Monday, April 13, 2009

Pushkar - city of Temples

Puskar is a quiet town to the west of Ajmer in Rajasthan. It leads a bit of a double life... It is a very holy place for Hindus. The sacred lake Pushkar is surrounded by many ghats - holy bathing places where ancient stone stairs meet the waters edge. The main beacon in Pushkar is the Brahma temple - the only one of its kind in India. Thousands of Hindus flock here each year for religious pilgrimage. As a result of this, many, many small temples have been built, in part for worship, and in part for revenue gotten from the many pilgrims who venture to this place.

The second, somewhat more out of place, aspect of Pushkar is its quiet, hippie personality. Many younger Euro-American travelers venture to Pushkar for its quiet, relaxed nature, good food and ganja. Its an odd combination - I think the earthy western travelers perhaps feel closer to India and Hinduism by coming here. Unfortunately, I think most of them are unaware of how the locals actually see them - mainly as a source of dollars and not in any spiritual way.

Chauhan actually asked me "These people are disgusting. Where are they from?" (His words, not mine). He was referring to the Rastafarian clothing, hair and drab, over-washed cotton clothing most of the young, hip travelers wear. I chalked it up to youth, adventure and rebellious independence. (feeling guilty since I looked much the same when I traveled throughout Asia twenty years ago).

It felt a little odd how the context had changed for me. The realization was sad that these painfully earthy, good-hearted young travelers we being viewed by typical Indians in a pretty uncomplimentary way.
I think our favorite sites in Pushkar were the short treks we took to the two other ancient temples in Pushkar. Both of these are situated on separarate small mountaintops overlooking the city. One is dedicated to Savitri & Gayatri (wives of Lord Brahma) and the other to Pap Mochini (above) - a rather obscure diety, but very old temple.
Despite the contrasts, the food is really good in Pushkar - pizza and banana lassies, great Mediterranean food (thanks in large part to the many young Israeli tourist who venture to Pushkar). The quiet, peaceful nature of the town and the good food are worth the trip. But you still have to ask yourself - which came second, the Rastafarians or the Falafel?

A good Hindu would tell you that Lake Pushkar was here first - created by a lotus flower dropped from the hand of Lord Brahma himself.


merinda said...

You were so wise to go to Pushkar when the Camel Fair wasn't on. We went then (and loved it), but my favorite part was the serene feeling at the lake and the lounging around the pool of our cheap hotel when we weren't braving the crushing crowds in the streets! I'll have to go back someday. I'm so "homesick" for the traveling we did in India. We still had so much to see and do!

HouseBoy said...

I don't think we'll ever run out of places to see... The lake was low while we were there because it has been so very dry. It's a lovely town to relax in. Thanks for reading!