Pushkar, India – 17th to 18th March
A pilgrimage for many Hindu’s, Pushkar is a very holy city. It is in fact one of the five sacred dhams for devout Hindus. Its holy lake known as Tirtha Raj (a sacred water body) is related to mythology associated with the Hindu God Lord Brahma and is surrounded by 52 bathing ghats and more than 500 temples. A dip in the sacred lake is believed to cleanse sins and cure skin diseases. You never know, maybe it could cure my balding..?
There is no alcohol or meat in the whole of Pushkar, something that many westerners will find hard to fathom. Most of the group was more than happy with this as it gave us a chance to recover from over indulgence back in Tordi Sagar.
As we took our first orientation walk we were greeted by market bazar lined streets. Colourful, block printed, Aladdin style trousers are sold and worn everywhere along with pretty patterned, hand made shoulder bags. Carefully crafted musical instruments, checked shirts, robust flip flops, a wide variety of freshly cooked food and sparkling jewellery were just a few of the things sold to both locals and tourists. Obviously if you were a tourist the starting price would be at least 100% higher! Whatever your heart desired you could probably find in this bazar.
After an hours walk the products seems to just repeat theirselves so we headed back to the hotel to plan out the rest of our time in Pushkar. On the stroll back our American Allie Caden, confessed to meeting President Barack Obama after I tactically asked the question. I only have one degree of separation to one of the worlds most powerful men now. Maybe I’ll ask him if I can swing by the White House for a sleep over at some point.
On the way back we passed countless Caucasian men with thick beards, long hair, tattoos, baggy clothing and a slightly dishevelled look. Some walked through the dusty streets and others rode upon glistening Royal Enfield motorbikes weaving through traffic as if they were locals. Many looked like they had travelled to Pushkar 20 years ago but had never left. They were often accompanied by a female counterpart who usually had dreadlocked or knotted hair, harem pants and again an array of interesting tattoos. I thought to myself, “I’d probably end up like one of these people if I stayed here 12 months!”
It becomes apparent rather quickly that this holy city has a under lying hippie scene. Posters slapped against walls promote the latest psychedelic trance rave and the smell of marajuana rushes past every time you see someone appearing to smoke a roll up cigarette. Quite ironic for a holy city.
Pushkar is also famous for its annual Camel Fair held in November. When in Rome, one most live like the Romans so we book on an evening Camel ride into the desert. Now I’m all up for trying new things but when I was dressed in apparent traditional clothing, hoisted upon a rather naughty camel and paraded through the busy streets towards the desert I felt like a bit of a tourist twat. I think the picture speaks for itself…
I don’t think Dani looked half as bad as me.
After a somewhat physically and socially uncomfortable cancel ride we finally made it to our destination. The desert was magical and enchanting. The golden sands seemed to chase the horizon. We took a pew on multi coloured sheets and sat back ready for tonight’s show. We were being treated to a traditional magic show by one of the local residents. An older gentleman, probably in his late 50’s he looked like a very intriguing character. Ready to cast his wizardly spells he sat proud resembling an Indian Gandalf the Grey from the hit trilogy The Lord of The Rings.
His show was captivating. He magically made birds appear from thin air, regurgitated large iron balls from his stomach while making obscene noises which made me laugh hysterically and played to the crowed like a true professional.
After the magic show we were treated to a traditional dance performance. Pretty dressed ladies danced with fire upon their heads and thick haired local men played musical instruments to perfection.
At one point we were asked to join the festivities and after an awkward hokey pokey style ringed dance and a poor white mans attempt at the shoulder shuffle and intricate hand movements we stopped for our evening meal.
We watched the sunset in another incredible location and as the blue sky disappeared the brightly burning stars shed light into our eyes from galaxies far away.
The next morning we awoke at ‘ridiculous’ o’clock so that we could trek up to the Savitri Temple and watch the glorious sun rise over the city of Pushkar. Keen to reach the top and absorb the view as much as possible the 30 minute climb only took us 12 minutes. Rather warm and slightly out of breadth we sat upon the hill that the temple is constructed on and took in the magnificent sight.
As dawn approached the city beneath began to awaken. Indian music filled the air and smoke from burning fires cooking up today’s delicious breakfast dotted around the landscape. Auto rickshaws began to ignite their engines and glorious horns from all types of vehicles erupted like some sort of motorised orchestra.
The ever glazing sun reared its face above the adjacent mountain range and we sat in bliss taking the odd photo in hope of capturing this moment forever.
We headed back down as the temperature began to rise and spent the day walking around the city, admiring the sights and debating on what we could buy amongst the depths of the markets.
That evening we went out for another exquisite meal and we celebrated Dani’s birthday with a local cake I sourced through the help of CP. Exhausted from an early start we all headed to bed ready for a morning train train ride to India’s equivalent to Venice, Udaipur.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”