The Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, Hotel Sarovar at Pushkar, booked through their online reservation facility was a very basic accommodation. The best thing about that property was its location being just adjacent to Pushkar Lake. A swimming pool was available there but it was dirty and could not be used. The staff here was very genial and supportive but the service was leisurely. The food, however, was very tasty. Anyway, I can recommend it only to those who are in budget travel.
Morning at Pushkar was very pleasant and a good sleep had re-energized all of us for a tour to Pushkar Lake and the city. We started following the directions given by the receptionist about the way to the lake, and after walking about half a kilometer to the left of the hotel, my eyes fell on the little marble inscription on the top of the gate. It was the “Gwalior gate” through which we were going to enter. On the Gwalior gate, a piece of historical gems in the form of a public notice issued by the then British Commissioner of Ajmer and Marwar was seen. In a moment, an imaginary scene flashed in my mind. Peasants were washing clothes and bathing their cattle in the Pushkar Lake and King of Pushkar, who controlled the lake and the land, was pleading before a British officer for protection of his lake. The kingdom was for a namesake and the powers of the king were merely restricted to file a petition before a British court. What an era that would be!
The Gwalior gate was the opening for various Ghats viz. Banshi Ghat, Gwalior Ghat, Chandra Ghat etc. By following the way to the temple of Meera Bai, we arrived at the Banshi Ghat. At that hour in the morning, it was not crowded at all. Numerous buffaloes were roaming around and feeding themselves. Someone had spread rice in another corner of the Banshi Ghat where pigeons were competing amongst themselves for a rice seed. Suddenly the tranquility of the place was broken by a voice of a “Panda”, who came near us and introduced himself as “Yadav Panda”. His abrupt entry into my peaceful state had already miffed me. So I declined his offer of hiring his services for performing Puja. He went away chiding me for my losing a great opportunity. In the meantime, I was standing at the one of the Ghats of the world famous Pushkar Lake and admiring its beauty and grandeur. The golden sun-rays of a morning sun falling over the Ghats built around the lake were giving all the buildings a golden hue. The colour of the sky was matching with the colour of the water in the lake. It was an awesome sight. Let the Gods forgive me for turning down the proposal of Yadav Panda for I was bewitched by the lake in its morning glory.
Admiring and happy at heart, we started circumambulating around the lake. Suddenly, a deep desire to perform puja came to our mind. But the Yadav Panda was now gone and any other panda was not visible. Now the guilt of turning away a priest came to my mind. Suddenly I saw him talking to another set of people at a little distance. I went to him and requested him to conduct Puja for us. Since he was pre-occupied, he arranged another panda, who introduced himself as Shri Mukesh Rajguru, Son of Shri Pushkar Narayan. Rajguru was a simple family man. Unlike Yadav Panda, who was attired in Dhoti-Kurta, Rajguru was wearing shirt and pants. Initially, I took time to accept him as a priest because of his dress. But soon I realized that dress had nothing to do with the knowledge of the procedure and the ease with which he conducted the Puja.
At first, we had to purify ourselves by sprinkling of water from the Lake and then he conducted a sequence of rituals. While conducting the Puja, Rajguru always kept us informed about the importance of those activities. The stories of Pushkar lake, the yajna ceremony of Lord Brahma, curse of Goddess Savitri towards Lord Brahma were best amongst them. Towards the end of the Puja and the stories, I performed “tarpan” in the memory of my father, grandfather and other ancestors. Such an event always raises the emotional quotient within me. But what to do! No one can bring them back! Anyway, this place is filled with spiritual energy and it feels very nice to perform religious activities here.
We kept on walking around the circumference of the lake. At one side there was a bridge built by Aurangzeb. The bridge, however, connected two sides of the ghat. There was only one condition for crossing this bridge that no one should walk on this bridge wearing shoes or chappals. One should carry them in their hands while crossing the bridge. Another challenge was to stand still at the side rails of the bridge, in case a buffalo decided to cross the bridge that the same time. If there are more than one buffaloes, then count your luck! Through bridge, we came to the other side of the lake and went through various ghats and temples including temple dedicated to Saturn and Baba Gorakhnath. Lastly, we came to the Brahma Ghat, which is the main Ghat of the lake.
