Bikaner Camel Festival, India

January 17-18, 2003

Weather: high of about 75ºF and clear

 The much awaited Bikaner Camel Festival, or "Bikaner Ut Mehla" in Hindi.

We stay in a hotel across the street from the stadium where the first day of the festival is held. The second day of festivities take place in a village about 50km out of town, in the dunes. Each day, we have mornings free to do things like mail packages home and check email. The festival starts about 2:30 each day and goes until just after sunset.

I don't feel that my camera is big enough to justify me running out onto the performance area with the professional photographers. Who likes all those pesky photogs running around and getting in the way of the dancers anyway? So all my shots of the hundreds of dancers are distant and boring.
The procession of camels are a little bit easier to capture on film, but still the crowd becomes the main subject. Sadly, there are no photos of the man lifting propane cannisters with his four foot long mustache.
After the parade, this poor camel was giving rides to tourists in our hotel. He didn't look too happy about it. I saw him almost squish a woman against that stone fence in his anxious capering.
On the morning of the second day, we ride out to the National Research Centre on Camel. (Well, we ride on motorcycle actually, but the research is on camel.) We see the entire museum there in about 30 seconds. Then we get to spend some up-close time with the camels. This one has the finest hair cut I've seen. It might have been the winner of the beauty contest from yesterday. The best part is hearing all the crazy noises they make, like an exploding swamp.
Our hotel organizes a caravan to take everyone out to the village for the second day, complete with a bagpiper and drummer riding on the roof of the lead jeep.
Both days, the festival attendance is about 90% Indian and 10% other tourists. On this day, we miss the camel races, which are a little slow and random looking according to one witness. But we see the girls dancing on nails and broken glass with flaming pots on their heads. We also see the fire dance, where holy men eat coals and dance on a bed of fire. I just don't get any pictures, because again, we are in the back of the crowd.

How to contact us: