One of the five sacred dhams (pilgrimage sites) for devout Hindus, Pushkar is also considered one of 'the oldest existing cities.' The small desert town in Rajasthan, as we know it today, is situated around the only one temple in India dedicated to Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, and its holy lake with 52 ghats which are lit up with diyas during this time of the year.
As per Hindu mythology, it is said that when his wife Sati died, Lord Shiva cried so much and for so long, that his tears created two holy ponds — one at Pushkar and the other at Ketaksha (now in Pakistan) which literally means raining eyes, in Sanskrit. The gods released a swan, the story goes, with a lotus in its beak and let it fall on earth where Brahma would perform a grand yagna. The place where the lotus fell was called Pushkar.
Apart from its religious significance, the town is better known for its annual camel and cattle fair, which is held around the Kartik Purnim,a that is full moon in the Hindu lunar month of Kartika. Pushkar fair is one of the most popular tourist destination during the festival time in India.
Pilgrims visit the temple and take a holy dip in the lake during Kartik Purnima to be absolved of their sins from far and wide. Pushkar is about 400 kms south west of Delhi on the edge of Thar desert, barely an eight-hour drive from Delhi.
The small desert town with a population of not more than 60,000 is thronged around this time of the year with nearly two lakh tourists from all over the world —Israel, Korea, United States, England, Italy, you name it.
And of course some 50,000 camels that descend on the sand dunes for the camel and cattle fair.
This year the festival was held from 20th to 28th November — as always, the first five days were the trading days and one could see the camels dressed in their best, along of course with the horses who are made to dance and entertain prospective buyers.
It is a photographer's paradise. The sand dunes are filled with camels as far as one can see. Best time to watch is the early morning arrival of camels rushing down the dunes towards the fair grounds with all the sand dust in air, the silhouettes of camels against the rising sun, light cutting through their tall legs, creating a drama of its own.
One can also watch this spectacle from the skies by taking a hot air balloon, but it comes at an exorbitant rate.
I had my camera for company. And while traditional Rajasthani dresses and food stalls are lined all along the streets, in the bylanes one can also find Israeli , Tibetan, Italian food stalls. For me though the traditional food items like maal puaas, mirchi pakoda, kachori, lassi were the added attraction.
And of course there are local artists, as colourful as the clothes Rajasthan is famous for. Kikasso Singh, India’s Pablo Picasso who was given this name by a tourist in the 1970s on Vamdev road, is just one.
The 2013 Pushkar fair is from 9th to 17th November. See you there.