Pushkar was not on my “planned agenda” for Rajasthan. Our original plan was to head to Jodhpur from Jaipur, with a stop at Ajmer. The detour to Pushkar was included later when we happened to talk to a cab driver, who mentioned that Pushkar was getting ready for its annual fair. Given that it was only half an hour drive from Ajmer, we changed our road trip plan to accommodate this colorful little town.
I used our journey time from Jaipur to research this destination. I had read about Pushkar, knew about the famous fairs that were held here and of course, a bit about the Pushkar lake. Adding onto my knowledge was the internet and some stories from our driver. The more I read about it, the more astonished I was and the greater was my regret – that Pushkar was just going to be a pit-stop and not a full-fledged destination. :-(. The driver kept saying – there isn’t much to see and 2 hours is enough, but from what I gathered, it most certainly, was not! If you are wondering why I felt so, here are the reasons –
- Pushkar lake itself, had over 52 bathing ghats, with many of them having unique stories.
- There were over 400 temples in this town. Covering them in a day itself was not possible, pit stop – impossible!
- It was the “Rose Destination of India”. I would have loved to see the Rose farms myself.
Nonetheless, I know that something is better than nothing and the thrill of including an unexpected destination for me far outweighed the regret. 🙂 And with that excitement bubbling through me, we entered Pushkar. Literally a pit stop, we just managed to tour the town in 2 hours and here is what we saw –
1) The colorful market of Pushkar
Colorful in the literal sense. We had to traverse through rows of small shops selling all possible things – clothes, jewelry, lamps, handicraft items, shoes, caps and even utensils. The entire street was a riot of colors. As much as I resisted going to these shops, I could not suppress the inherent girlie shopping gene within me. It took all my strength to stop myself from entering the shops and walking up straight to Pushkar lake. I had to suppress my emotions with the logical reason of limited time and tons to see.
2) The Pushkar Lake
The Pushkar Lake is the iconic landmark of this town. The lake is historic in the literal sense, they say it dates back to 4th century BC, with mentions in the records of Sanchi and the accounts of the Chinese visitor – Fa Xian to India. It is said to have sprouted from the petals of Lord Brahma’s lotus. As some of you may know, Lord Brahma is deemed as the creator of this universe and during a battle with a demon, some petals from his divine flower fell here. Legend has it that a spring sprouted from this place and that is how, Pushkar Lake came into existence.
The lake is considered to be one of the holiest spots. In fact, Pushkar is considered to be among the 10 most religious places in the world and is one of the 5 sacred Hindu spots. They say that a dip here can free one of all sins and ailments. For me, the devotion was evident as soon as you enter the Ghats. I do not know which Ghat this one is, but it sure had a religious aura.
Even if you are an atheist, you are likely to find this place interesting. A gorgeous pool of blue enclosed by brown hills and with heritage buildings within and around it. Add to that the flocks of birds that suddenly take flight. A gorgeous backdrop indeed.
3) Tea under the Ancient tree
I already mentioned how ancient Pushkar is. Now to add to that, was this small tea shop, right next to the Bathing Ghats we visited. Thanks to my friend Swati, we stopped here for a cuppa. What made this place special, was the information that the tea shop owner shared with us. He claimed that the tree under where he has made his shop was over a century old. Fact or Fiction? I really don’t know as I would have to count the tree rings and at that moment, I could not. I chose to believe it, for the simple reason – it just felt magical. 🙂
4) Brahma Temple
Remember the creator of the universe – Lord Brahma? Well, there are very few temples dedicated to him and legend has it that it is because of a curse. His other half- Goddess Savitri or Saraswati is said to have cursed him that he would not longer be worshipped by people. Later she modified it to Pushkar would be one of the few places where he would be worshipped. Why did she curse him?
🙂 Now that is simple. He did not wait for her to take her place next to him during a Yagna (fire sacrifice) and instead, married a local belle Gayatri for this task. Even he could not escape the ire of a woman. To know more on this story, check out this link.
We were fortunate enough to manage a quick visit here as the temple closes around mid-day for a few hours and we were there just 15 minute before it did. There was no time for photography and I could not grab one from outside as there was a festive tent blocking it (we went just a few days before a festival). In those few minutes that I managed inside, I remember seeing a white facade with lots of blue pillars. Pretty temple but in a very unusual and different way.
5) Lunch at Pushkar
The pit-stop at Pushkar ended with one of the best lunches I have had in Rajasthan. It was not a high-end hotel, but a small shop or Dhaba next to the temple. The whole lane was full of these shops and you could see the women-folk cook their traditional food for you. From Dal Baati to Bajre ki Roti and Dahi ka saag, we stuffed ourselves – to the point where hunger was no longer the reason to eat. It was more of greed. To know more about the authentic Rajasthani cuisine, I recommend you read my earlier post here, where I have mentioned about my experience at these dhabas of Pushkar.
With no space for even water, we piled back into our car and headed for our planned destination – Ajmer. What I experienced in those two hours, is likely to bring me back to Pushkar for more. I still need to dig deeper into this small town. If you are thinking of Pushkar, then here is a pin to remind you of it.
- The closest airport to Pushkar is at Jaipur, which is 145 kms away. Jaipur airport is well connected to the key cities of India.
- The nearest railway station to Pushkar is in Ajmer, which is just 14 kms away.
- Pushkar is well connected by road to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Ajmer. In any of these cities, you can either get onto a bus or hire a vehicle to reach Pushkar.
- Quite like most cities in Rajasthan, Pushkar is best enjoyed during the period – October – February, when the temperature is a little low.
- There are some well known fairs that are held in Pushkar. Remember to check the official Rajasthan tourism page for these dates. A visit around this time is recommended as you will be treated to a unique cultural experience.
- There are plenty of good hotels in Pushkar – from slightly high end heritage ones to the regular B & B options.
- Besides the dhabas that I mentioned, there are plenty of regular restaurants, with better ambiance and facility. However, I would still recommend the dhabas for an authentic Rajasthani taste.
- Being a holy city, there are no non-vegetarian food options here.
- Remember to bargain well at the Pushkar market. I did find the prices reasonable here and the quality decent.
- You will need to take off your footwear at the Ghats and the temples. Do not leave them anywhere. It is advisable to hire a locker to keep them. Also, remember not to wear your expensive ones.
- Please remember to cover your shoulders and legs before entering the holy places. Check out my guide to visiting Hindu temples for more of these temple tips.
- Besides the Brahma temple, the Savitri temple and the Varaha temple are some recommended ones to see.
- Pushkar also offers you some camping options. You might want to experience a desert stay here. There are plenty of tour operators that you can find online for this.