Hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. This adage couldn’t have fit anywhere better than in the case of Lord Brahma himself. For it was the wrath of his wife that ensured that the creator of the world (according to Hindu mythology) has only one temple dedicated to him in the whole world!
And that is what makes Pushkar, a sleepy town in Rajasthan, so famous with tourists and the Hindus. The other reason is the biggest five-day annual cattle and livestock fair in the world that is held here at the village grounds and attracts over a million people from all over the world. The snake charmers, men competing for the longest moustache, women on a husband-hunting mission and photographers looking for the best shot of their lifetime — it all appears like a colourful scene straight out of a fantasy movie.
Sister! do you want a guide to show you around? Only at “20…” markets a young guide. Another little kid nudges at my bag. I look down severely at the two boys, not giving in and pretending every bit to not look like a tourist I am. All in vain. There is no way I can do that, only maintain that this is not my first time in the temple town. “It’s afternoon. Siesta time for the gods. What would you show me about the temple?” I quiz him. The boys give up known that their bluff has been called off.
Instead, I trudge down the road leading to the main bazaar, scouting for beautiful stuff to shop. The temple gates would reopen in another half an hour. I make a mental note to come back.
Located in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan, Pushkar is one of the five sacred dhams or pilgrimage sites for devout Hindus. The sacred waters of its lake are considered to be at par with the waters of the Mansarovar lake that is situated on way to Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva. It is said that Brahma performed penance here for 60,000 years. The Pushkar lake has 52 ghats where pilgrims descend to the lake to bathe in the sacred waters.
The first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak is believed to have bathed here and the tenth Sikh guru, Guru Gobind Singh is said to have visited Pushkar in 1705. Guru Gobind Singh Ghat is named after him. The markets sell traditional Rajasthani wares and I happily splurge only to return to the temple well in time for the evening aarti…
Accommodation is not an issue in this temple town. There are lodgings to suit every pocket — some in the main city overlooking the lake and the others scattered in the town and built on lavish expanse of scrubland. Pushkar reminds you of being a hill town without being one going by the winding roads. Separate temples of Brahma’s two consorts are situated on two separate hillocks and appear to be “looking over” the God, making sure he makes no further mischief. It is said that one must visit the two temples for their visit to be considered successful. My chosen weekend destination is Orchard, an exclusive tented resort run by the Eastbound Group. It is actually an aamla orchard and houses 11 air-conditioned tents (each about 600 sq ft, with a living area, dressing room, bedroom, bathroom and a verandah). The bathrooms are permanent structures equipped with modern amenities.
Well into my second day, back after a good walk to see the sunset, I am torn between crashing out on the welcoming bed inside the cool room and venturing out to explore the baag. I would have given in to the temptation had it not been for a call that pulled me to the “window”. From the jharokha, I could see peacocks calling out to each other. It is such a rare sight, even at any offbeat destination, that I found it tough to break away. Not at least till there was a knock at the door, summoning me for the evening snacks and a dance show.
Pushkar being a religious city (teerth sthan) is strictly vegetarian. Alcohol is also prohibited. This results in the chef offering us indigenous Rajasthani fare to make up for any limitation in food experience. The dance show was the traditional Kalbelia performed by the locals, complete with the blow-fire act. The guests happily joined the belles, aping their thumkas minus any attempt to dance with the matkas. It’s good to know one’s limitations.
The dinner was served al fresco around the bonfire. It being a particularly warm day, I chose to move in to the Golghar, or a circular tent that serves as dining space, offering a 360 degree view of the orchards during the day. I am told it gets very busy during the fair, when the accommodation is tough to find. But that is another couple of weeks to go. Till then, it is best to soak in the silence and bird calls…