The City of Pushkar
Famous for its temples and Pushkar Lake, the town surrounded by the Aravali hills is one of the five holy cities mentioned in Hindu scriptures. The town is replete with 52 Ghats surrounding the Pushkar lake and over 400 temples, the most prominent one being the Brahma Temple. Pushkar is also known to come alive during its Annual Camel & Livestock Fair, locally called as Kartik Mela or Pushkar ka Mela. The fair is organized around October or November, depending upon the occasion of Kartik Purnima (Hindu Lunar Month of Kartik or Full Moon Day).
Arriving in Pushkar
A breezy 40-minute auto ride from the Ajmer Dargah to Pushkar cost us Rs. 200/- and here we were stepping into our hotel at around 1.00 pm.
Inn Seventh Heaven, the property, is an old heritage haveli converted in to a hotel and, this adds the old-world charm to this rather comfortable hotel. The heavy wooden doors opened into a beautiful courtyard with a marble fountain in the center, sprinkled with rose petals. Adding to the charm were the green vines, hanging across the length of the hotel, adorning the walls.
The stairs leading to our room were decorated with marble bowls filled with rose petals at the corners. As we entered our room, we were enchanted with the beautiful décor furnished with Turkish lamps complementing the pristine white walls, a traditional wooden bench at the corner enhanced with colorful cushions, a huge poster style bed and windows capturing the view of the streets and the Gayatri temple. We stayed in this hotel for 2 nights and occupied a different room each night.
I was keen at holding the fort in the central part of Pushkar to have easy, in fact anytime access to the main attractions, temples, markets and the culinary joints. I picked Inn Seventh Heaven for its ideal location and also because of the outstanding reviews the hotel had managed to gather on trip advisor.
And begins the Exploration
We dropped our bags off and got dressed for a quick photo shoot of the ambience and ourselves of course and then head out to immerse in the serene chaos of this eclectic town.
As we venture out to explore this heritage city, the feeling of finally making it here filled my heart with joy. Walking around women wearing ghagras (long skirt) and kanchlis (blouse) and men in Dhotis (bottoms), engaged in their daily chores was a refreshing sight indeed.
A few meters from our hotel, a brief halt at Mahalaxmi Kangan Store got me conversing with the store’s owner, Dhruv Narayan Mangadi. Dressed in a shirt and dhoti, he was pleasant and friendly, reflecting the true Rajasthani culture of hospitality. We exchanged dialogues about the ghats (steps surrounding the lake) that host the evening aarti, the best spots to get a panoramic view of the Pushkar lake and also the best retailers in town selling rose products.
For the uninitiated, Pushkar is known for its Roses. Pushkar annually grows more roses than any other part of India, nearly 698 hectares of land is dedicated to Rose Cultivation in the town. These Roses then find their way into temples, dargahs, perfume and oil laboratories, food laboratories etc.
Interacting with locals has been of my interest while travelling. Nothing enables you to literally live the city more knowing the pulse of the people who make it! And maybe that is why someone once said, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. It’s best to follow the leads of those who know the ropes.
Walking down the lane, i see a familiar face right across the street.
Me: Hey, are you the You Tube Vlogger, Mr. Ravi Uuumm…
He: Oh yes, Ravi Sharma, pointing his finger to a huge hoarding with his face on it, advertising his You Tube Channel.
Me (muttering to myself): Thank god he din’t take offence in me forgetting his name, LOL!
Me: So glad to bump into you right here, I have been following your You tube channel while planning my itinerary to Pushkar.
He: Pleased to know that. I am also going to do Jodhpur soon.
Me: Ahh nice, I shall continue to follow your channel for more updates on your travels.
He: Do attend the Aarti at Varaha Ghat. I will be there too. Smiles.
Some more chitter – chatter, here and there, we bid Ta-Ta (bye bye) to each other and I proceed to walk further into the market.
It was 4.00 pm by now and we were feeling peckish and wanted to nibble on something along with a cup of piping hot chai (tea). We stopped by at a Laffa & Falafel Outlet, also a part of my bucket list of places to eat in Pushkar. We ordered for Pizza Rolls and Chai and stayed there for a while talking to the folks at the outlet and watching the tourists and locals twinning around.
The spiritual town of Rajasthan hosts thousands of tourists every day. Yeah, nothing different from any other touristy town in India, I know!
However, few know about the presence of Israeli culture in its everyday life. At any given time, you will find around several Israelis in Pushkar, either for the purpose of recreation, or for rejuvenation after their harsh military training. Pushkar even has a Chabad house on the main road (A place of worship/offering prayers for Jews), local shopkeepers (and others too) speak Hebrew and greet people with a “Shallom”, several name plates and commercial posters are mentioned/translated in Hebrew too! Goes without saying, Lebanese cuisine is big in the town, with several outlets dedicated to it.
We continued wandering around, and I found myself scouting for some funky and traditional pieces of jewelry and there I was at this popular jewelry shop, also a part of my bucket list, right at the end of the market, displaying a huge variety of authentic Rajasthani tribal jewelry, new age fusion jewelry, beaded necklaces and gemstones. By the time we finished admiring the array of offerings it was time for the sunset aarti.
Another specialty of Pushkar is its silver jewelry. Pushkar is home to some of the finest silver jewelry makers in the country, known for their intricate designs, quality and craftsmanship.
Just a little before time, at the Varaha Ghat for the evening aarti, we made our way to take a seat on the steps closer to the lake. The idyllic scene of the lake capturing the molten-gold crown on top of the mountains was spellbinding. As the chants from various temples surrounding the lake filled the atmosphere, it felt as if being transported into another realm of divinity. Our senses further enhanced by the fragrance oozing out of the incense sticks and roses. A surreal experience, to say the least. We participated in the aarti, paid homage to our forefathers and also got to cascade some rose petals distributed by the priest into the lake.
The priest who led the evening aarti at Varaha Ghat was none other than Ravi Sharma ji, also the priest of the temple located at the Varaha Ghat. Multiple facets of one man. A priest aka Vlogger. Interesting, isn’t it?
We spent the rest of our leisure evening walking through the narrow lanes of the main market packed with several cafes serving Indian, Chinese, Continental, Lebanese on their menu, the shops selling everything from traditional Rajasthani outfits to bohemian clothing, handicrafts, leather goods, rose products, home décor and more. Adding to this already overwhelming experience were the music shops playing traditional bhajans to the fusions like the “Jai Jai Shiv Shambho” that had us grooving. The vibrancy of this beautiful town of Rajasthan comes alive as you walk across the lanes at dusk strolling through illuminated outlets in this lake city.
We closed our day with a lip smacking traditional Indian meal at a local Paratha (bread) joint and got back to our hotel to spend some time chatting on the swinging benches, whilst experiencing the relaxing vibes of the property.