As we meandered past a sea of crowd (mainly auto and cab drivers) at Ajmer Railway Station, I wondered what Pushkar would be like - hot, cold, crowded, rainy? I hadn't read much about it, and while going up the hills of the Aravalli Range somewhere between Ajmer and Pushkar, I wondered if we were going to a hill station, but much to my amusement, we weren't.
A short drive of around 16 km from the city of Ajmer, famous for its Dargah Sharif, Pushkar is an unassuming lakeside town tucked in the centre of the biggest state of our country, Rajasthan. A sleepy settlement wrapped around the holy Pushkar Lake, it reverberates with divinity and is reminiscent of its more-crowded counterparts of Banaras, Rishikesh and Haridwar. But that being said, it can get pretty crowded here during the season, with the famous Pushkar Camel Fair.
However, we were lucky as we visited the place during the monsoons, an off season.
We reached the hotel after a long journey, and voila, the entire lake lay still right in front of us, ready to embrace us and recharge our batteries instantly.
Home to one of the few Brahma temples in the world, people from far and wide come here to pray, especially for their ancestors. There are 52 bathing ghats around the lake where you can sit and meditate, sip a cup of tea at the innumerable cafes around, or just gaze at the sun going down.
A filmy touch
With a large number of hippies and Western tourists flocking in, Pushkar is like a scene from the Bollywood films of the 70s. The main attractions here are Pushkar Lake, Brahma and Savitri temples, and camel safaris. Those looking for a relaxing holiday that's easy on the pocket are in for a treat here as the entire city can be covered by foot. All you need to do is stroll around the lake and you will see bustling bazaars, overcrowded guest houses, busy street vendors, and tourists on rented two-wheelers.
However, the one place you need transportation to reach is Savitri Temple, dedicated to the wife of Lord Brahma. A short distance from the centre of the town, taxis and autos take you to the base of the temple, which is atop a mountain. From here, you need to take a cable car to reach the peak. Many trekkers go up the mountains, especially to catch the sunrise.
We chose the former, and though it was hot inside the car, the views around were breathtaking: the sprawling lush green Aravalli Range, the lake - a tiny blob of water - and goats grazing in the ravines of the mountains around watchful shepherds. Once we came down, we decided to visit the famous Brahma Temple of Pushkar, the only one of its kind in the world. Over 2,000 years old, legend has it that Lake Pushkar was created out of a petal that fell out of Brahma's lotus. Another story goes that Brahma's wife Savitri, furious on seeing Gayatri Devi take her spot during a yajna, had cursed him that he would never be worshipped. She later reduced the severity of the curse by allowing his worship only at Pushkar.
On the camels...
A visit to Pushkar is incomplete without the famed camel safari that takes you into the mesmerising Thar Desert. As we moved slowly away from the heart of the town into the arid lands, we took in the sights of the yellow fields around us. There was a quick stop in the desert for touristy things like posing for photographs wearing traditional Rajasthani garb and enjoying a chilled kulhad of lassi at the Diya Aur Baati Hum (yes, the serial) stall. The locals take pride in the fact that many popular serials and hit films have been shot here. We even saw the magnificent thakur's haveli from 'Karan Arjun' on our way back.
Though the safaris can be undertaken at any time of the day, sunrise and sunset are the ideal times to go for them. The golden rays of the sun, cool air, silence of the sands - the setting is straight out of a dream. There are also packages available for night safaris.
It was still bright when we returned from the safari post sunset. We decided to sit down at one of the ghats and gaze at the twinkling lights going down the pristine lake waters. As hundreds of pigeons flew around us and we soaked in the sights and sounds of the divine, I had the song 'When the Lights Go Down in the City' playing in my head.