The reigning deity of the Brahma Temple is Lord Brahma, the creator. According to Rajguru, the less number of Brahma temples was because of the curse of Goddess Savitri, who was infuriated to know that Lord Brahma had started the yajna with some consort other than her. Later, the Goddess Savitri started living at the hill top on one of the Aravalli Hills. A temple dedicated to her still stands today.
According to that curse, Lord Brahma would not be worshipped by human kind anywhere on earth except at Pushkar. As per the customs, no worldly person could offer flowers or any other material on the deity. Only a Sadhu could offer Puja. For any person, who had not renounced the world, all the flowers etc. were to be handed over to the sadhu for offering them to the deity. Anyway, we respected the customs and dedicated our offering to Lord Brahma through a sadhu and then decided to walk around the Pushkar markets.
The entire city was entitled to be described as a heritage city. In the market of that great city, the first stall that we came across was selling small “Yantra” to cure any evil designs of the planets. They were available to all zodiac signs and in many sizes and with appropriate costs. Next shop was selling colourful turbans. Traditionally, each caste and class of people could be identified by the turban or cap they wore. Visitors often purchase those turbans as a memorabilia of their visit to Rajasthan. I met with a Bengali joint family at our hotel which had come all the way from Tripura and were on some 11-12 days package tour conducted by RTDC. One of them had purchased one of these turbans to show it to people back home.
Then, there were many shops selling incense sticks and aromatic oils etc. may be because of the high demand for those sticks both in Ajmer and in Pushkar. Another set of artists-cum-entrepreneurs were selling clothes depicting various Hindu mythological signs, which must be a rage amongst the foreigners. I guessed that some of such shops might be offering courses and arranging classes for tourists interested in learning those crafts.
A little ahead, we found one stall selling full-sized swords, daggers and knives. Utility of small knives and daggers was understood. But the use of swords was something different. I guessed that the local people would be purchasing those swords as a status symbol. But who knows! Those swords might be the only weapon in their hands to ward off enemies and harmful animals in the villages.
Subsequently, we walked upto the “Top tea stall” in Pushkar. We just had poha before and now needed a cup of hot tea. So, we sat down on the bench there for some time till we sipped the best tea of the city. The top tea in the Pushkar market was served on disposable cups. The tray was a luxury given to the families. Otherwise, you pick up your cup from the stall itself. We had settled down on the bench and were admiring the market. The market was gradually opening to a pleasant morning. The rush was also gradually increasing. People from all walks of life were coming to pay a visit to the temple of Lord Brahma.
Many foreigners, who had stayed long, had taken motorcycles to roam around the city and its outskirts. Enfield Bullet was a general favourite. In the hippy style, these foreigners were driving their bikes on the road as if the road belonged to them. Suddenly, a Rajasthani Milkman came to the Tea stall. He was a tall, lean and handsome man in his fifties wearing Kurta and Dhoti and leather Jutis. His turban was of the same type that was worn by herdsmen which we had seen on the highways. The golden ear-rings and Silver bracelet on his wrist were indicating his economic status. His confident gait and the personality were reflecting his social status that he must be commanding in his community. He sat silently and sipped his tea. After finishing his tea, he got up, paid the amount and left. I could neither click his picture nor hear his rags to riches story. But the picture of the brass containers, used for carrying milk, on the delivery-motorcycle was telling the story of his financial success.
Lastly, we came across a craftsman, who was selling the blocks used in block printing. As he could not afford his own thela-rickshaw, he was his products sitting on the ground. In his free time, he carved many more designs on fresh blocks. His blocks were affordable so we purchased a few of them. The craftsman was a very practical man in his late forties. He had kept many blocks that resembled as antiques. On my enquiries, he admitted that he had faked those “antiques” by colouring the wood for selling them to a naïve foreigner at a steep price. I just thought about our slogan of Incredible India.
The Pushkar market was a great place to roam around at a leisurely pace. It was colourful and full of activities. Then there were lots of temples. Yadav Panda had informed us earlier that Pushkar had more than 200 temples around 52 ghats of the lake. Even now, when I have come back from that place and was writing this story, I felt that I should have stayed there for some more time. But, back then, I had to leave the city early to go to “Bhangarh”, which is considered as the most haunted place in Asia. So, we checked out of the hotel after having a very sumptuous Indian breakfast and started our road journey towards ‘Bhangarh”.