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Life couldn’t have been possible in the harsh desert of Thar if it wasn’t for the Camel. This hardy animal helps the locals survive in the desert and to celebrate this “ship of the desert”, Bikaner plays host to the Camel Festival every year. An initiative of the Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, the festivities at the Bikaner Camel Festival are on par with the other festivitie swhich Rajasthan plays host to.
The camels of Bikaner region are renowned for their strength, endurance and beauty. The camel has always been an integral part of Bikaner, and this can gauged by the fact that the Bikaner army had a Camel Corp called “Ganga Risala” which took part in both the World Wars and as well as in conflicts in Somaliland, Egypt and China. “Ganga Risala” was the predecessor of Indian Army’s camel unit “Ganga JaisalmerRisala” which saw action in Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, and was later disbanded in the year 1975. The camel is still utilized by the Border Security Force’s Bikaner Camel Corp for patrolling the long international border which Rajasthan shares with Pakistan, and remains a star attraction at Republic Day Parade.
The Festival is a two-day affair the dates for Bikaner Camel Festival this year were the 12th and 13th January. This festival which fervently celebrates the “ship of the desert” is cheered on by thousands of locals and tourists, as it brings to the fore not only the special relation people of this region have with this sturdy animal, but also promotes camel breeding and the age old tradition of camel taming and training.
The festival starts with a procession of camels adorned beautifully in traditional necklaces and anklets, and vibrantly colored bridles. This colorful parade starts from the magnificent Junagarh Fort and ends at the Dr. Karni Singh Stadium. It is upon reaching the open ground that the Camel Festival begins in earnest. The camel pageant is held, with camel owners showing off their majestic camels decked up to the brim. There are also competitions for camel milking and the best fur cutting design. But it is the dancing competition that is the most eagerly awaited. The audience is left spellbound by the jingling of anklets to rhythm of music, as the day ends with cultural performance by the local artists.
There are also number of competitions for both the tourists and the locals. These competitions include tug of war for both males and females, and the water pot race for women. There is also the Turban tying competition for tourists from other countries,not forget the villagers wrestling competition and a kabbadi display match. Like the previous day, this is followed by an evening of cultural programs where the audiences are bewitched by the colorful swirling skirts and the music. A dazzling display of fireworks brings the Bikaner Camel Festival to a close.
The Camel Festival gives the visitors a great opportunity to enjoy the local cuisine. The dishes here use minimum water and instead rely on milk and buttermilk, using lentils and beans such as sangri and ker. You can also try the unique but delightful camel milk sweets and camel milk tea. Experience this colorful celebration that showcases the unique bond between man and animal. Enjoy the legendary hospitality of the people of Rajasthan when you visit the Bikaner Camel Festival, and take home not just a memento but memories that will last a lifetime.