Pushkar: A Changing World

in Image Gallery
Published on: 19 July 2018

Dinesh Khanna and Yashaswini Chandra

Dinesh Khanna is a photographer who uses the medium to explore the life and times of India and its peoples. He has travelled extensively in India for over four decades, and still comes back from every trip surprised and inspired. His photographs have been shown in solo and group shows, featured in magazines, and he has done several solo photobooks. He is presently working on a book on Varanasi based on a lifetime of work and a long-term project on cotton farmers who have adopted organic cultivation. He is also an expert consultant with Sahapedia.

Yashaswini Chandra in a historian specialising in the arts and cultures of Rajasthan and the western Himalayas, who has been associated with Sahapedia since its inception. She is presently writing a book on horsemanship in Rajasthan.

Dinesh and Yashaswini have previously collaborated on two books of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Series, 'Right of the Line: The President’s Bodyguard', which is also about horses, and 'Life at Rashtrapati Bhavan'.

The animal breeders and traders at the last livestock fair in Pushkar were a malcontented lot, their wizened faces, under colourful turbans, lined with worry. Old hands at Pushkar, they had been witnessing the decline of the mela since at least the 1990s with increasing mechanisation, even as Pushkar was growing in fame as an exotic Indian tourist destination and a mecca for photographers from all over the world. The mela hit a new low in 2017 when the government banned the entry of horses. A horse had died of the deadly glanders disease in a nearby village and the government was not prepared to risk an epidemic. A few defiant horse breeders and traders grumbled as they pitched their solitary tents on the sandy mela grounds, and tethered their horses to weathered neem and jhand trees. They petitioned the government and protested—one of them even threatening to jump off the RCC overhead water tank at the grounds and become their cause célèbre—but plenty of others stayed away. The grounds bore a deserted look and an air of gloom hung over the place. Skeletons of wooden poles for pitching tents stood uncovered like the bare bones of the fair.