Ambling through the streets of Pushkar, I try to navigate my way to the hotel. Even the Google map is not helpful enough to guide me through these narrow lanes but that is the last thing to be bothered about as the street is crammed with pilgrims, locals, and tourists alike, and all one has to do is ask for directions. Pushkar is a small temple town in Rajasthan and a prominent pilgrim place for Hindus. It is the month of February when the weather is cold and pleasant and I’m here to seek the blessings of God and indulge in the touristy charm of the place.
Walking through the lanes of Pushkar, it’s difficult to not get distracted by the enormous enthusiasm of the place which is evident from its lively streets. The main street, encircling the Lake of Pushkar is the hub of various activities and is a gateway to the majority of the places around Pushkar.
One is always few steps away from the Ghats leading to the Pushkar Lake. The market of Pushkar known for its food, embroidered garments, handicrafts, leather goods, jewelry, etc., is strewn across the whole street while the cafes, hotels, and restaurants announce their way up to the building through large billboards hanging over shops and electric poles. The famous Brahma Temple also resides near the main street.
For those not interested in shopping, the old temples and buildings are most likely to pique one’s curiosity in the history of this old town which finds its place in many Hindu religious scriptures, including thousands of year old epic, Mahabharata. The street also gives a hint of the local lives intermingling with the tourist culture of the town.
Out of many options available, I chose to stay in Lotus/Doctor Alone hotel, situated at Sikar Ghat which is cheap and famous amongst backpackers. The staff is courteous and friendly to cater to the needs of the customers and food is satisfactory. It has a courtyard with a low sitting arrangement, colorful murals, paintings of Indian Gods hanging on the walls and overlooks the lake which makes it a great place to chill, eat, smoke up and enjoy the activities at the Ghats as an observer.
The arches and domes stand tall surrounding the Pushkar Lake with the arid Aravalli Hills guarding at the distant. Most of the ghats are painted in white and shines brightly in the afternoon sun, like a pearl in the crown of Pushkar.
Out of the 52 bathing ghats, there are few main ghats where pilgrims generally flock to take a holy dip in the lake. The small and large temples, sadhus preaching a group of foreigners, the desperate money-making pundits, pigeons, dogs, and cows are some of the regular sightings at these Ghats; whereas the other Ghats reflect the serenity of this divine place. However, this may not be true during the famous Pushkar festival held in the month of Oct-Nov, when thousands of pilgrims congregate to take holy bath in the lake.
Staying close to the lake, I made it a point to bathe every morning in the lake and sit on the steps contemplating and soaking in the soft winter sun. In the evening, Arti echoes all over the lake with lights and diyas lit at the ghats and the whole place comes to a standstill for few minutes offering their obeisance to God. The temple bells and chants preside over all the other chaos infatuating me towards the aura of the place even more.
Lord Brahma is the primary deity in Pushkar and hence, Brahma Temple is the most revered temple. It is amongst the very few temples in India which are dedicated to Lord Brahma- the Creator and considered as highly sacred amongst all of them. It is generally visited after taking a holy dip in the lake. The other famous temples are Savitri and Papmochini Temple- dedicated to the Goddesses Savitri and Gayatri, the consort of Lord Brahma. Both the temples are situated atop hills. I opted to hike to the Papmochini temple.
As the name suggests, the Deity is said to forgive the sins of a true devotee. Besides, it provides the aerial view of Pushkar and introduces us to the barren landscape of the Aravalli Hill Range.
Since Pushkar is a holy town, Non-veg and alcohol are strictly prohibited here. Although, there are a variety of vegetarian options available to savor upon, like Indian, Italian, Pizzas, Israeli, Chinese, etc. Owing to the mass tourism, finding a restaurant according to the budget is no big a deal here. The town is so small that one can wander along the streets and come across various food joints. I tried Dal Bati in a local restaurant and also had street foods like Rabdi Malpua, Lassi and Kachori.
Also, since Pushkar is famous amongst hipsters, the café culture is strong here and I would highly recommend spending time in a café. They are vibrant, creative and have relaxing vibes. I visited Out Of The Blue Café and tried Falafel and Hummus.
One can admire the traces of history, religion, and culture while indulging in the touristic pleasures of shopping, eating, and leisurely exploring Pushkar which makes it so interesting. While the old streets can remind you of Banaras, the café culture feels similar to that of Mcleodganj/Manali/Kasol and the restaurants with the view of the lake can make you compare it with the settings of Goa. Yet, festivals like ‘Kapda Faad’ Holi and Pushkar Fair are unique and can leave one amused with the energy this small town holds. It is filthy and clean, rustic and colorful, chaotic and peaceful- all at the same time!