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Festival of the month: Jaisalmer Desert Festival 2017

Camel racing is a popular activity during the festival.
Image courtesy: Rajasthan Tourism Board

As winter slowly makes way for spring, Jaisalmer gets transformed into a riot of hues. Just a few days before the full moon of this beautiful season, one can see gorgeously attired camel caravans moving at a placid pace towards the Sam sand dunes, 42 km away, to be part of the world-famous Jaisalmer Desert Festival taking place from 8th to 10th February.

This showcase of one of the finest and most colourful of all Rajasthani festivals is organised against the backdrop of the sprawling golden-hued, yellow sandstone fort built in the 12th century. Yes, the same Sonar Qila that was once also made famous by the renowned filmmaker, Satyajit Ray, in his delightful eponymous film.

What to expect


The magnificent Jaisalmer Fort serves as the perfect backdrop to the festival.
Image courtesy: Rajasthan Tourism Board

Unlike most of the other festivals that have a religious significance, this three-day extravaganza has been especially created to give travellers a dekko of the vibrant colours and pageantry of Rajasthan on a single platform. Sure enough, no traveller goes back disappointed with what it has to offer.

The opening day of the festival unveils a fascinating procession that starts from the Jaisalmer Fort, and as it moves towards the Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium, folk artistes from across the state including the Gairs, Nats or the kalabaz, and fire-dancers, showcase a variety of thrilling acts. You can hear artistes sing tales of erstwhile heroes with music provided by traditional musical instruments.

Activities in the desert

Many interesting camel events and activities take place.
Image courtesy: Rajasthan Tourism Board

And then, of course, it’s time for all roads to lead to the Sam sand dunes where each vista is a photographer’s delight. You get to watch snake charmers play haunting tunes on their ‘been’ that is believed to hypnotise the reptiles with its music, puppet shows that recount stories of love and sacrifice, acrobatic displays, besides exotic music and dance sessions by tribal groups.

When all the myriad hues of the desert are being celebrated, can the camel be far behind? A number of major events revolve around this majestic animal also known as the Ship of the Desert — be it camel polo, stunts on camel-back by agile young men and dance shows by the humped beasts that are beautifully turned out in tassels and beads and, of course, ghungroos. There’s more, besides tug-of-war, turban-tying and Mr Desert competitions, there’s also the long-moustache contest — the winner of which remains the cynosure of all eyes with everyone wanting a picture clicked with him.


Shopping is a must in Jaisalmer.
Image courtesy: Rajasthan Tourism Board

For keen shoppers, the festival is a veritable smorgasbord of artefacts to take back home. Take your pick from hand-woven fabrics and rugs, wood and stone-carvings, camel decorations, embroidered leather ware and terracotta figurines – each a charming reflection of the artistry and dexterity of the craftsmen who created them.

As evenings descend on the Sam, activities continue against the backdrop of the beautifully lit Jaisalmer fort and as artistes sit around warm bonfires, the haunting strains of their music echo for miles around.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Life's come full circle for Purnima, who started out as a travel journalist. And now, after more than 20 years in mainstream journalism, she is once again packing her bags and putting on her travelling boots to pursue her first love.