Time when Pushkar calls

sacred lake The famed Pushkar lake. photo by author

Pushkar is also famous for the world’s largest cattle and camel fair called Pushkar Mela.

Badrinath, Puri, Rameshvaram, Dwaraka and Pushkar are the five important dhams or places of pilgrimage for the devote Hindus. Amongst these, Pushkar is the most famous and is called the Tirth Raj, meaning the king of pilgrimages.

Pushkar in Rajasthan, unarguably the most picturesque state of our country, is 14 kms. north of the bustling Ajmer and 146 kms.from the state capital city of Jaipur.Pushkar is a small town situated in a valley in the Aravali mountain range. It has a lake on one side, the Aravali mountains on the other and some patches of the Thar dessert spilling into it.

This ancient city finds mention in the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Sage Vishvamitra is said to have done penance here. The celestial nymph, Menaka, is believed to have often visited this place for a holy dip in the Pushkar Lake. After crossing the jungles of Sind, Yudhishtira, the oldest of the Pandavas, had stopped here for a bath in the lake. Vamana Purana mentions Pushkar as being on the travel itenery of Bhakta Prahalada when he set out on a holy pilgrimage. Fa-Hien, the 4th century traveller from China, mentions Pushkar as an important town of that time.
Pushkar means ‘Born of a flower’. Legend says that the celestial swan, the vehicle of Goddess Saraswati, dropped a lotus flower from its beak which fell here and formed a lake, and Lord Bramha, came down to meditate and performed a yagna in this place. Another legend says that Lord Bramha, the creator of the world while contemplating on his creative work, dropped a flower from his hand, which fell here. He then came down to this place and meditated. The sage Parasara is said to have been born here. His descendents, called the Parasara Brahmins, still live here. They perform religious duties and have been taking care of the ancient Jeena Mata temple here since the last 1000 years.

The 14th century temple dedicated to Lord Bramha in Pushkar is very famous. It is the only one of its kind in the whole world. Mythology and legend tell us that worship to Lord Bramha is forbidden. Hence, there are no temples built for him with Pushkar being the only exception.

The temple built in white marble and decorated with silver coins is set atop a hillock. A steep flight of steps takes us to the small shrine. The four-faced idol of Lord Bramha is made of white marble and is in the sitting posture. A silver turtle adorns the floor of the temple. Because of security reasons cameras and cell phones are not allowed inside the temple.

The idols of Lord Indra, king of Gods, and Lord Kuber the deity of wealth, guard the shrine on either sides. Two small underground enclaves have the holy Shivalings in them. The balconies and the surrounding verandas of the temple have breathtaking views of the surrounding Aravali mountain ranges and the town of Pushkar nestled amongst them.

The history of Pushkar can be traced to a Pratihara ruler of Mandore, as the earliest know king of this place. In the 7th century, King Nahadarava restored Pushkar by making an embankment on the side of the river Lumi. He renovated the old palaces and built 12 dharmashalas and bathing ghats on the three sides of the lake. There are as many as 400 old temples and many royal havelis in the town.
The lake has five principal temples and 52 ghats around it. The Varaha temple is also a rare one found here. Varaha is the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of the boar. He defeated the Demon Hiranyaksha and rescued the Earth from getting drowned in the Cosmic Ocean.

The Pushkar Mela or the camel and cattle fair are the largest of its kind in the world. This fare is held in the month of November and over 25,000 camel heads are traded on an average. There are beauty contests held for the animals apart from the usual wittiest, strongest and fastest animal contests that not only evoke great laughter and mirth but also fetch monetary rewards to the owners of the animals.
During the fair, thousands of devotees from all over the country and sadhus and holy men from the Himalayas come to the lake for a purifying bath. Unfortunately, over crowding of pilgrims and over development of tourist facilities and the resultant  deforestation have made Pushkar dirty. There is squalor and garbage everywhere. Stray cattle roam the very narrow streets and cause frequent panic and mayhem among the people. The tranquil lake has lost its beauty and is stinking with the rotting offerings of coconuts, puffed rice and other pooja materials in its waters by the devotees.

There is a huge notice put up by the authorities forbidding polluting the lake and even banning bathing, but people merrily bathe and priests pester visitors to buy their pooja materials and force them to drop it in the lake as an offering to the Gods. But such things don’t quite dampen your thrill at seeing so much of colour here. The colourful textiles, handicrafts, the camel leather jutis with exquisite embroidery, the bright patchwork hand bags, artificial jewellery and semi-precious gems and leather camels and bright puppets, and of course, the lip smacking Rajasthani daal bati and kulfi can make a smile stay on you face for as long as you are there.
The Aravali range here is one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges and if you take the local camel safari, you can experience a miniature Rajasthan, which includes small Rajasthani villages, brightly dressed local people and their tastefully decorated camels and camel carts, arid fields, sand dunes and hills and mesmerising sunsets and sunrises.

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