Rajasthan, the largest state in India, is mostly made of up desert, and the largest city in that desert, Bikaner, hosts a yearly Camel Festival every January which features the familiar desert beast. There is camel racing, camel parades, and even camel contests, and the best part of all this is the way the native Rajputs have decked out their camels with elaborate draping, buckles, saddles, and more.

The Rajputs are so serious about their camel decor that contests for camel design are held– this doesn’t mean just judging the mirrored trappings on the camels, but the actual patterns that have been carefully shaved, trimmed, dyed, and styled in the camel’s coat. I’ve sourced the photos below from two different Flickr accounts, and they each do a great job succinctly describing the festival and its camels. From Flickr user Osakabe Yasuo:

The job takes about 3 years to make an engraved tatoo for an individual camels. First 2 years, there is just growing the hair and starts trimming. Inhabitant of desert does not use the iron engraved for the camels. They just cut and dye the camel hair. I have never seen such a beautiful works in the world.

From Flickr user Steve Hoge:

Though co-sponsored by the tourist authorities, this is very much a traditional local festival, and we were privileged to be among the few foreigners attending.

The first day of the festival consisted of a parade and other activities held in the city stadium; the 2nd day’s festivities took place near the desert town of Ladera, where a camel racing track was laid out and stages set up for music and dance performances. The images here are from both days of the festival.

The camels don’t look the least nonplussed about their fancy, bright trappings– if anything, they have rather dignified looks on their faces, despite their awkward gait and extravagant clothes. Bikaner is now on my wishlist of places to go! [Via Neatorama.]

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