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DISCUSSION ON AND ANALYSIS OF THE ROLE AND EVOLUTION OF EVENTS AND THEIR IMPACT ON SOCIETY: THE BIKANER CAMEL FESTIVAL CASE STUDY
Events do have significant impacts on society- not just in the immediate time and even the people directly taking part in the event, but also in the wider context. The tourism sector, generally, has been found to have major impacts on society, from social to economic dimension, among others. According to Simoni and Mihai (2012), there are many benefits to enjoy throughout the various functions of the tourism sector: “planning, organizing, coordinating, training and monitoring-evaluating” (p.4). In agreement, Esmeil and Esmeil (2013) argue that the tourism industry can contribute positively to various areas of the economy and impact the lives of the host communities in many other ways, including social and cultural aspects.
However, that is mainly speaking about the general impact of the tourism industry. The main focus in this case, however, is how specific events within the tourism sector can have significant impacts on society. Esmeil and Esmeil (2013) note that In this regard, this paper is a case study on the Bikaner Camel Festival (an annual festival in the Bikaner desert dedicated to the camels) and how it has impacted on the lives of the host community.
In this regard, this paper will examine a number of aspects related to the event: its origins and how it has developed over the years (including the main objectives of the organizers and how roles in the event may have changed over the years); sources of funding; impacts on the society (including social and economic impacts); as well as the relationship between the event and the environment (especially discussed within the scope of sustainability theory and practice, among others), etc.
Bikaner is a famous desert in India, and deserts (especially across the Middle east and Asia) are largely synonymous with camels, which form the main form of transport in such environments. The Bikaner festival is an annual festival that, for at least once in a year, recognizes the camels. Camel craftsmen and traders come from across Rajasthan and converge for the festival. As already noted, the festival is mainly about the camels, which form the main source of entertainment. These camel-based activities include camel racing, camel milking, camel acrobatics, fur-cutting design, camel beauty pageants and best breed competition, among others. Moreover, the celebrations also include folk performance by local and traditional artistes. There is a lot of eating (including snacks and tea prepared from camel milk), souvenir shopping, sight-seeing, among others. Other accompanying ceremonies include performances by fire dancing, skirt-swirling dancing and fireworks lighting.
Today, the festival attracts tourists from various parts of the world.
The festival’s opening ceremony usually starts with the parade of camels decorated beautifully in bright colored clothes and jewellry. This is in itself a beautiful performance, especially considering the color against the red backdrop that is the Junagarh Fort. The procession of beautiful camels walks into the open sand grounds where the performances start officially. The festival starts with the beauty pageant, with the owners showing off the clothes and jewelry decorations.
Origins and Development of the Bikaner Camel Festival over the Years: the Potential Evolution of Roles, Objectives and Motivations behind the Staging of the Event
Bikaner was for many years an inaccessible place. Before modern motor vehicles came into being, the natives depended primarily on the camels- calling the ‘ships of the desert’- for transportation. Back then, like today, camels were appreciated for their endurance, as well as strength, which enabled them to travel long distances and across lands that may be unfavorable for humans alone. The camels transported not just people, but also big loads of goods.
Even to date, the camel is a symbolic for the Rajasthan people, forming an inexplicable part of their identity. Without the camel, Cushan (2010) reports, it would have been impossible for the Rajasthan people to do many essential things, including settlement, trade, transportation and communication. There are even stories of a Bikaner army that had elite camel corps that went by the name of Ganga Risala. This elite corps is said to have taken part in both the First and Second World War and stayed even after independence, taking part in the Indo-Pak wars. Back and even to date, Bikaner is the only camel breeding region in the whole of India. In other words, camels were merely a part of life. They happened to be a natural part of the people’s environment and they used them to do whatever was essential to do to make life possible.
However, over the years, the camels have changed from being just a natural part of the people’s lives, but also a way to reach out to the outside world. In this regard, the camel has become a symbol to flaunt to those who do not know the region, becoming a way for the Rajasthan people to assert their uniqueness by using the most conspicuous symbol of that uniqueness. In other words, the people realized the camel did not just have to be a local symbol, but that it could also draw foreigners into the ir own communities.
