Run by: Venture Co Worldwide
Reference number: Balotra horse ride
Our ride takes us from Jodphur to the Balotra Horse fair.
Our ride starts on a flat plain the dry riverbed of the River Luni. Theride passes through Vishnoi communities that live by environmentalprotection: the Vishnoi follow 29 principles laid down by Guru Jambhojiwho turned environmental and wildlife protection into a “religion” back in thefifteenth century. The result today is that their lands are beautifully pristine.. The going is slow due to the deep sand and the horses have to work. Thefestival of colour, “Holi” will have just passed and in this regionpeople will still be celebrating with dancing and drum music.
The pace quickens once the sandis behind us and the going is flat and firm. Riders will be surprised at theclean, well-maintained clay houses that we pass by. We approach the AravaliHills and the flora gradually becomes greener and more abundant We . Camp nearthe hills.The route continues towards the hills and we pass scattered Acaciatrees which gradually become small groves and then mixed coppices of Acacia andJaal trees. In the afternoon we pass the village of Mangala and reach Asotra;here there is a marked change: the fields are lush and green and conceal asecret: the Saraswati River has been channeled into an underground aquiferwhich is thought to date from 2,000 BC. This water source is pumped to thesurface and used to irrigate the fields. We camp in lush farmland and ridersare able to meet the villagers and their families in this informal campsetting.
The next day we head off towards the site of the Balotra Fair. A fair held everyyear, in the first fortnight of the Hindu month of “Chaitra” (March or earlyApril) a large fair is held: horses, camels, bullocks and donkeys vie for thebuyer’s eye. Vendors camp in the dry riverbed making temporary homes from camelcarts, acacia bushes and anything else that will keep the dust out and sun off.More prosperous horse owners and traders bring tents and attendant staff, cooksand grooms. These temporary dwellings are called “Aali” in the local dialectand are the heart and soul of the fair. At sunrise and sunset horse ownersdisplay their horses by charging up and down the riverbed; on-lookers andbuyers cheer them on; anyone can make a bid or negotiate the deal; there arefiercely-contested horse-judging competitions; and the fact that Tilwara is theheartland of India’s Marwari breed of horses all combine to make this aspellbinding riding experience.
Buyers come from the Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra topurchase the best Marwaris. And it’s not unusual to see up to one thousandhorses, up to twenty thousand camels and about forty thousand bullocksassembled in the flat expanse of the sandy riverbed.
Overnight a market place springs up around the Aali selling all kinds ofgoods: camel carts, water tanks, earthenware utensils, rugs, ropes, horse tack,camel saddles, colorful girdles, beds, doors, brass, copper and steel pots andpans. You will also find truly bizarre things like recycled conveyor belts,parachute material and musical instruments: this could only ever be rural Indiaat its most delightful! It is a photographer’s paradise and whisks visitorsaway to an atmosphere of biblical heritage!
We have 3 days to explore this exciting fair and on the last we even get the chance to ride around it.
We finally head back to Jodphur and Jaipur by vehicle and reach the end of our adventure.
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