They say music is the strongest form of magic. It has the ability to enchant, mesmerize and unite people in a way nothing ever can, afterall it’s the universal language of mankind and I couldn’t agree more!
After witnessing the world’s biggest music festival, Tomorrowland, I was so intrigued by the joy and happiness that this can bring. If you know me personally or through the digital screens you would know that traveling for me is more than just a leisure activity, it’s altogether a way of life. I fancy unique destinations, unexplored spots and fun activities. This zest led me to experience the famous Magnetic Fields Festival in Rajasthan in December 2017.
After living in this magical kingdom for three days I can definitely conclude that for me, it was the best festival experience I’ve had till date, even better than Tomorrowland. All I can say is that I might have just found my annual pilgrimage spot. This was so different in every essence- just like a melting pot of talent, culture, art and music. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have found and cherished an event like this in my own country. Not sure if it was the mystical air, the freezing weather, the dreamy heritage palace or the Bedouin vibe, all I know is that the overall experience was surreal and can’t be tamed within mere words.
It was an amalgamation of all things dynamic, maverick and highly joyous and attending Magnetic Fields only strengthened my belief that exploring different spots, places and cultures across the world is the key to self-discovery. A weekend in this desert festival is something you need to tick off your list. Here are the answers to all the possible queries that you could have along with tons of tips and suggestions.
What is Magnetic Fields?
It is a three day music and art festival held every December right in the middle of a desert in a small village called Alsisar in Rajasthan. Hosting several artists from across the world this is a beautiful mix of contemporary culture and royal hospitality. The festival extends way beyond music; it’s where history, tradition and talent come together to give visitors a surreal and magical escape for letting loose and finding themselves. Since it is set up in the sand dunes of Rajasthan, around the famous Alsisar palace, it’s almost like a Bedouin oasis.
What to expect?
The best underground music, a crazy three day party, lazing in the desert, making tattoos in a teepee, watching the sunset from the rooftop, flying kites, drinking in an underground dungeon, attending secret parties, star gazing, meditating with fellow travellers and dancing the night away in a heritage Rajasthani palace is just a part of the magic you can expect at this festival.
After a smooth four-hour desert drive from Jaipur, we entered the district of Jhunjhunu. Dodging small colourful huts, inquisitive locals and driving through narrow lanes we were so thrilled on seeing a huge palace waving the Magnetic Fields flag. After getting dropped off at the entrance, we dragged our bags and walked in towards the check in counter, which, by the way were super organized. After showing our photo Id’s and giving other details we were allotted our tent number and a lock.
Our hearts raced with excitement as we stepped foot into the campsite. Subconsciously, my brother’s words flashed right in front of me- ‘’The next few days are going to change your life’’ and so they did. As we could see, there were endless rows of beautiful tents and people settling in. Luckily our tent (Premium Bedouin) was the first in our row, a short walk from the entrance. As we tucked in, we quickly grabbed a bite and some coffee to keep us up for the long night.
The entire festival is an amalgamation of music and culture with talent and tradition. Partying in a 17th century palace was nothing short of a dream. Imagine living in the middle of a desert with a crowd that is so disconnected from the outside world. The only element bringing people together is the music, the vibe and the love for living life. With the gorgeous palace as a backdrop, the campsite was a playground for the crazies.
We all used to wake up to the sound of the music, our heads banging in bed and a huge smile on our face. We spent the days lazing around in the desert, hydrating, trying activities in the palace and just chilling with new people. At dusk, we would start getting dressed for the festival and walk to the palace around 8pm. The courtyard gets filled in a blink with DJs playing sets all over. I repeat, the crowd and the vibe was just something else! Although it’s freezing, swaying and grooving to the pulsing music in that weather is an experience that simply can’t be put into words. The lights, the effects and the night gets crazier with the music. As the morning mist rolled in every day, the palace took on a character and faded in the fog, making imaginations turn into reality. As people head back to their tents, they stop by for a bowl of maggi or eggs from the local village vendors. The rest of the day is spent recovering, relaxing and eating.