For example, many industries in Rajasthan have maintained this symbolic importance of the camel in the region and for the people. The Rajasthan Tourism Department, for example, uses a camel as its logo. The department has also used romantic images of camels in its campaigns of an ‘incredible’ India. On the same note, the Government of Rajasthan, through the Department of Tourism, Art and Culture, organizes and hosts the Bikaner Camel Festival annually.
The main objective of the event is to boost tourism in the region, but also in the country. For the region, the camel festival provides away to preach their uniqueness and give tourists something different from what they may get elsewhere in the country and even in the region. Once they attract the tourists, the festival is a platform for showing off the host communities’ culture(s). But most importantly, the festival provides a source of income for many of the people. The event benefits other sectors of the economy in the country and region.
For example, the to tourists use various of transportation to get there, including trains and cars (through car rentals and even tour guide companies). There are also many hotels for the tourists who visit the area: Hotel Bhanwar Niwas, Hotel Lalgargh Palace, Hotel Gajner Palace, Hotel Raj Vilas Palace,Maharaja Ganga Mahal, Gaj Kesri Hotel and Karni Bhawan Palace, among others. All these, among others, provide employment for the people from the immediate communities, but also from others places in the country and even from other parts of the world. In other words, the event, among others, benefits various other parts of the economy.
Use and Influence of Technology
Technology has played a key role in the development of the Bikaner Camel Festival. For example, as already mentioned above (under background information section), the region was once inaccessible to the outside world. Motor cars were not yet invented back then. But even if they would have been there, the cars that were there at the time might probably have not managed to deal with the terrain. However, in recent years, motor cars have managed to get to the region with much trouble. There are clearly set out routes that people can use to get to the area and the festival. There are also other modes of transport. For example, people coming from further away or would like to avoid a long journey can fly in through the Jodhpur Airport (which is only 253 km). For there, they can take taxis, tourist buses or even state roadways buses, which can then take then to Bikaner. The journey takes just about 7 hours. One can also rent cars through reliable travel agents or tour operators. Rail is also an alternative mode of transport. There is extensive rail that lead to Bikaner from various places across the country, including Jaipur, Delhi, Allahabad, Kalka, Jodhpur and Calcutta, among others. In these respects, technology has helped to open up the Bikaner to the outside world, making it easy for the people in the adjacent communities to reach other parts for India and even the world beyond, but also making it possible for people from the outside world to reach the area.
Another technology that has contributed to the development of the event as a global event is the internet. The internet has enabled the marketing and advertisement of the event to the outside world. The Tourism Department has used the internet to sell the event to the counties that are main sources of tourists from India. There is even a website dedicated to the event (camelfestival.com). Other advertisements are not by the Department of Tourism alone, but also by other online news agencies. For example, a CNN online column (at http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/top-desert-activities-717094) on desert tourism events included the story of Bikaner Camel Festival (among other events in Egypt, China, Namibia, United Arab Emirate, Arizona and Nevada (United States) and Peru. The internet means that more and more people have come to know about the Bikaner event. This may explain why the number of tourists attending the Camel Festival has been increasing relatively steadily over the years.
Also related to the technological factor above is the advent of mobile phones (especially smart phones). Unlike computers, mobile phones are owned by many people. At the same time, the use of mobile phones to access the internet (including social media) has since surpassed the use of computers for the same thing.
Ultimately, these technologies, among others, have increased the interaction between the people of Bikaner and even the wider Rajasdhan region and the outside world. Although there are no concrete data on how this may have influenced the lives of the local communities, some are just naturally expected. For example, there has been some influence in lifestyle, including foods, dressing, partying habits, among others. But most importantly, the arriving tourists have provided economic opportunities to the people. In other words, technology has helped promote the event and by that, technology has provided the people economic opportunities. Again, this shows an interrelatedness of factors.
The Bikaner Camel Festival and Environmental Sustainability
Today, the environment has become a key focus in nearly every area of the economy. The key question that most- if not all- people ask of countries, organizations and events today is how they impact on the environment and how to mitigate and/or deal with the negative impacts. Bikaner, for example, records some extreme weathers throughout the year. The place has very little rainfall (just between 260 and 444 millimeters in a year) and records extreme temperatures (which can exceed 450C in the summer and fall to below freeing during the winter. Therefore, the question of the environment, especially in the face of global warming and climate change, is a relevant one.
