It is an old Hindu saying that everyone must visit Pushkar at least once in their lifetime. Among the 400 temples around Pushkar in Rajasthan, the one devoted to Brahma is the only one of its kind in the world. The charm of this sleepy, lakeside settlement so captivated the great Indian poet, Kalidas, that Pushkar found a place in his classic, Abhigyan Sakuntalam. You don’t need to be a devout Hindu to enjoy Pushkar. You can plan a visit just for the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan, one of the most colorful fairs on the planet. Some of the events featured here are a beauty pageant, flat race and musical chairs by Camels!
Jaipur is the nearest Airport, nearly 150 KMs away from Pushkar. If you are coming by Rail, you can get down at Ajmer which is a mere 11 KMs away.
While Pushkar can be visited round the year, the fair is held during October- November.
We need to travel back a few eons to get to the origin of the Pushkar Lake. When the demon Vajra Nabha killed the creator god Brahma's children, he in turn struck him with his weapon, a lotus flower. Vajra Nabha died with the impact, and the petals of the lotus fell at three places. One of them is Pushkar, where a lake sprung into being. Brahma is supposed to have performed sacrifice at this lake on Karthik Purnima (the full moon day of the Karthik month), hallowing the area around Pushkar in present day Rajasthan.
The unique Brahma temple stands on a high plinth with the Marble steps leading up to it. A silver turtle is set on the floor facing the Sanctum-Sanctorum or Girbha-griha. Around the turtle the Marble floor is inset with hundreds of silver coins. Coins engraved with donors names are also embedded in the walls. Peacocks adorn the temple walls as they are supposed to be the vehicle of Lord Brahma's consort Saraswati. A small image of the milkmaid Gayatri, flanks the four-faced image of lord Brahma and is called Chaumurti The sanctuary has silver doors inside a carved marble gateway.
What is in it for you at Pushkar? A dip in the waters of Pushkar and worship at this temple ensures salvation!
There are nearly 400 temples around Pushkar and so I am going to highlight only a few, leaving the rest for you to discover yourselves when you visit Rajasthan.
The Varah temple was originally built in the 12th century at Pushkar, Rajsathan. It was later destroyed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Legend has it that he was upset by the huge idol here of Varah, the god with the body of a man and the head of the boar. The temple was reconstructed by Raja Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 1727.
The Mahadeva temple was built in the 19th century at Pushkar. Many travelers to Rajasthan find it to be quite remarkable due to its elegance of structure and the nature of its ornaments. It is also noteworthy for its white marble Mahadeva image, with its five faces and its traditional tufts of hair.
One of Pushkar's largest and most intricate temples, the Ramavaikunth Temple was built in the 1920's and has beautifully sculpted images of no less than 361 different deities. The ornate outer tower over the entrance is said to have been built by a team of masons specially brought to Pushkar from south India.
One of the mornings, you can trek up to the hilltop to visit Savitri Temple. It overlooks the Pushkar lake and the view of Rajasthan is magical at day break.
The most colourful attraction of Pushar is its world famous Camel Fair. In the month of Karthik each year, a staggering number of camels amble their way across the golden sands of Rajasthan to congregate at Pushkar for the week-long fair devoted to them. The horses that march to this site find the sand-trot an exacting exercise. Numerous cows and sheep also come to the animal fair. When you include the thousands of men and women it’s a riot of colors providing a stark contrast to the bland desert. The men of Rajasthan adorn large colorful turbans while the women are bejeweled from head to toe.
Over the first five days of the Pushkar Fair, camels, horses, cows, goats, and sheep are sold and purchased. There may be protracted negotiations, or sometimes, a quick transaction. A good idea would be to eves-drop on one of the conversations to listen to the seller extolling the long list of virtues of his camel to the prospective buyer!
Womenfolk of Pushkar, as expected have little interest in the business of animals. They are more attracted to the glittering wares in the stalls. The large variety of intricate silver ornaments - hairpins and chains, nose rings and neckbands, cummerbunds, anklets, toe rings and the ivory bangles worn from wrist to shoulder ensnares them! The garments stall sell high fashion upper garments of patchwork and tie 'n' die. Tattoo stalls give many women beauty marks that last a lifetime. Whoever said that the rural Indian Woman is not fashionable, needs to be brought to Pushkar during the fair.
And if the fashion quotient of the rural woman of Rajasthan surprised you, there is more in store. The camels at Pushkar are models personified. They are well prepared for the ramp with handmade saddles to fit every hump, long strings of cowries, beads, colorfully woven saddle-straps, and embroidered back-covers to boot. After a shearing and a scrub, the camel is costumed and even perfumed! I am not sure who the Man from Rajasthan loves more-his camel or his wife!
As the tempo of business goes down, the men folk turn to merriment, for the day of the camel sports is at hand. Camel races are the first event. Usually a lumbering beast of burden of Rajasthan, the camel all decorated in finery, imagines itself to be an ostrich, and rushes through the race like one. Next is an event analogous to musical chairs. Here, as the music stops, the camel is supposed to manage to stick its long arching neck between two poles, each camel owner guiding its entrant by means of a silken cord attached to its nose ring.
Vying for the first place in the beauty contest, splendidly bedecked camels are bought to the ring and paraded to catch the critical eye of keen judges. The gait of the camel, the choice of its equipment and ornament, its capacity to interpret and carry out commands and the variety of pranks it is capable of performing are the criteria of selection.
Karthik Purnima, the day of ritual oblation, is also the closing day of one of the world's most colorful festivals in Rajasthan. Bathing begins at dawn. There is quite a scramble for getting a place on the bathing Ghats of Pushkar, after all the famed waters wash away the sins of a lifetime!
The mystical water is also believed to cure skin diseases, making Pushkar the Lourdes of the east. After bathing, the devotees line up in long colorful queues to take their turn to worship the Creator, Brahma. Romance touches Pushkar on the full moon night, as tiny leaf boats, each carrying flowers and an oil lamp, are set afloat on the placid lake. Twinkling like thousands of stars, their flickering flames reflected in the water, they wink back at the innumerable stars on the desert sky. The next day dawns for the exodus. Long caravans hump their way along, taking many camels to their new homes.
Little does a camel know which master it will serve same time next year after the Pushkar!
For a travelogue on the play pen of Lord Krishna, where he spent his childhood dancing on Kalia the serpent, killing Puthna the demon and where he met Radha for the first time, visit Gokul.