The third night of the festival was the best! They played the last set in the desert at around 3am, which means the entire party moved to a stage right outside our tent and it was simply unreal. Even the King of Alsisar stopped by in his US Army jeep. The underground music, the pinching breeze and the seclusion from the rest of the world added to the entire experience. The three days spent in this desert were nothing short of magic.
Expect gypsy souls, creative spirits and happy energies from all around India in their best form lighting up Alsisar’s vibe. The crowd comprises of the posh hippies from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and other cities along with fun travellers from all around the world. Since the passes are not cheap, so is the crowd. People are well behaved, super dressy, civilized and a delight to party with. Never have I experienced such a vibe at an Indian music festival. It was sophisticated, classy and so much fun. Everyone had one goal, to let loose and that’s exactly what they did.
There are two types of accommodation provided by the festival.
1) Palace Stay:
The best way to experience Rajasthani royalty is to spend a night in one of these Palace Rooms. The grand courtyards and the magnificent heritage suites give you an opportunity to live like a king for three days. These rooms are likely to sell out first so make sure to book it well in advance.
2) Desert Camping
Adjacent to the palace, about 100 mts away is this huge camping site where they have all sorts of lodging options. This is definitely what I would recommend. These tents are ideal if you want to explore the whole nomad experience in a desert. The best part is that there are various categories to choose from.
My Premium Bedouin Tent:
We opted for the three person premium bedouin tent. It’s an elite camping experience with a super spacious tent that is large enough to accommodate three single beds, adequate space for luggage and a private washroom. This category of the tent has 2 charging points, toiletries, toilet paper, blankets, hot water facility and a relaxed area to sit outdoors. Since the tent is made of cloth it is freezing inside but trust me, that’s what makes this Bedouin experience so memorable.
They also have the classic tents that are smaller in size and have a common washroom for all. If you are low on budget then you can pitch your own tent too. Just keep in mind that there are designated areas for each category and apart from the Premium Bedoiun tents no other tents have a private washroom. Also the premium tents are right in the start of the camping area while the others are deeper inside.
You can also rent sleeping bags from the check in counter. Since we were a group of five, we bought the three person premium bedouin tent and two pitch your own tent packages. But all of us landed up sleeping in one big tent, three on the bed and two in sleeping bags. It was such a great experience as the tent is big enough to accommodate 5 -6 adults.
Our tent from inside
Premium Bedouin Tents
Ticket Prices (2018)
All the prices mentioned below are exclusive of taxes. They include the accommodation and the festival pass only.
2 Person Bedouin Tent– INR 49,000 (A deluxe Bedouin tent with a private bathroom and 2 festival passes)
3 Person Bedouin Tent– INR 57,500 (A deluxe Bedouin tent with a private bathroom and 3 festival passes)
Palace Double Room Package– INR 92,000 (A double room palace suite + 2 festival passes (option to add passes and beds available)
Pitch your own tent: INR 12,000 (Bring your own tent and pitch it. Package includes 1 festival pass and 1 camper pass)
Classic Tent 1 person: INR 17,000 (A classic tent including gear and 1 festival pass)
Classic Tent 2 person: INR 31,500 (A classic tent including gear and 2 festival passes)
Classic Tent 3 Person: INR 44,500 (A classic tent including gear and 3 festival passes)
Classic Tent 4 Person: INR 58,500 (A classic tent including gear and 4 festival passes)
Classic Tent 6 Person (2 compartments): INR 80,700 (A classic tent including gear and 6 festival passes)
Classic Tent 6 Person (3 compartments): INR 80,700 (A classic tent including gear and 6 festival passes)
Festival Pass ( No accommodation): INR 12,000 (Just the festival pass without accommodation)
The Line Up and Stages:
Every single year the line up varies with tons of local and international artists showcasing their talent. This is not your regular commercial gig, Magnetic Fields is all about putting homegrown talent right up in the front. Expect crazy music, mesmerizing effects, a happy crowd and maybe shazam in your hand.
