Pushkar

Pushkar is where Hindu spirituality melds ever so seamlessly with peace-seekers from foreign shores hoping to find that oh-so-elusive nirvana in the town that Brahma, the Hindu God of Gods, built. So, if the devout visit Pushkar to complete a pilgrimage of India’s holiest sites, beatniks who have taken up residence here believe the absolute opposite. They assume that adopting the trappings of the Hindu religion will mysteriously show them the path to inner peace and tranquility. For many, it’s a notion that rises from a chillum or smoking pipe.

Interesting, this blend of Eastern spirituality and Western delusion coexists in total harmony in Pushkar. Stroll through the lanes and alleys of this quaint town and you will see nirvana-seekers lounging around, presumably waiting for equanimity, and stalls hawking all kinds of 60s’ kitsch begging to be explored. Why, if you’re lucky, you may even chance upon a fake fakir, who will offer to pose for a picture with him, for good money, of course! On the diametrically opposite end of the spectrum but right next door, the devout go about their daily rituals, appeasing the Gods, invoking their blessings, and giving thanks for the tourist dollars that keep flowing in!

Perhaps nowhere else in India will you find this unique blend of spirituality and its many spinoffs coexisting, alternatively in temples and hippie havens, cheek-by-jowl. It’s where the chanting never ceases, cymbals beat to a divine rhythm and temple bells sound all day. All this has a curious, even hypnotic, effect on the first-time visitor.

Pushkar has a charm all its own and if you’re anywhere within driving distance, you’d be foolish not to visit. The town is built around a holy lake – Pushkar Lake – that ringed by temples, small and large. It’s a pretty sight, especially against the backdrop of the Aravalli Hills.

But there’s another reason you want to visit Pushkar – the famous, annual camel and livestock fair. One of the largest cattle fairs in India, the event is held in October-November, when thousands of camel farmers converge here to trade their animals. Scores of tents are set up on open ground and the camels are dressed up in their finest, to attract the highest bidder.

Locals converge on this little town from far and wide, and for five days and five nights, Pushkar amps it up, for the merry-making doesn’t stop. It’s wonderfully vibrant; it’s maddeningly chaotic; it’s unbelievably colourful. It’s unforgettable. Don’t miss it! Tip: Check into a hotel at nearby Ajmer and make a day trip or two to Pushkar. Pushkar is located 143 km south-west of Jaipur and 14 km north-west of Ajmer.