Festivals are common all throughout the East Asia. However, if you want to single out one country for their enthusiasm in festivity, it would be India. Different areas of this diverse country have different festivals.
And each of these festivals has their own heritage, tradition, and celebration. Everyone knows about the Holi festival and the festival of Puja. But you might want to know about some less familiar festivals. These festivals are colorful or historically significant, and one of these festivals is the Desert Festival of Jaisalmer.
What is the Desert Festival, Rajasthan?
The third largest city of Rajasthan in India is Jaisalmer. It is “The Golden City” as the use of yellow sandstone in the city’s architecture. The city has a golden fort, buildings and the gorgeous dunes that stretch around it. So the name “Golden City” does not seem inappropriate at all.
In this city of golden sand, ornate Jain temples, and beautiful architecture, there is an annual festival. “The Desert Festival” starts three days prior to the full moon in the Hindu month of Magh (February). It continues for three consecutive days. Color and festivity fill the golden air of desert during these three days of spectacular festival.
Some Key Facts about the Desert Festival:
- It continues for three days.
- It happens in the desert.
- The probable date for 2021 is 7th-9th February.
- It includes cultural functions and ethnic handicrafts.
- It is safe and tourist-friendly.
The desert festival is one big extravaganza festival. Here history, legend, culture and tradition mixes with one another to form a magical experience for you. For three days, the city of Jaisalmar bursts out with color and festivity. The air becomes sweet with songs and poetry. The sand flies as the dancers’ feet move gracefully on the desert land. And local hand-crafted businesses bloom as the interested and curious tourists file in to experience it as a native. You will enjoy songs, poetry, ballads, puppet-shows, dances, magic shows, acrobats’ performances, martial arts, different contests and folk show. Thus, it unravels the profoundly rich history and culture of the desert.
What is the History of the Desert Festival?
One might wonder if there is a history behind the beginning of the most colorful festival in Rajasthan. Well, there is. In the legends, a legendary king named Yadu descended upon the Yadav community. And the Lord Krishna is from the Yadav community himself and therefore is the ruler of the community. Lord Krishna once told Arjuna, a successor from the Yadav clan will set up his kingdom on Trikuta Hill. Amazingly, this prophecy came true in 1196. Rawal Jaiswal who was a descendent from the Yadava clan came and built his kingdom in Jaisalmer. There is a grand festival for this occasion. This festival became an annual custom from then on.
When is the Desert festival celebrated?
This festival is an annual winter event. The Rajasthan Tourism Department arranges it for 3 days. The upcoming Jaisalmer Desert Festival is from 7th-9th February 2021.
The Schedule of the Desert Festival in Rajasthan:
The festivity begins with a long procession from the Jaisalmar fort to the ShahidPoonam Singh Stadium. The locals dress up in their traditional colorful attire. The sun shines brightly on the women’s chunars (colorful scarves) faces and the trails of their ghagras behind them. The men walk with colorful turbans on their heads. They depict the tragedies and legends of the desert through songs and dances.
There are different dances, including fire-dance and Gair dance. The nomads of the desert are popular gymnastics they are more commonly known as Kalabaz or Nat. And they show their performance boldly. Bhopa’sLanghas and Manganiars recite Folk-tales, hymns and ballads in the festival. There are competitions like Camel race, tug-of-war, turban tying, Maru-Shri (Mr. Desert competition) also the longest moustache competition.
In addition, the festival also offers the native people to make a business from it. Intricate handicrafts and traditional attires made in handloom are available for the visitors.
The festival also has a Rajasthani folk concert, including Air Force display, cricket match and parachuting.
The festival begins in the golden air of a desert morning. And it ends just as majestically at Purnima (full-moon) night. It ends with the calm and grand sand dunes of the desert. The grand palace of Jaisalmer Fort around the people makes magical-mystical environment of the festival. There is also the famous Kalbaliya dance. It is a sensuous dance performed by both men and women of the tribe named Kalbaliya. They also perform another famous form of dance- the snake dance.
Other Things to Do in this Festival:
A tourist can experience this grand festival and can know about the culture and tradition of the people. One can enjoy the shows and compete in the competitions. It is a wonderful experience to have. A tourist can also shop there. You can buy local handicrafts, dresses, knick-knacks, room décor, locally made leather stuff, bags, footwear, and puppets. You also can buy jewelry made of precious and semi-precious stones and souvenirs made from yellow sandstone.
If one wants to experience more than just the desert festival, they can go on a desert safari. You can also go on an adventurous dune bashing.
Essential Tips for you to enjoy the festival:
- You can rent a tent and stay overnight at the desert, to enjoy the scenic beauty of the dunes.
- Want a luxurious trip? Go to the place in a train called the palace on Wheels.
- As this festival is highly cultural, a little background reading will help you enjoy the festival even more.
Safety Concerns During the Festival:
- The desert environment is dry, so take precaution for that.
- Despite the tourist-friendly environment, there might be risks of theft.
- Fights might break out, and one must stay out of the way when it does.
- It is a festival in which a lot of different cultures inter-mix. One has to be careful to not insult anyone’s beliefs or religions.
- The festival takes place in the dunes. So it is easy to get lost, especially if someone has a child with them.
The desert festival of Jaisalmer is, as you can see, an experience of a life-time. It not only gives one enjoyment and profound happiness but also enriches one’s cultural and historical knowledge. It is a chance to go on a mystical fiesta in the middle of a reputed beautiful desert. You can mingle with the natives and live amidst color, culture and magic for three days.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Are tourists welcome in this festival?
Ans. Yes, they are. Tourism is one of the major industries of Rajasthan. Therefore, the government does all that it can to ensure the enjoyment of tourists from all around the world. There are different travel agencies which provide several tour packages for this festival. So a tourist can choose from different tour packages.
Q. How can one get to Jaisalmer?
Ans. Anyone can go to Jaisalmer by road, air or rail. The road connection of Jaisalmer is very good. One can go by normal buses, luxury coaches, sleeper AC buses, cabs, taxis and private vehicles.
If one wants to travel by air, they have to hire a taxi or a private car. The airport is 5 kilo-meters away from the major city. It also connects to Delhi, Jodhpur and Jaipur.
Travelling by rail is easy. Almost every big city has a railroad connecting it to Jaisalmer. And from the rail-station, one can easily hire an auto rickshaw or taxi-cab to reach his/her destination. The rail-station is two kilo-meters away from the city.
Q. Is Jaisalmer and the desert festival safe?
Ans. Yes, Rajasthan is a very tourist-friendly place. And the government and the natives do their best to make the tourism industry flourish. Because of this mindset, Jaisalmer and the festival are safe for anyone, even a solo female traveler, to visit. Some separate incidents might occur, but it is not the norm there.
Q. Where exactly is this festival held in?
Ans. The venue of this festival is in the grand and regal dunes of the Thar Desert. It is in the Sam Dunes, 42 km from the major city of Jaisalmer. These dunes are majestically beautiful and wondrous. The desert has gained a reputation for tourism over the years. Only for the safari programs and the friendliness of the natives.
Q. How is the weather of the desert at the time of the festival?
Ans. As the festival is in winter, the weather is not exhaustible hot, rather it is most pleasant. The temperature ranges from between 5 degrees to 24 degrees. While it is comfortable during daytime, it is cooler during the night.