The historic 4th-century-city of Nagaur comes alive with the famous Nagaur Cattle Fair every year during late January. Simply mesmerised by its mystical culture, it was indeed a much different experience to be away from the impressive palaces and forts that the ‘Land of Kings’ is known to everyone in the UK. With excellent winter weather and far too many sunny mornings than the misty ones in January where I come from, it was the perfect time to immerse in the city’s age-old traditions during this cultural extravaganza. .
Reaching the Blue City for a drive to Nagaur
Jodhpur, also known as the Blue City and one of the closest cities to Nagaur, was where I flew to first, after a short layover at the beautiful Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. The houses painted in blue stood in a blissful contrast against the impressive Mehrangarh Fort that rose high up on a hill.
It was time to head to Nagaur, which was less than three hours away from the Blue City. However, due to the large influx of tourists from everywhere for this fete, we met heavy traffic on the road and the driver could easily sense my eagerness, or better put, my impatience.
One of the largest cattle fairs of India
Little was I aware of the enormity of this festival that attracts cattle traders from all across the state and the neighbouring ones. In fact, it started over a half-a-century ago by the erstwhile ruler of Jodhpur dynasty, Maharaja Umed Singh to honour the sufi saint, Shri Ramdeoji. This is all the history that I was told by my cab driver from Jodhpur. Apart from that, I got a lot of off-hand information about what I was about to enjoy during the festival.
What I couldn’t believe was the sight of thousands of animals draped in different colours, that too, all in one massive ground. Their owners were all decked up in traditional Rajasthani attire, as well. Enthusiastic buyers hopped from one shed to another to negotiate deals to buy animals, mostly camels, bullocks and horses from the owners with incredibly long moustaches and turbans. Photographers and the amateurs like me couldn’t stop taking snapshots of those exchanges in front of us. ‘Mesmerising’ would be less of a word to characterise my awe when I came across such a remarkable sight. In addition, there was more to follow.
There were local handicrafts sold at some stalls at the grounds. I tried my hand at bargaining by mimicking the other tourists who were slightly more street smart than I. The sun was up until the evening and the buyers were soon about to desert the grounds. But, the cheer of people indulging in games such as tug-of-war and cockfights continued. By the afternoon, I tried out the several kinds of savoury delicacies prepared from camel’s milk.
I didn’t want to go anywhere else as it was already evening and stationed myself there to enjoy the local cultural performances. The traditional dance performances done by avid local professionals were the icing on the cake. Later, there were delightful Jodhpuri singing performances done in colourful costumes and accompanied by string instruments that have never captured my ears with so much emotion. Soon a beautiful display of fireworks that adorned the starry night sky followed. Later, I retired into one of the luxuriously spacious tents laid on the secluded parts of the large fair grounds. Come next morning, there were even more people than the day before. The energy was electrifying and I bought some exquisite leather bags that were made from camel skin.
Back to the Sun City
Before my winter vacation was about to end, I thought, “While I am here, why not explore Jodhpur too?” I was already stunned by the majestic Mehrangarh Fort and took opportunity of the pleasant weather to hike up to it.
In about three hours, I reached there and the domineering views of the city from atop made me ecstatic. As the sun went down, I headed to Chokelao Mahal within the fort’s premises to sate my hunger with local delicacies served in silverware. The illumined fort and the bright city lights looked gorgeous.
With such beautiful sights that I had only seen on postcards and in the various social spheres, my journey to the nearby cities of Thar Desert, in fact, have gotten me addicted to their well-preserved ancient allure, be it, in terms of palaces or festivities.