After a year, 2 months and 15 days, I could again take an amble on the colorful streets and the tranquil lakeside of Pushkar. The lake had ebbed a few meters away with bathing pits, more stairs and concrete esplanades clearly visible. I realized that I was 2 months and 15 days late and nature had not stopped for me to take its course. The ebbed lake looked like it could be the scene of any Bollywood movie with red and yellow drapes flowing to the tune of the gushes of the wind, rose petals flowing on the water surface, an A. R. Rehman music sending goosebumps miles away, and the hero and the heroine dancing to the cheesy moves on the esplanade surrounded by the lake water. Moving from a sexy Bollywood scene set around the lake, the next moment (while walking on the lakeside) I imagined it to be a spiritual setting, we all city-mosquitoes so wish to spend our weekends at, away from the all-outs and the mortins of our lives.
I ambled through the 52 ghats of Pushkar as a ritual. I did it last time on the solo tour (yeah, a year, 2 months and 15 days back) and loved it so much that it made it to my own Rig Veda, the book of my ever-changing rituals and traditions to keep myself preserved and happy at all times. It was peaceful. It was invigorating. I thought with a clear mind and solved the unsolved puzzles of life you face when you are about to cross the sacred mid-twenties line in an already short human life we normally spend on earth.
The otherwise white buildings around the Pushkar lake were brightly lit, bathing in the colorful Diwali lights and the cool moonshine of the day-before full moon, the biggest and the brightest in 46 years. I could easily see my white caricature on the surface of the lake water. There were moments when I stopped and looked at it for a long time. I spend some time sitting on the stairs busy in my own ruminations and attempting to observe every minute detail the landscape was allowing me to. I talked to other photographers and bloggers. Some of them were thoroughly enjoying the beautiful lakeside, others were busy planning their next morning shot. I talked to one of the pundits sitting inside the open verandahs of one of the many white buildings facing the lake. Like always (oh, it has happened before but the conversations can flow on any side), he started the conversation by asking my caste/gotra. Well, I couldn’t tolerate it for more than a few seconds and moved on to the buzzing bazaar road running parallel to the lake. I was able to take some shots of the serene lakeside before leaving it behind.
The Pushkar Peoplescape
Pushkar is a rare gathering of a varied category of people. You can take a walk with an open mind to see various local women dressed in quintessential pink, purple, red, or yellow colored ghagra choli (Rajasthani dress). They are either local from Pushkar or must have come from nearby villages, cities, and towns for the big festival of Karthik Purnima (full moon night), the last day of the Pushkar Mela. The Camel Fair held at Pushkar in the month of November begins on Prabodhini Ekadashi (no moon night) and ends on Karthik Purnima, which is almost 15 days long. During the festival, thousands of Indians (mostly Western Indians) gather in Pushkar to take a dip in the holy Pushkar lake for salvation. Well, Pushkar is the Varanasi of the Western India. So you can imagine the turnout!
Moving further on the same street, I saw many Indian men wearing a white dhoti (lower), Kurta (upper), and white quintessential pagri (turban). Some of them had put on colorful Rajasthani turbans, mostly yellow or red or a mix of the rainbow colors. Indian dhoti has been the perennial dress of the Indian men and even women since the birth of the Indus-Saraswati civilization. There have been many changes in its look since then, but it is still there, worn by many Indian men even today in rural India, especially in western India, the areas closest to the major cities of Indus civilization. The inference is not mine but has been widely mentioned by Sanjeev Sanyal in his book, Land of The Seven Rivers.
Moving further, I saw people from various places across the world, mostly students and travelers from Israel, Russia, Spain, and Mexico (A little bit of guess goes here but it is still more of an inference after reading the various menus of different cafes serving the foreign tourists). Europeans and Americans were also easily seen. There were white skin hippies in loose cotton, colorful, transcendental, tripping, and comfortable cotton clothes. The hippies and international tourists have changed the landscape of Pushkar for I don’t know how long. Visit a cafe in Pushkar and you would face real difficulty in understanding the contents of the menu. It is as if the entire Pushkar town has focused only on serving the foreign tourists on the land. Sitting in one such cafe and eating Lafa (a delicious Israeli roll though non-spicy), I thought about the time and space in which Pushkar turned itself into serving the foreign tourists more than the Indian tourists. How the ‘tirath’ (sacred and holy town for Hindus) turned into a fusion of a sacred place and a hippie town. I don’t have the data and stats to tell you how it happened but yes, Pushkariites grabbed the opportunity to make a living out of the new tourists visiting the small town in large numbers, who were ready to throw a dime at the locals if provided with their favorite and staple food items and dishes in exact shape and size as they liked it.
So, there are native Rajasthani people, native Pushkariites who recently discovered and embraced the western culture, bloggers, photographers, videographers, families, and college students from Jaipur, Ajmer, and Delhi, and the hippies and other foreign tourists from all over the world. Oh, also, the ganja lovers!
I am also doing a photo series on the Humans of Pushkar. Check it out to know more about the diverse category of people at Pushkar!
There aren’t many places in India with a significant and regular inflow of hippies from around the world. Manali, Kasol, Dharamshala, Goa, and Hampi are the only ones that come in the category. But none of them is a holy town of Hindus, except Pushkar. Though, I believe Pushkar isn’t a holy town of Hindus throughout the year, and thus, is relatively uncrowded when it isn’t the camel fair.
Later, I tried the alien meals available at cafes in Pushkar. Earlier in the day and the day before, I also visited the barren desert land where the camel fair was organized. I visited many encampments, saw the tattooed camels, and the handsome stallion. I also rode the Thunderbird in the desert, took an hour long ride on a camel, the ship of the desert, and spend many hours clicking the photographs at the photographer’s paradise, the Pushkar Mela.
Pushkar had cast a spell on me when I first visited the small town in September 2015. It was an offseason and I overstayed at the gorgeous, tranquil, and serene place for more than 4 days, extending the 2-day tour to a 6-day peaceful stay. I went to a lot of temples and discovered a lot of good cafes and peaceful locations, I crave for in the national capital. Since then, the Pushkar’s Pishogue (the magic spell!) has been over my head, wanting me to visit the small town again and again.
To know more about my adventures and experiences at Pushkar, check the entire project, Pushkar’s Pishogue!