In a velvety Indian night, herders and their camels gather for the Pushkar Fair. Each year, herders set up camp in the undulating sand dunes for a days-long, dusty swirl of merriment and hard bargaining for livestock.

The Pushkar Fair is held in fall in northern India’s Rajasthan state. It’s still rooted in centuries-old traditions of camel (and cattle and horse) buying and selling.

But the fair is also India’s equivalent of a rollicking, gaudy state fair. Decorated camels race and take tourists for rides. Ferris wheels spin, their riders laughing in glee. Musicians and snake charmers entice the crowds amid tented stalls. Sadhus, Hindu holy men, wander past, their faces and bodies sometimes smeared with ash.

Tens of thousands of animals — and even more tourists — pack the fair on the outskirts of Pushkar, an ancient, temple-studded city. Go for the fair, go for the temples — all human and animal life is there.

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Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at