Just By the Lake (Pushkar Mela, Rajasthan)

The thing with desert towns is that they exist around water bodies, just like other cities and towns are primarily established around rivers. With the advent of canals and water pipelines, humanity has successfully set foot in areas away  from water sources. But again, life by the lakes has a beauty of its own. The twin cities of Pushkar and Ajmer are no different. They both are towns just 25 kms away from each other with their respective oasis’s at the heart of their existence. Though the towns don’t entirely depend on their lakes now, the essence and culture of a lake town is prominent. 

Pushkar is also home to one of the largest animal fairs in India, the Pushkar Mela. The town is transformed to accommodate the large number of tourists and locals that flock here during November every year. Exhibitors from distant places reach Pushkar to trade cattle – mostly Camels and Horses. Some take weeks to reach here. Each day as the official Mela dates approach, hundreds of Camels reach the grounds. The most expensive horses and camels are given special tents and their owners show them off to prospective clients. With Giant wheels and joy rides this Pushkar Mela makes for an amazing out-of-the-box getaway. 

Why you should visit: From Delhi, Pushkar makes for an ideal weekend getaway, mostly in the winters. In addition, spending Holi in Pushkar is considered to be one of the best ways to feel the true vibe of the festival.

Things to Do: Besides the casual ‘relax and unwind’ affair that you can have with Pushkar, a few places are a must visit:

  • The famous Pushkar lake which is dotted with picturesque white houses and buildings around it.
  • Savitri temple for the sunrise. It is atop a hill and can be reached by rope-way if climbing stairs is too daunting. Get a birds eye view of Pushkar town from top. Don’t forget to venture on the rocks behind the temple. You will be able to witness a splendid sunrise or sunset if you plan your visit to the temple well.
  • Martana village. It is just around 10 kms from Pushkar and will give you a flavor of the local Rajasthani culture. Meet the locals, drink some tea, click pictures of children, show it to them and ask them if they like it.

In recent years’ multiple cafes have sprung up in this town which complement the town’s vibe and cater to the numerous young back packers that throng here. One such café is Café Nirvana. With UV paint on the walls and run by a young stout man, this place has a great view of the Pushkar lake. Recommended for post sunset sit outs.

If renting bikes/ scooters is your thing, then you won’t be disappointed. There are quite a few shops that rent out bikes. Pick one and you’ll be sorted for your entire stay in Pushkar. They come for as cheap as 300 rupees a day excluding fuel cost. For food you can head to the local market and try some authentic Dal Baati Choorma. Almost any place will serve good food here. It’s not so expensive either. And the shopping experience for traditional Indian handicrafts is also amazing here.

Pushkar Lake from Savitri Temple
A decorated camel at the fair

Best time to visit: Pushkar is worth a visit anytime during the winters. It is, however, famous for the Pushkar Mela which is held here every year in November. It was held from 8 – 14th Nov in 2016 and will be held from 28th Oct – 4th Nov in 2017. The dates keep changing each year but it is usually in the first or second week of November.

Accessible from: Puskhar lies 450 kms from Delhi, and Ajmer is just another 25 Kms away. An overnight bus from Delhi will take you to Pushkar. As the roads are very good, another option is to drive down. If you are going on a short trip, it is advised that you pre-book your stay to save time.

Night time bliss
The fair ground
Sorting the expectations for the day

Ajmer Shanti: Ajmer-E-Sharif is one of the most powerful places we have been to. The moment you enter the premises, the incense and aroma of the lit incense sticks takes over and you will feel elevated. The vibe is so strong spiritually. If you happen to reach in the afternoon, you might be in luck to experience the Qawali. It is worth noting that you are not allowed to enter the premises without legs covered, so no shorts. And also you will need a white headscarf or Topi to enter the main dargah. Visit the dargah and spend sometime inside the premises to take in all the positive energy that’s flowing within this compound. You will feel elated to meet some really nice people here. The setting is just apt for a quiet time for introspection and peace of mind.

Something extra: Other than its Camel Fair, Pushkar is famous for one of the only few Brahma temples in the world. The only other Brahma temple that we know of is in Tamil Nadu, India. You may be curious as to why there are such few Brahma temples? Brahma is not worshiped as widely as other Hindu gods. Like all practices of mythological significance, this too has its own story and its own rationale. According to a pandit at the temple, Brahma got egoistic about his creation: the World. This affected him to an extent where he started losing focus and competing with Vishnu as to who is the greater god. To restore normalcy, Shiva, the lord of creative destruction had to intervene with his trident and take the egoistic head off Brahma.  This restored balance in the World. No one wants to worship an egoistic god and bring chaos onto this world. This belief eventually resulted in the scarce number of Brahma temples. The life lesson here is to shun Ego for love and peace.

Ajmer Lake
The occasional traffic jam
Any prospective buyer?

Photographs and Narration by Suyash Pandey

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