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Around 14 km North-West of Ajmer lies the town of Pushkar, famous for its temples and its annual cattle fair. My recent visit to this quaint old town has left me spellbound and intrigued at the same time. From its narrow lanes, crowded bazaars, pretty temples and prettier people, everything about Pushkar leaves you in a state of trance even without touching the weed that is associated with the hippy culture so often.
Imagine a town where religious entities and all things liberal survive and embrace each other with love. If you think that’s not possible, plan a visit to this desert town and be pleasantly surprised. India needs to learn from Pushkar how entirely different thought processes can grow together, spreading nothing but love and acceptance. I came back with my faith restored in the fact that religion can coexist in harmony with an intermingling of cultures. Pushkar Lake which hosts at least fifty-five ghats is an amalgamation of old and new, traditional and modern, religion and faith. A quiet evening spent admiring a beautiful sunset by the ghats, dipping my feet in cold waters of the lake, watching people perform religious rituals with faith in their eyes, and a band of boys recording a song alongside – that’s the kind of harmony, love and acceptance I am talking about.
There are thousands of temples in Pushkar, and it being considered the fifth dham as per Hinduism, non-vegetarian food is not served here. But this temple town still pulls visitors from all over the world and has turned around this so called disadvantage in its favour. Pushkar, on one hand, serves delicious Rajasthani food and on the other it is home to many famous cafes that serve every international cuisine one can think of. I could go back again just for the food.
The annual cattle fair, Pushkar Mela is more than a hundred-year-old tradition that still continues. I was fortunate enough to witness Pushkar fair in all its grandeur and I must say it really is one of a kind experience. With people from all over Rajasthan coming to town with their cattle, some to show off, some to sell off, Pushkar Fair is nothing like your usual village fair. It is in fact much much more. With all the paraphernalia attached to the cattle fair now, it’s a bucket list item for travellers around the world. Imagine being privy to a business negotiation involving camels- with the seller pinpointing a thousand good things about his animals, trying to get the best price- it’s not a thing one gets to witness too often in our world.
A post about Pushkar cannot be complete without mentioning its colourful market area. It is one of the most vibrant markets I have ever seen, and trust me, I have seen many. If you ever plan a trip to Pushkar, add a few extra thousands to your budget because even the most stubborn shoppers will have a hard time looking past pretty things and not buying them. Negotiate as much as you can, because that’s the way they shop here. I just could not get over colourfully embroidered leather bags and junk jewellery and have come back with pretty things to last a lifetime.
Pushkar is a delight for women and even perfect for solo women travellers. In fact if you’re still thinking of whether or not to do that solo trip, I say ditch Goa and Manali and head to Pushkar without thinking twice because this is one place which gives you such a nice company that you really don’t need anyone else. Shop your heart out without anyone to make you feel guilty, stare at the pretty sunsets while contemplating about good things in life or just spend hours and hours observing the activities at the ghats without running on someone else’s clock – Pushkar will surprise you with so many stories you wouldn’t have even thought of. It’s perfectly safe, people are nice and helpful and there’s a strange calm that engulfs you in all the chaos that like me, you would want to keep coming back here. As far as I am concerned, I left a part of my soul behind at Pushkar.