Generally, environmental sustainability focuses on making sure that the present generation uses the environment and other resources in such a way that it does not hurt the future generations’ access to and use of the same. In this regard, it is important for the organizers of the Bikaner Camel Festival to adopt initiatives to ensure sustainability (Alvord et al. 2004; Klak & Ross 2008).
There are many ways in which the event may impact on the environment, either directly or indirectly. First, being a desert, the area’s soil is more prone to erosion. The event, in itself, can significantly contribute to increased soil erosion. There are also aspects of using sustainable energy source during the festivals. Other possible sources of environmental degradation during the event include littering (such as the use of non-biodegradable plastic bottles and even littering). There are also other indirect sources of environmental degradation which still relate to the event. This includes the carbon emission related to the transportation of tourists to and from the event. Equally, the hotels hosting the guests attending the events also face challenges with managing resource use, such as use of water and energy for the guests. According to Bohdanowicz et al. (2001), for instance, hotels are some of the most water- and energy-intensive sectors. This means the hotels around the area contribute significantly to the environmental degradation in the region.
However, one of the most alarming issues of unsustainability that are more likely to impact the event negatively are the dwindling number of camels in the region (Cushan 2010). The official Livestock Census Data (cited in Cushan 2010) shows that the number of camels in the region has been declining. For example, the official Livestock Census Data showed that, in 1997, there were 668,000 camels. Just 5 years later (i.e. 2003), this number had fallen by 24 percent (to 498,000 camels). This number decreased further to 430,426 camels by 2008. That is another 13.5 percent decrease in another 5 years. Cushan (2010) attributes this to the selling of female camels for slaughter due to the increasing prices of meat. Holistically, Cushan (2010) attributes this to the fact that the government has largely ignored the role of the camels in the economy of the local dry land and livestock production. On the contrary, Jaisalmer, the only District in the region, to record an increasing the number between 2003 and 2008, has been able to implement new initiatives aimed at providing camel breeders with new economic perspectives and knowledge, as well as availing low cost animal health treatment. Indeed, the case of Jaislamer shows that sustainable initiatives can mitigate the negative impacts of activities in the region.
One step towards ensuring that that the event remains sustainable for the community is to mitigate this loss of camels in the region. Without the camels, there is no event to speak of, which would be a major loss for the region’s tourism. The first step is for the government to recognize the role of the camels in the event and how the event contributes to the livelihoods of the people, both directly and indirectly. This will help mobilize the government towards the goal of sustainability. Secondly, there is need for an effective stakeholder management. The premise of stakeholder management is that the more people involved, the better the chances of success in ensuring sustainability (Alvord 2004; Altonen 2010; Pernille & Martina 2013). In this regard, there are many stakeholders who all can have a crucial role to play. The primary stakeholders include the organizers (the Department of Tourism), the came breeders (who take part in festivals), camel owning farmers, camel safari drivers and camel milk sellers, among others. Other stakeholders include those who do not own camels but whose lives the festival still impacts, socially and economically. All these stakeholders can unite towards specific initiatives for the protection of the camels. These include (Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan 2004):
Declaring the camels as State Animals in the region of Rajasthan
The protection and goo maintenance of Orans (groves that provide essential nutritional foundations for the camels
Provision of cheaper veterinary services
Availability of information
Most importantly, the government must focus draw other participants (including hotel owners and managers) towards a holistic approach to sustainability in the region.
In conclusion, the main aim of this paper was to show how events, although seeming isolated from the other aspects of the society, do actually have more far-reaching impacts on the society than just in the immediate context. Using the Bikaner Camel Festival as a case study, this paper shows that events do have more social and economic impacts on the society. For example, the Bikaner Festival was once only a local event, a way for the people to celebrate the Camels, which have been key to the people’s social and economic lives over the years. However, as the world has continued to open up, the government has seen the potential of the event to be a more important institution, especially in its tourism industry. With the help of technology (newer modes of transport, the internet, mobile phones and social media, among others), the event today attracts more people from the outside world. This has allowed an interaction of cultures, which may have rubbed off the local communities and the people (including eating habits, dressing, among others). The event may also impact on the environment (such as through water and energy use in the hotels hosting the guests), just as the environment may impact on the event (such as dwindling numbers of camels). Therefore, there is need for the government to undertake sustainable tourism in the region and ensure the positive benefits of the event stay for the future generations to enjoy.
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