What sets this apart from other music festivals is the beautiful and grand set up. The entire festival takes place in the magnificent Alsisar Palace. The grounds and the gardens are converted into different stages. They are all open air and have a vibe of their own. Just the thought of dancing the night away in a King’s palace is so enticing! People are free to move anywhere in the palace at any given time. If you want to get away from the loud music you can relax in the courtyard, enjoy the folk music, star gaze on the terrace, warm yourself up with a bonfire, sip drinks in an underground dungeon bar or relish a delicious meal in the organic garden restaurant on the rooftop. Honestly, they’ve taken the Rajasthani grandeur and hospitality to another level. It is definitely one of the best underground music scenes in India.
From gourmet rooftop dining to eating maggi at a villager’s stall, Magnetic Fields fed us in a way that no one did. The festival is not only great with art and cultural presentation but also their food selection. The dining options here were divided into three sections:
1) The campsite in the desert where all the tents are located had a huge section allocated to food stalls. From Blue Tokai coffee, milkshakes and coconut water to gourmet thin crust pizzas, pasta, dosas, sandwiches and aaloo paratha, they had it all. I was so impressed to see the quality and the variety of food being served. The stalls were open from 9am to 11pm approx. It was moderately priced, definitely not cheap. To purchase anything from the stalls you first need to buy coupons from the counter worth a certain amount and then head to the stall you like. There is no bar at the campsite, it’s only in the palace.
2) The palace ground had the same stalls as the campsite which are open till 12 midnight. The Blue Tokai coffee is served inside the courtyard where you can indulge in astrology or watch the local dance or just take a tour of the palace while sipping on it. In addition to the food stalls, the palace also had an amazing rooftop restaurant that served organic produce. This is definitely worth trying. There is also an underground dungeon bar which opens up post sunset and a bar right outside each stage.
3) So right between the campsite and the palace is this narrow lane where all the villagers put up their food stalls. This is the best dining option between 1am to 7am. You will get everything from hot maggi, pizza, chips, freshly made egg with bread and hot tea coffee. These stalls are literally open 24/7. It’s the best option to beat those midnight hunger pangs. Also the villagers are so kind, they will even light up a bonfire on request.
A glimpse of the organic rooftop restaurant
Apart from the insane party scene, Magnetic Fields also hosts a zillion classes and workshops to light up the creative soul within you. Since this is also a cultural festival there are tons of other things to do around like kite flying, bonfire talks, folk dance and music, yoga classes, meditation and reiki sessions, relaxed sundown session, treasure hunts and star gazing on the palace rooftop. The festival also hosts a session called Magnetic Words where India’s fine and talented writers, activists and journalists come together to network and share their wisdom.
In addition to all this, there are many shopping stalls in the campsite where you can indulge in some gypsy buys. The entire desert and palace area is open for everyone to come and relax, stare at the pink skies during sunset, make new friends, experience the royal culture and soak in that gypsy vibe.
Left: Dungeon Bar and Right: Star Gazing
Be prepared for the weather:
If I had to pick one thing I loved the most about the festival, it would be the freezing weather. This is not your average winter season, the cold here is going to bite, pinch and pierce you. Rajasthan experiences the extremes of both the seasons, winter and summer. As for the month of December, the city shudders and layers on to beat the cold and here we were in the middle of a desert in a tiny village far away from the city. The days are quite pleasant, you can easily lounge around in shorts but once the sun sets and the sand cools down you might want to run back to your rooms and layer up immediately. The nights are so cold that you need to wear atleast three layers and cover up your neck, head and ears.
The temperature drops drastically after 12 midnight. So when you’re in the middle of the crowd you don’t realize how cold it is until you step foot outside the palace. The 100 mt walk from the Alsisar mahal to the campsite almost felt like a distant dream. It gets so foggy around 5 am that you can’t see at an arms distance. Sleeping in a cloth tent without a heater is almost like a bitter sweet experience. While you might enjoy the cold, a part of you will have tears because even 4 layers, 2 thermal socks, 2 gloves and 2 blankets cannot keep you warm. Trust me, I totally enjoyed this, it was an experience of a lifetime!
What to wear:
The style at Magnetic Fields is just like the weather, light and fun in the day and crazy in the night. Dressing up for this festival can be quite tricky. On one hand you have to layer up to keep warm and on the other you want to add that contemporary and traditional touch. Unlike other music festivals, you won’t find people here in flower tiaras and the regular stuff. This desert rave is more sophisticated, cultural and gypsy.
