Pushkar is a small town on the outskirts of Ajmer, right in the middle of Rajasthan, with a population of few thousand residents. It is world famous for its Pushkar festival that happens few days after Diwali every year for 5 days. Festival has put Pushkar on the tourist map of the world and millions of people flock this city every year to see animals being traded, to enjoy showcase of local culture through dance and other performances and to camp on grounds around this small city. Pushkar mela is a great example of its kind of tourism where the world converges on its ground for 5 days and the rest of 360 days people prepare for these 5 days.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Royal Rajasthan – V: Pushkar
Pushkar is a town established around Pushkar Lake. This mid sized lake is surrounded by 52 ghats. All of them are in sparkling white color and most of them built in typical Rajputana architecture. Various royal families have built ghats over a period of time. As of now there is not much water in the lake, and the lake in under cleaning to prepare it for the next Mela. But when it is full of water, surrounded by magnificent white ghats, it would make a splendid view. The small canopy in between the lake looks beautiful and can do without the audio equipment fixed on it in as unaesthetic way as possible.
Just as it is common in pilgrim places in India, as soon as we reached Pushkar, we were taken to a ghat by a young boy who claimed that he charges nothing and he lives to serve the devotees who come to see this most sacred place in the world. The ghat is called Brahma ghat and he told us the story of how Brahma wanted to perform yagna at this lake, but yagna needed him to be accompanied by his wife Savitri who could not be present at that time. On a whim, Brahma married Gayatri and performed the yagna with her. Savitri obviously did not like this and cursed Brahma that he would not be worshipped anywhere else except in Pushkar. This story is the basis of Pushkar’s claim of having the only Brahma temple in the world. This claim can be questioned, as there are other Brahma temples, but it true that they are a rarity as compared to the temples of his other counterparts Vishnu and Shiva. Another legend associated with this place is that Lord Rama did the “Pind Daan” of his ancestors here during his exile, and since then people come here to do the same for their ancestors so that they attain ‘mukti’ or freedom from the cycle of birth and death. This is why this place is also called Tirthraj Pushkar. We were also told that in Pushkar the main diety is the holy water of the lake and not any idol, though there is a proper temple dedicated to Brahma here. This makes this place comparable to Haridwar and Prayag, where also water is the holy element and the worshipped.
If you are around the lake, many priests will offer to help you do pind daan for your ancestors, using the holy water of this lake. Pooja can take anywhere from 5-60 mins depending on how much time and interest the Pandit can sense you have. At the end of the Pooja, he would ask you to commit some money to the charitable organizations there, which would complete the Pooja. This is not required in any ritual in Hinduism to specify the money you would pay. You are always expected to pay as much as you want and if you want.
There are beautiful bazaars around the ghats and the temple. It is said that this small place has more than 1000 temples. You would need to stay there for few days to be able to visit all or even some of them. Most temples are not old, some of them are restored as they were destroyed during the Mughal reign. If you like trekking, you can climb up to the Savitri temple on top of a hill, I could not go there but am sure the view from there would be amazing, specially if you can see the lake surrounded by its white ghats. Brahma temple is a simple temple with an ancient Shivalinga in its basement. Literature places its date somewhere in 15th century. You are not allowed to carry any bag or electronic item so legally you cannot take pictures here. We were also told that Pushkar is a completely vegetarian place and no non vegetarian food and alcohol is allowed here, but I seriously wonder if this dictum is followed during the festival.
The road to Pushkar from Ajmer is picturesque, as you cross the small hill separating the two cities. You get to see the city of Ajmer from the hilltop on side and Pushkar on another. There are many small monuments that you would see in between, some of them very obviously belonging to mughals, but unfortunately not many people would be able to tell you much about them as they lie abandoned for ages. The group of monkeys would meet youat turns on the hills as if waiting for you give them Prasad. There are a number of resorts and hotels that are coming up around Pushkar, probably propelled by the popularity of its festival. It is still a small town and it is a nice place for a peaceful vacation if the dates of your vacation are not too close to festival.
I look forward to going there again and exploring it at leisure sometime.