Getting the hump: Pushkar camel fair changing from trading post to heritage event

In Rajasthan, India, officials hope tourism will help preserve the dying art of camel decoration as livestock trading at the famous fair declines

For more than 150 years, the holy town of Pushkar in India’s Rajasthan desert has been cultivating folk art. Its annual livestock market, the Pushkar Fair, draws farmers and tradesmen from across the country, looking to buy camels. But to make the camels more attractive to buyers, they must first be decorated and displayed in their full majesty.

At the town’s fairground, Ashok Tak – renowned livestock decorator and the curator of a mobile camel fashion museum – showcases the tools of his trade to a crowd of foreign tourists. On a large rug laid on the sand he talks through the mirror work embroidery, macramé murals and flower garlands he uses to accessorise Raja, his favourite camel and 11-timewinner of the fair’s beauty competition. He picks up a heavy set of bells to show the crowd.

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