A hundred and fifty kilometers away from the capital city of Jaipur in Rajasthan lies the holy city of Pushkar. For devout Hindus, Pushkar is among the most sacred destinations in India. I wanted to witness the charisma of Pushkar myself, so I planned a trip sometime last month. I took a flight to Jaipur from Bangalore and set out by road to Pushkar, which is a two and a half hour journey from Jaipur.
‘Pushkar’ is named after the lotus flower and is the only place in the world with temples dedicated to Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe according to Hindu mythology. Legend has it that Brahma had destroyed the demon Vajra Nabha with his weapon, the lotus flower. When the demon died, the petals fell onto the land giving birth to the holy Pushkar Lake.
As soon as you enter Pushkar, you can feel its magnetism. The town is dotted with around 500 temples. The sound of the temple bells, the chanting of the prayers by devotees along the ghats of the Pushkar lake, the grunt of the camels on the road, the jostling of tourists, all add to Pushkar’s incomparable charm.
The first place I visited in Pushkar was the Brahma ghat. This is the ghat, where according to legend, Brahma had carried out his yagnas. As I descended the stairs to the ghat, I could feel a certain calm wash over me. At the ghat, you will find pandits who will help you chant prayers and conduct pujas. You can also extend offerings to the Gods.
I sat there, on the banks of the lake for a long time, soaking in the tranquil atmosphere. All around me, people were taking their ceremonial dips, and the smell of incense sticks and burning oil from the diyas filled the air. Even though I didn’t want to leave, eventually I headed towards the Brahma Temple. This is one of the few temples in India dedicated to Lord Brahma and is undoubtedly the most prominent one. The temple with its red spire and peacock-blue pillars was a sight to behold.
Just outside the temple gates, the great Pushkar market unfolds. The market is one of the most colourful and busy street markets I have ever seen. From traditional Rajasthani print dupattas, to handmade trinkets to clay chillums, the market boasts of everything that you could want and then some. The shops are not overpriced and you can even bargain with the shopkeepers. I spent a lot of time checking out the shops and finally settled on a beautiful Bandhani print dupatta and a pair of handmade silver earrings.
Next, I decided to experience the famous camel safari of Pushkar. There are many safari guides all across the town to choose from. Ask a few guides and compare prices to find the cheapest deal because the charges do vary. There are also two options to choose from, you can either sit on the back of the camel or sit in a camel-driven cart. I chose the latter. The safari lasts for about ninety minutes and a guide will accompany you. The route led us to the desert sands on the edge of Pushkar and the great Aravalli mountain range surrounded us on all sides. The sight was absolutely spectacular.
At the heart of the desert, there were banjaras (nomads) who were singing folk songs and dancing to the beats. If you want, you can also dress up in traditional Rajasthani clothes and get your picture clicked.
My safari guide also showed me a temple on the peak of a hill on the left-hand side of Pushkar and very enthusiastically informed me that was the temple where the famous Bollywood movie, Karan Arjun, was shot. He also spoke at length about the famous Pushkar Camel Fair, which takes place every year in the month of November. All throughout the camel safari, I couldn’t help but admire the vast expanse of sand all around me which glittered under the sunlight.
Pushkar On Foot
After my safari ended, I decided to walk around Pushkar. Trust me, the best way to explore the town is on foot! I navigated through narrow lanes, all the while, taking in the wondrous structures around me. I came across one particular structure that intrigued me. It was a dilapidated ancient temple with a lot of stairs leading up to the main gate. The central archway that led to the entrance was magnificent. After reading a small sign-board on the side, I found out that the temple was called Varaha Temple. When I went inside, I figured that restoration was taking place. I really hope that they will be able to restore the temple to its earlier glory because even in its broken state, it was impressive.
A few steps away from the temple is a famous pizza place called La Pizzeria. Travellers say that the restaurant makes some of the best pizzas you will ever taste. But I was not in the mood for pizza that day, so I simply passed it by. Pushkar is home to many eateries which offer foreign cuisines; the reason behind this is many foreigners visit the town and end up living in Pushkar for months.
Pink Floyd in Pushkar
I wandered around for a while before I realized I was definitely hungry. I saw a signboard with an arrow mark that read ‘Pink Floyd Café – This Way’. Being an ardent Pink Floyd fan, I started walking in the direction of the arrow. I finally reached the building that housed the cafe; as soon as I walked inside, I was immediately drawn by the interiors. It is probably the coolest café that I have ever been to. The staff was friendly and you also rent out clean rooms where you can crash for the night at affordable prices.
I went straight up to the terrace, made myself comfortable and ordered some Nutella pancakes. The place has a great ambience and the food was exceptional. The menu is very versatile, from pastas, to soups to Israeli dishes, they have it all. They have a variety of books at the cafe that you can read while you eat. I picked up one and settled in a corner for the evening. When the sun sets and it gets cooler, the café offers shawls to keep you comfortable. I was lazing in my spot, when at exactly 6 pm, I could hear the sound of hundreds of bells ringing together. I asked around and came to know that every day at 6 pm, ‘aarti’ is offered and bells of every temple in the town are rung together.
When the night was drawing in, I knew it was time for me to go. I did not want to leave but I had to move onto the next leg of my trip. As I was leaving, I did promise myself that I would be visiting again and the next time, I would stay for a longer duration. One thing that I learnt during my short trip is no matter how long you stay in Pushkar, it will never be enough because the town makes you feel at home as soon as you arrive. And who has ever wanted to leave home and go elsewhere!
Words and Photos: Manosha Borah
This article was first published in Eclectic Northeast Feb 2018 issue