Our camel story starts in the Great Thar desert in northern India.
Sir Winslow was in the Thar Desert seeking out sheep's wool that he was going to have woven into beautiful Persian rugs for his manor house back in England. He had heard of a wonderful festival near Jodhpur that celebrated camels and desert life and wanted to see what it was all about.
The desert festivals are celebrated with great zest and zeal. This festival takes place in the winter months. The performers are dressed in brilliantly hued costumes, the people of the desert dance and sing haunting ballads of valor, romance, and tragedy. Sir Winslow enjoyed many things at the fair. His favorite was the snake charmers, his children, of course, loved the puppeteers, Lady Susan was captivated by the acrobats and folk performers.
The Smythe family has seen and even used camels in other parts of the world on their adventures but they had never seen so many of them at once. But before now they had used them as pack animals or saw off in the distance in the wild. Now they were seeing the animals in a new light. The camels play an important role in this festival, they are highlighted and the rich and colorful folk culture of Rajasthan can be seen.
During the Desert Festival, camels play a part to show how important they are to the way of life in the area. They are even competitions for the best-dressed camel so special efforts go into dressing the animal. The children decided they wanted to enter a camel in this event and found a camel who was willing to do his part for the fun of it. His name was Rajput.
The colorful tassels and pom poms of the camel saddle was the place to start. They choose plaid for the blanket and made sure it all matched perfectly. Each of the children then chose a matching traditional outfit so Rajput wouldn’t feel out of place in his finery. He even had “bracelets” setting just above his front knees! They all had a fun time and actually placed high in the ranking.
Other festival competitions include turban tying and who had the best mustaches. Both of these are century old traditions. The competitions help to preserve these honorable things within the culture. There is also much music and dancing. The final night of the festival is the full moon and takes place out in the desert among the sand dunes.
With their new camel friend Rajput, the Smythe family set off to watch the spectacles. It was exciting to see the swirling folk dancers and listen to the beating of the drums. The younger children fell asleep and had to be put up in his saddle to be taken back to the hotel.
Rajput the camel, found a home at the zoo. He came back with Sir Winslow and the family after the Desert Festival was over. Just for fun on nights with a full moon they would all put on their Indian outfits and dance the traditional dances. Sir Winslow would even put on a turban!
The camel in Sir Winslow's Zoo is available here Rajput the Camel