Burning Man is not a festival or a carnival in the true sense of the terms. It is actually, a very popular weeklong annual event that takes place in a temporarily created city in the heart of the Black Rock Desert of Nevada in the United States of America.
Burning Man was initially held 1986 on the Baker Beach in San Francisco as a small function, organized by a group of friends under the leadership of Larry Harvey and Jerry James, attached to the San Francisco arts community. They burned an eight feet tall wooden effigy of a man on the beach, in the presence of about twenty people, in celebration of the summer solstice. However, it has a history. Sculptor Mary Grauberger, a friend of Harvey's girlfriend Janet Lohr, used to celebrate solstice bonfire before the selected gatherings, years before 1986, on the same beach for several years. In connection with his girlfriend, Harvey also attended some of them and when Grauberger stopped organizing the event, Harvey took the lead to continue it. Along with Jerry James, he built the first wooden effigy and torched it in the evening of 21st June, 1986. In fact, they named the event Burning Man, as it started on the summer solstice.
Over the next four years, starting from 1986, Harvey and James returned to the site with increasingly taller effigies and expanding crowds. However, in 1990, the police intervened at the last minute, when a huge 40 feet tall colossal effigy was being prepared for immolation at the beach location and they forbade the structure from being set ablaze. Consequently, the event was shifted that year to the Black Rock Desert, where the effigy was burned in early September, on the Labour Day weekend. After the relocation of venue, the festival never never returned to San Francisco or to the solstice. It made the desert its long-term home, Labour Day its ceremonial date and derived its name from the ritual of burning a gigantic wooden effigy at the end of the event.
Over the next two decades the Burning Man festival expanded dramatically. As the attendance rose aggressively to more than fifty thousand, its duration was extended to span the entire week proceeding Labor Day, with ignition of the effigy regularly scheduled for the Saturday before the holiday. Each year, a new temporary city is created in the desolate desert , complete with named streets, villages, and camps to accommodate all the indulgent people, who gather together to shed the conventions and inhibitions of the human society. And after the end of the festival, all the participants leave the place without leaving a single trace and the city becomes completely obliterated.
Since then the event is organized by a non-profiting organization, the Burning Man Project. It is expected that, there should not be any spectator or visitor on the location and everybody should participate. The festival encourages every participant to discover and rely on his/her inner resources and at the same time, contribute something to the theme of the particular year. It wishes everyone to learn the value of cooperation and collaboration.
Every year, the Burning Man festival adopts a new theme, which is announced well in advance and accordingly, all aspects of the festival reflect that particular theme. When the theme is ‘Body’, the streets of the city are named according to the different parts of the body, like ‘Head Way’, ‘Feet Street’ or ‘Leg Lane’.
There are no specific rules and regulations for the participants, all are free to live those seven days in their own way, with no restriction on clothing, eating and boozing. Selling of any food product is prohibited, except the official outlets coffee and ice. Friendly bartering bartering of goods between strangers is always encouraged. As the daytime temperatures are sweltering, most of the people do not wear much more than they would at the beach. However, some people wear weird costumes or out of the world outfits, which are a huge part of the culture. While some people are in tuxedos and tutus, others wear nothing but body paint. In fact, compared to some of those extremely crazy, elaborate outfits, nudity is not all that noteworthy in the festive arena.
During the days of the festival, the art section becomes an exhibition arena of attractive items, which are gifts from the artists to the community. The items include small to large and very large installations. The weird or the stunningly altered and oddly modified motorized vehicles, created by the participants, are the star attractions of the Burning Man festival. However, prior submissions of the respective designs are compulsory for the necessary approvals from the authorities. Permission should also be obtained to bring their mutant vehicles at the event.