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. The ride passes through Vishnoi communities that live by environmental protection: the Vishnoi follow 29 principles laid down by Guru Jambhojiwho turned environmental and wildlife protection into a “religion” back in the fifteenth 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. The festival of colour, “Holi” will have just passed and in this region people will still be celebrating with dancing and drum music.
The pace quickens once the sand is 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 near the hills.The route continues towards the hills and we pass scattered Acacia trees which gradually become small groves and then mixed coppices of Acacia and Jaal 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 a secret: the Saraswati River has been channeled into an underground aquifer which is thought to date from 2,000 BC. This water source is pumped to the surface and used to irrigate the fields. We camp in lush farmland and riders are able to meet the villagers and their families in this informal camp setting.
The next day we head off towards the site of the Balotra Fair. A fair held every year, in the first fortnight of the Hindu month of “Chaitra” (March or early April) a large fair is held: horses, camels, bullocks and donkeys vie for the buyer’s eye. Vendors camp in the dry riverbed making temporary homes from camel carts, 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, cooks and grooms. These temporary dwellings are called “Aali” in the local dialect and are the heart and soul of the fair. At sunrise and sunset horse owners display their horses by charging up and down the riverbed; on-lookers and buyers cheer them on; anyone can make a bid or negotiate the deal; there arefiercely-contested horse-judging competitions; and the fact that Tilwara is the heartland of India’s Marwari breed of horses all combine to make this a spellbinding riding experience.
Buyers come from the Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra to purchase the best Marwaris. And it’s not unusual to see up to one thousand horses, up to twenty thousand camels and about forty thousand bullocks assembled in the flat expanse of the sandy riverbed.
Overnight a market place springs up around the Aali selling all kinds of goods: camel carts, water tanks, earthenware utensils, rugs, ropes, horse tack,camel saddles, colorful girdles, beds, doors, brass, copper and steel pots and pans. You will also find truly bizarre things like recycled conveyor belts,parachute material and musical instruments: this could only ever be rural India at its most delightful! It is a photographer’s paradise and whisks visitors away 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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