The Sherp looks at how the Jaisalmer Desert Festival is a stunning representation of Rajasthan’s local culture and craft.

Every year, during the month of February, the dunes of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan spring up in whimsical fashion as the culture of the state unravels with gusto. Organised by the spirited Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, the festival is testament to why Rajasthan is a touristy hotbed, attracting visitors from India and all over the world. Within the walls of the grand Jaisalmer towers lining the desert expanse, and against the backdrop of the setting sun, the Jaisalmer Desert Festival is an exquisite show of the state’s vibrancy. From 20th February, the festival will be a display of local art finery.

Its genesis

Not that one ever needed a reason to visit Rajasthan, for there is little to contest its position as a widely visited Indian city. After all, every traveler wishes to witness its royal splendour. But, the festival was begun by the Tourism Corporation in an effort to display the city’s local culture in a bid to attract tourists from India and around the world. The festival, therefore, is a true cultural spectacle that aims to highlight simply the city and the hosting state’s strongest heritage in its most colourful fashion.

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Whimsical competitions galore

From the longest moustache, to the most well-adorned camel to the swiftest and most creative form of turban tying, adorable local traditions of the desert are put to test at the festival for the benefit of entertainment as the organisers pick winner from eager participants. The manliest display of moustache at the festival walks away becoming the Mr. Desert. Most amusing is the camel tug-of-war as eager teams line up with the animals on either sides with audience eagerly placing bets. During the remaining times, the camels are kept busy with games of Camel Polo, races and dances.

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(Source: Ben Beiske Flickr)

The bazaars of the desert

The most beautiful attraction of the Rajasthan desert is the many tribes of nomads that have their own arts and handlooms on display. These assemble during the festival giving rise to a bazaar that is the most variant and ethnic. Handmade crafts can be found at their most exquisite best, where jewellery, clothes and fabrics bearing traditional Rajasthani design can be purchased.

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Music, dance and more

No Rajasthani celebration is complete without some traditional Kalbeliya dance. The dance where women move to the rhythm of snakes. There is also music of Maganiyaar gharaanas as well as other folk music waiting to be discovered. Sword fights, puppet shows and acrobatic dances amply fill up the slate of shows that are designed for a much entertained audience, making the festival a wholesome Rajasthani affair. There is also the service of decadent, spicy Rajastani food replete with ghee enough to satiate many an eager tastebud.

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Ends with a blast

The festival comes to an end on Poornima, or the full moon, where celebrations continue until the wee hours of the night, when the festival is brought to an end with a spectacular show of fireworks in the air, that imbues light and colour to the vibrancy of the festival.

Eric Lon, Flickr(Source: Eric Lon Flickr)

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