Nothing really distinguishes the town of Pushkar, about 14km from Ajmer. But come October, Pushkar comes alive with the annual five-day Pushkar Mela, a hub of ash-smeared sadhus, awe-struck foreign tourists, and over-enthusiasitic vendors.

A combination of religious fervour and cultural vibrancy, the Pushkar fair is a blend of faith and commerce. With activities ranging from turban tying, bride decorating and mehendi to animal races, it is exotic India in encapsulated in five days.

Aruna Roy

The festival will bring writers, poets, book lovers, publishers, performers and storytellers together to add to the mesmerizing riot of colours. It will revolve around Indian voices and identity. According to Mita Kapur, director of Siyahi, “Although a local cultural festival, the Pushkar fair today attracts thousands of foreigners as the fair gives them an opportunity to experience ‘India.’ Keeping this in mind, we decided not to choose a global or international theme. We will give tourists the best of India."

The festival seeks to explore the convergence between contemporary literature and folk lore, oral traditions, legends, myths and languages, which define the spirit of Pushkar. It will include sessions such as Parikrama (travel), questions from the Mahabharata (mythology), Kavya and Shayari (poetry) and Katha Kahani (oral folk tales) among others. Kapur explains this selection, “To us literature is not just about books. We include everything from written work to oral tales and traditions, theatre, music, art and textile in literature. We reinvent and recreate literature to reflect the pulsating activity and ambiance."

The literary world is as excited about this new addition to their calendar of events. "It sounds really exciting, it’s wonderful to think that it will soon be a sahitya parikrama and literary pilgrimage as well and I am sure that like all other literary fests the Pushkar festival will also evolve its own identity soon." said Namita Gokhale.

For a complete schedule, visit Siyahi

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