Pushkar, a little desert town, known for its sacred lake and for being the site for the only ‘Brahma’ temple in India. It lies in a narrow valley surrounded by Aravalli hills and the sand dunes. Apart from its holy identity, it is also famous for its annual cattle fair on kartik Purnima (full moon), it falls post Deepawali during a few days in November.
It is believed, that the tranquil waters of Pushkar lake is said to possess magical powers for a few days during the full moon in November, so on the full moon day, thousands of devotees take holy dip in the lake to experience the magical power of the water.
As per the Hindu mythology, Brahma (the creator) was looking to have a place for his dham (abode), his lotus petals fell on earth and the waters sprang up to form the holy lake of Pushkar. So, brahma descended to this lake amidst the sands and meditated to perform a yajna (sacrificial ritual) to consecrate the spot. Brahma asked sage Narada to bring his wife Savitri, whose presence was essential at the ceremony as the auspicious moment was drawing near. While Savitri dressed and prepared in style, brahma fretted and gradually became enraged at the delay and asked Indra to find him a wife as the auspicious hour would pass. Indra found him a milkmaid called Gayatri. When Savitri arrived, she was so incensed by what she saw, that she cursed brahma that he would not be worshiped anywhere on earth except at Pushkar and that too only on one particular day in a year. Later, she left for the Ratnagir hill and immolated herself. Today a temple stands at the spot.
The snake mountain (naga pahar) separates the valley from present Ajmer. Around thousand years ago, there lived a noble shepherd named Ajaipal, with his herds of goats and sheep. For many years, Ajaipal sent a daily libation of goat’s milk to a particular sage in Pushkar and the sage returned these favors with a grant of the land that shepherd lived upon, along with the title of “The shepherd king”.
Over the period of time, people had come to know about the story behind Pushkar Lake and its special powers on kartik Purnima. It coupled with the ordaining of a shepherd king at the spot, it led to the beginning of annual cattle fair that coincided with that special full moon.
Pushkar has been stuck between the medieval ages and partly trying to be modern, to cater to the western visitors. It has lots to offer to every traveler, from the sound of chants, the ringing bells, ethnic dress material, bangles, dhoops (incense) to Israeli food. This place shelters everything, but being a holy place, one will not find alcohol and non-vegetarian food in the city but will definitely find the cannabis added lassi.
Every herdsman, who participates in the cattle fair belongs to a community and different tribe, differentiated with different colors of turban, attire, earrings and dialects. These people have very few worldly possessions. For most of their cooking and eating, they use earthen pots. Clothing is simple, though colorful, particularly where the women are concerned. Everyone wears shoes, as walking barefoot on hot sand is almost impossible. The bedding consists only of mattress, which is nothing but layers of stitched rags.
Men wear unconditionally the turban, a specific color mark their offspring, tribe or caste. The white turban is worn when one’s father is no more. They always have an imposing mustache they loop between their fingers, pierce their ears usually with small golden flowers, the petals inlaid with stones of certain colors, each of which, again, having their own meaning.
Women here are often slender, their facial features are very thin, sometimes hard and manly, a piercing glance they accentuate by drawing the outline of their eyes with kohl. The women wear the traditional sari, but there are plenty of other tribes from remote areas wearing baroque, hyper colorful clothes, set with mirrors and wearing jewelry, tattoos and piercings in the face. The women wear silver ornaments, light ivory bangles, a black skirt, a red kanchli and a deep red odhni (stole). The kanchli is a quarter sleeved blouses covering only the front and tied with strings at the back. The unmarried girl wears a skirt along with a kurta.
Men and women wear many of them: rings, earrings, medallions, bracelets, and necklaces. Only women wear nath rings. Jewelry is mostly in silver.
The fair attracts hundreds of Rabadi/raika/jojawa herdsmen who buy and sell thousands of camels here each year. The camels are decorated with colorful bits of clothes and papers for trading, and there are also camel races and camel beauty parades to take part in. Apart from buying and selling of livestock, it has become an important tourist attraction and its highlights are competitions, such as the 'matka race', 'longest moustache', camel dance and decoration, horse dance, wrestling competition and for the random foreign tourists they have competitions like 'bridal competition', turban tying etc. In recent years, the fair has also included an exhibition cricket or football match between the local Pushkar team and a team of random foreign tourists.
The price rises dramatically during the camel fair, with increases of anything from two to five times of normal rate.
Rajasthan tourism has few hotels in Pushkar, ranging from 1000 to 3500 INR per day. Pushkar has lots to offer for the backpackers and budge travelers, ranging from 150 to 400 INR a day. The places are Bharatpur Palace (01452772320), Mama Luna (09828397281), Milkman (01452773452), Paramount Palace (01452772428) etc.
Pushkar’s sweet specialty is Malpua, sold at haveli gali, the street directly opposite to Gau Ghat.
Pushkar is not a craft center but it is a good place to pick up touristy souvenirs like Lac bangles, silver jewelry, textiles, incense and essential oils.