In the day, the crowd here is frolicking in drapes and bohemian dresses while the nights are spent in faux fur, thick fleece jackets, woollens and chunky accessories. The trick here is to strike a balance between staying warm and still doing justice to the style ethnicity of the location. Since the days are usually warm and pleasant, pick a fun drape dress or shorts but make sure to add a traditional touch to it. You could accessorize it with Indian earrings, jackets, bindis or wear clothes with regional prints.
Once the sun sets, layer yourself up completely. You will need a pair of thermals followed by thick woolies and a warm jacket. Since you’re in a Rajasthani palace lift your outfit with traditional Indian accessories like nose rings, bindis, turbans, maang tikka, bangles, chunky jewellery. Pick shiny, fancy and bright coloured woolen clothes. The crowd here really dresses their part.
I also suggest carrying woollen caps, thick gloves and thermal socks just in case you can’t bear the cold. As for shoes, keep it simple and pick black comfortable flat boots. Anything else will get destroyed in the sand. Do not even think of packing any white sneakers or heels. Comfort is the key here, just let loose, get creative and follow your personal style.
Apart from your general packing list here are a few things that you must definitely carry:
– Portable heater and a thick blanket for those who are staying in a tent. The nights are way too cold.
– Carry portable chargers because the phone battery drains faster in the cold weather.
– Carry an extension cord because all tents have only limited charging points.
– A Bluetooth speaker incase you want to set up the mood in your tent.
– The tent is dim lit so carry a portable light incase you need it.
– Carry your own toiletries and don’t forget medicines incase of emergency.
– Hand warmers will always come to use post 3 am.
– Keep some snacks in the tent to munch on incase you’re too lazy to get out.
Post Festival Drama
After a crazy three day festival when you wake up on the fourth day be prepared for a rushed exit. The organizers literally start unpacking and removing all the tents 9am onwards. All the food stalls disappear even before you wake up. They close down the water supply in the tents after 10 am, making it so difficult to even brush your teeth. The whole point is that they don’t want people to relax and wake up late so they try to rush you out like this. Honestly this was the only disappointing part in the whole festival but since there’s no choice, be prepared- it’s best you wake up early, shower and pack. Also once you walk out of the tent you will not see any porters or any sort of help. You have to drag your luggage through the sand all the way to the car park so make sure to pack light and make prior arrangements for breakfast or coffee.
How to get there?
The fastest and the smoothest way to reach Magnetic Fields is to fly in to Jaipur and then drive down to Alsisar (approx. 4 hours) and that’s exactly what we did. If you’re coming from Delhi then it takes 6 hours by road. If you prefer to travel by train, you can get off at Sadulpar from where you can hail a cab to Alsisar which takes 45 mins.
What I loved:
-The festival setup was well curated. Each and every corner was so beautiful and traditional.
-The vibe of this festival was just out of this world. It was a magical kingdom for hippies, a Disneyland for adults.
– Overall, it was super organized. They had a quick check in, lots of security guards, interesting activities and it was very safe .
-I was so happy to see a variety of eating options. It just made the entire experience event better.
– If you don’t feel like partying, there are tons of other activities that would interest you.
– The festival showcases India’s forward and creative community
– The ticket price includes the accommodation and festival passes only.
– You might not find an ATM around so carry sufficient cash.
– They have a paid parking lot next to the campsite
– I recommend staying in the tent for a real Bedouin experience.
– Is there hot water facility?
In the Premium Bedouin Tents hot water is available but has fixed timings.
– Can we book our own accommodation close to Alsisar palace?
Yes of course you can, then all you need are the entry tickets to the festival. You will also have to arrange for your transport to and fro.
– Is it extremely cold in the tents?
This totally depends which part of the world you come from. For me and my friends, this place was freezing! Incase you’re worried about that you can pack a portable heater for your tent.
– Is the festival worth experiencing?
Absolutely! I’ve shared my entire experience above and would highly recommend Magnetic Fields to everybody.
Where? Alsisar Mahal, Alsisar, Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, India
When? Every December
Started in: 2014
Capacity: More than 3000