With one of India’s only Brahma temples and a very holy lake, Pushkar is a major destination for pilgrims and sadhus (holy men) from all over India. A firm favourite with travelers and modern-day hippies, Pushkar’s small town atmosphere is very friendly and mellow. There is hardly any traffic and the town is small enough to walk around with ease.
Much of the little town is situated by the Pushkar Lake. There are 52 ghats (sets of steps) leading down to the water where the devout descend into the waters to offer their prayers and wash away their sins. It is also said that the waters cure skin diseases, making Pushkar the Lourdes of the East.
For a week in October or November each year however, Pushkar is transformed into a camel city at the annual Camel Fair where tens of thousands of camels, horses, cattle and villagers descend on the town from surrounding districts creating one of the most colourful and exciting festivals anywhere in the world. The animals are brought from miles around to be traded and sold. Trading is brisk as several thousand heads of cattle exchange hands. All the camels are cleaned, washed, adorned, some are interestingly shorn to form patterns, and special stalls are set up selling finery and jewellery for the camels. Camels at the Pushkar fair are decorated with great care. They wear jewellery of silver and beads. There are silver bells and bangles around their ankles that jangle when they walk.
The Fair also attracts pilgrims – mostly villagers from throughout Rajasthan who come to bathe in the holy waters and to enjoy the fairground attractions. There are ferris wheels, rides, magic shows and a sideshow alley with all manner of entertainment. Additionally, at the mela ground, days of competitions and ceremonies take place, my favourite being the ‘Best Moustache’ competition and the ‘Pot Race’.
Pushkar is a riot of entertainment and colour, especially during the Fair, a photographers delight, but for the rest of the year, it is a wonderfully tranquil town, a place to chill and relax, enjoy sitting in a café overlooking the lake drinking chai or browsing through the fabulous selection of shops selling probably the best collection of Rajasthani fabrics, clothes, jewellery and handicrafts, many of which are exported from here to be sold in the west.
Visit Pushkar on our Essence of India tour