Mystic sand of Jaisalmer comes alive every year in the month of February with this fascinating dance and music festival known as Jaisalmer Desert Festival. Vibrant with colour and cultural competitions, these festivities mesmerize locals and tourists alike as different facets of Rajasthani culture unfold on a sand dune stage under the light of full moon.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival has evolved from being a local fair to an international fame over the years and now is one of the most famous festivals in Rajasthan. While traditional dances, cultural competitions, camel races and dare devil acrobatics mark the first 2 days ( Held at Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium & Dedansar Stadium), festival ends on a full moon night with folk dance and music display at Sam Sand dunes (~35 KMs from Jaisalmer city).
Cultural Competitions at Jaisalmer Desert Festival
First 2 days mark some unique and traditional competitions which make you laugh and smile while appreciating the local Rajasthani culture. Besides camel race and polo, there is a camel decoration competition in which camels do a ramp walk in front of audiences and judges and finally the best decorated camel takes away the award.
Camel Decoration Competition
The most intriguing of all is the moustache competition with award for the longest and best maintained moustache. And yes, the winner allows you to take pics holding his long moustache and even putting them on your face as your own 🙂
Mr. Desert Competition and Miss Moomal Competition (Miss Desert) are another unique competitions which recognize the most handsome man and most beautiful lady representing Rajasthani Culture in the best manner.
While Indian women have been winning Panihari Matka Race for many years, foreigner women team (decided on the spot from the tourists) have been consistently defeating Indian team in Tug of War :). More than anything, it is the fun and joyful spirit of these competitions that keeps you engaged, smiling and at times even laughing your heart out.
Turban tying Competition
Folk Dance & Music Program at Sam Sand dunes
Each year, Jaisalmer Desert Festival dates are fixed in a manner so that festival ends on a full moon night. A folk music and dance show is organized at Sam Sand dunes in the evening which concludes with brilliant fireworks’ display. You can leave early from Jaisalmer and also visit Kuldhara Deserted Village and Aman Sagar jain Temple on the way. We reached Sam Sand dunes at around 4 PM. Show had not yet started and thus we went on to enjoy Kite flying show.
Camel Safari is another attraction. Show venue is around 1 KM walk from the main road and it may get difficult for you to walk in the sand if you are not habitual. Why not then enjoy camel safari? Your heart comes to your mouth when camel gets up pushing you to the front but once it is up, you start enjoying the ride as you move back and forth with each step camel takes shaking its and yours whole body.
Though initially frightened but we soon adjusted to camel’s movement and started loving our ride. I and Anu took another ride as we went to a far off sand dune and sat there watching the sun set. Our camel owner was a very nice person and he kept telling us stories from his villages and about his camel.
While the stage for the program is set on a sand dune, people sit comfortably on the ground. separate enclosures are erected for locals and tourists with enough space for everyone. Things are superbly managed by local police guiding and ensuring law and order.
Dance and music show is a real treat as folk singers and dancers from different parts of Rajasthan perform under the full moon against the backdrop of picturesque sand dunes. You will get a chance to listen and watch some of the best professional of Rajasthan folk art including famous Gair and Fire dancers.
Folk Song Performance
We thoroughly enjoyed these three days of the festival as we experienced different facets of Rajasthani culture. Enough arrangements were made to avoid any inconvenience to the tourists. Even police and locals were quite helpful whenever we required any guidance or assistance.
Jaisalmer Desert Festival Itinerary
Festival itinerary remains more or less the same every year with slight modifications. Here is an itinerary from the past year editions of the festival –
9:00 AM – 10:30 AM : Shobha Yatra (Ceremonial Procession)
11:30 AM – 02:30 PM : Inauguration, Turban Tying Competition (Indians & Foreigners) Moomal Mahendra Competition, Moustache Competition, Miss Moomal Competition, Mr. Desert Competition.
07:30 PM -09:30 PM : Folk Music & Dance and Fire works display
9:00 AM – 01:00 PM : Camel Decoration Competition, Shan-E-Marudhara Competition, Tug of War Competition Indian v/s Foreigner’s (Men and Women), Camel Polo Match, Panihari Matka Race Competition, Camel Race, Air Warrior Drill Team Show, Akash Ganga.
07:30 PM -09:30 PM : Folk Music & Dance and Fire works display
Day 03 Kuldhara Deserted Village & Khuri/Sam Sand Dunes
04-30 To 08-30 P.M : Kite Flying Show, Folk Music & Dance Program, Fire works display
(Morning Programs are held at Dedansar Stadium while evening programs are held at Shahid Poonam Singh Stadium)
How to reach Jaisalmer
Best way to reach Jaisalmer is through a train. We took an overnight train from Jaipur and reached Jaisalmer on the morning of first day of Desert Festival.
Hotels in Jaisalmer
There are multiple stay options but it is recommended to book your hotels in advance as all good accommodation options gets filled up pretty fast during the Desert Festival. You may consider to stay near to the Jaisalmer Fort as you can visit Fort and other attractions during the afternoon when there are no festival programs. Click below to search for hotels at booking.com-
How to reach Sam Sand dunes on last day
Just for the last day of Desert festival, there are buses (by private tour operators) which ply from Jaisalmer city to Sam Sand dunes. You can book seats in these buses for both to and fro journey. Alternately, you can book a full time cab in case you are looking to take stops on the way (Kuldhara Deserted Village and Aman Sagar jain Temple). We had opted for the second option.
Festival dates change every year so as to coincide the last day with full moon. Dates and itinerary are decided only few months ago and can be found at Rajasthan Tourism website.