and he is awarded the title of Mr. Desert or Maru-Shri. This contest is one of the major attractions of the festival and foreigners often cluster around the winner to take photographs with him. Camels play a major role in the festival as these Jaisalmeri humped beasts which are specially known for their speed and agility, feature in quite a number of events consisting of camel races, camel decorations, camel rides, camel dances, camel polo and also camel games including camel tug-o-wars.
Gymnastic stunts on camel back are also performed. The most popular camel event of the lot i.e. the camel polo match takes place between the polo club and the Border Security Force (BSF). The three-day festival is concluded on the last day with a full moon or ‘poornima’ and fireworks are set off, splashing the skies with bursts of color and light against the silent yet mystic backdrop of the Jaisalmer Fort. The dates for this festival in the year 2017 are from 8th to 10th February.