The invisible sun cast a pale yellow light on the barren field, its rays smothered by a thick blanket of mist. The weather was glum, cold, with visibility down to 100m. As I peeled through the mist, an entire settlement of cattle herders appeared like a lost Island emerging out of thin air. Villagers and their cattle were spread out onto a vast field spanning acres at a stretch. From a distance, smoke trails billowed out of small make-shift tents that filled the air with a heavy charred odour. Cattle herders sat on their haunches rubbing their palms around a fire-place as they collected camel droppings and burnt them for warmth. The scene was so rustic and real. The Nagaur fair still retains its innocence because till date very few people know about it. As a result, it has not yet succumbed to superfluity.
The 10-day-long Nagaur fair is one of Rajasthan’s biggest annual cattle fairs that takes place in the month of January-February. It falls midway between Jodhpur and Bikaner. Since the area is located along the dry Thar Desert area, villagers are mostly involved in cattle breeding rather than farming. Every year, around 70,000 cattle are traded including horses, bullocks and camels. Since Nagaur is close to fertile farming lands of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, it attracts farmers from these areas as well.
Legend goes that Baba Ram Dev had miraculous powers and his fame reached far and wide and five Pirs (saints) from Mecca came to Nagaur to test his power and after being convinced, paid their homage to him. Since then he is venerated by Muslims also as Ram Shah Pir.
The fair is otherwise a very staid affair, lacking colours that people usually associate with rural Rajasthan. Like villagers wearing bright coloured turbans, flashy clothes, or organised activities like horse dance, moustache competitions, camel racing at the event etc. But that’s a classic case of stereotypes. And because the Pushkar fair set high standards and expectations, visitors often feel it’s devoid of vivaciousness. Things play out differently here though.
There are sporadic moments of frenetic activity which die down as soon as they surface. It’s in those short-lived moments that one can witness life. Like a goat lightly, but persistently tapping on its owners’ shoulder begging for fodder, or a camel herder racing his livestock wantonly kicking up dust across a field. Or a horse being put through its paces before it’s washed up and put on display for potential buyers. Beauty is in the details and to notice it is to be patient. The environment is so overwhelming that you’d be excused for being hysterical. The best thing to do at a place like this is to keep moving from one spot to the other, because something exciting is waiting to happen somewhere. It might seem at first that there’s no activity and everything is laid back, but if you wait long enough, you will be greeted with a sight that’ll be firmly etched in your memory.
The more time you spend exploring the myriad faces of the fair, you start to appreciate it better. It makes you accept things for what they really are. It might even make you a calmer person, satisfied and more accommodating. After witnessing such a wonderful chaos, noticing the hardship of the villagers, first-hand, you will respect your life more, however it might be.
Now that this incredible journey has ended, now that the mist has cleared, although life is mundane again, time stands still for I wouldn’t let go of the days past at the fair for a very long time.