Kolayat Festival is one of the grandest fair celebrated in the state of Rajasthan. Organized in the Hindu calendar month Kartik, the festival attracts thousands of tourists for both religious and cultural factors.
The festival is named after the great Kolayat lake, situated in Bikaner, around which the festivities take place. The area where the lake is situated too is called by the name Kolayat, though originally it was named Koaystan after Sage Kapil.
The lake has a great significance in the lives of people of Bikaner. It is one of the few water bodies the district is blessed with, being situated on the edge of the great Thar desert and consequently having semi-arid geography.
Though the lake has geographical significance, its importance is more so in the sphere of culture and history. As per a Legend, a great sage named Kapil Muni, also considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, had meditated here for the redemption of mankind. There is also shrine dedicated to the sage on a Ghat that too is named after him- the Kapil Muni Ghat.
It is from this Kapil Muni Ghat the festivities of the fair begin, though all the other fifty one ghats surrounding the Kolayat lake too are included in the celebrations. Devotees from around world gather on these fifty-two Ghats and take dips in the holy water of the lake. Doing so is considered auspicious especially on the day of full-moon of Kartik month, around which the festival is held.
Beginning from the early morning and throughout the day of full-moon, visitors perform all the different kinds of worshipping rituals. They make offerings made of coconut, sugar drops, sugar cubes, and dry fruits to the sage, participate in the Aarti, and take holy bath in the lake.
Late in the evening, all the visitors attend the grand evening or Sandhya Aarti and float lighted oil-lamps in the sacred lake in a ritual called Deep-Malika. This particular practice formulates one of the most charming sites of the festival. Thousands of lighted lamps float on the still waters of the lake creating a vista resembling that of stars on the dark sky of clear night.