Organisers of Asia's biggest donkey fair in a Rajasthan village are thinking up new ways to attract people to the 500-year-old mega-event, which has lost out considerably due to advancements in technology.
As many as 1,200 donkeys and horses have arrived in Looniyawas village, about 20 kms from Jaipur, to participate in a beauty contest.
"The fair has lost its old glory due to the advent of new technology. In a bid to rejuvenate the spirit of the event, we have decided to organise a special fashion parade of donkeys. The best candidates will be awarded the title of Mr and Mrs Donkey," said BS Rajawat, president of the All-India Donkey Development Mela Committee that organises the fair every year.
Prizes are also given to people who bring the largest number of donkeys or the best-bred variety. Donkey and horse races will also be held to make the fair more exciting. All participating donkeys would be beautifully ornamented.
The three-day fair that started on Saturday, is thronged by donkey breeders and traders from various parts of the country.
But the fair has lost out on the number of buyers who flocked the village for trading, said Rajawat. "We used to get traders from as far as Afghanistan and places like Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh," Rajawat said.
This year, the beasts of burden brought to Jaipur are also fewer in number. Over 2,000 animals had reached Looniyawas for sale and purchase in 2005.
Also, buyers now prefer purchasing horses to donkeys as they have more utility value. "I have come to buy a horse," said Kamal Meena. "Horses give me better returns then donkeys as they can be used for riding and in marriages."
Ram Singh, a trader from Gujarat, blamed the increased use of tractors and motor vehicles for the declining interest in donkeys.
"I have been attending this fair for over 15 years. Earlier, business used to be brisk with a rush of buyers and sellers but it has become really dull now. People have bought tractors and other machines and don't need donkeys any more for farm work."
The prices of donkeys have also fallen. "Earlier, a donkey used to sell for around Rs 10,000-12,000. Now it is hard to sell one at even Rs 1,000-5000," said Rajawat.