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OIndia: Bikaner Camel Festival
MARISA DUFFY

If you've ever wondered how much your loved ones would fetch in exchange for camels, now is your chance to find out.
Serious camel traders from across the desert state of Rajasthan descend on the walled city of Bikaner for the annual camel festival on January 13 and 14.

Proceedings kick off with a parade in which the ships of the desert are covered in brilliantly coloured drapes and beading.

The animals prove their worth in a series of races and dance displays (yes, really). At the end of the day, it is the turn of folk dancers to impress with their famous billowing skirts and fire-dancing.

Other sights in Bikaner include the sixteenth-century fort which is distinguished by its 37 pavilions. Once inside, seek out Har Mandir, the church where royal births and weddings were celebrated. Call the Bikaner Tourist Office on 00 91 151 27445 or visit www.rajasthanatoz.com.

Fly from Glasgow to Delhi with Lufthansa from 414 return, www.travelsupermarket.com. Travel from Delhi to Bikaner with Rajasthan Roadway coaches

A lively and colourful event, the Camel Festival is organized by the Department of Tourism, Art & Culture, Rajasthan in Bikaner every year. January is just the right month for a desert spree, and Bikaner just the right place to see the Ships of the Desert. In the camel country Bikaner, these desert leviathans pull heavy cart loads, transport grain and even work at the wells.

The Camel Festival begins with a colourful procession of bedecked camels against the red sandstone backdrop of the Junagarh Fort, the festivity advances to the open sand-spreads of the grounds, followed by the best breed competition, the tug-of- war contest, camel dance and acrobatics, etc.

The camels display amazing footwork, dancing gracefully to the slightest direction of their trainers. Bridal bridles, bejeweled necks, jingling anklets and long, lanky camel shadows on dusky sands cast a magical spell. Hundreds of tourists and thousands of locals and dignitaries revel in this man-and-animal affair.

The evenings close with a different tenor and tempo altogether: a traditional rendezvous of renowned artistes of Rajasthan and the local folk performers. The jubilant skirt-swirling dancers, the awe inspiring fire dance, and the dazzling fireworks light up the fortified desert city of Bikaner.

To learn more: http://www.grouptourstoindia.com/india-fair-festivals/camel-festival.html

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