“If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.”
~ H. P. Lovecraft
I have never been a religious person. I never go to the temples to worship or to pray. However, I am not an atheist either. I believe in God my own way. My quest for spirituality has always been focused towards nature. I find the divinity in the unspoiled beauty of nature. But a few years ago, during my stay in Pushkar, a small town in Rajasthan, I felt that spiritual connection right at the Holy Lake of Pushkar.
It was a spectacular sunset by the lake. Standing on the ghats (steps) of the lake, hearing the sound of temple bells, watching the orange fireball sinking into the horizon, the temple structures fading into the twilight, and the silhouettes of the birds ‘contemplating’ amidst the still waters (perhaps, they were still in search of food… 🙂 ), I felt eternity in those magical moments.
Udaipur city and the palace. The wall divides the frame in two halves – one is the courtyard of Udaipur City Palace cast in the shadow of the palace in the afternoon and the other half is the city, shining bright in the golden light. It can also be interpreted differently – one half of the picture belongs to the imperial and the other half is for the commons. But together they formed a kingdom around five hundred years ago. Most importantly, one half denotes present and the other belongs to the past – a bygone era of valor, success and grandeur.
Pushkar in the twilight. The following picture is one of my favorites, because it exudes the essence of the place. It was a beautiful evening by the holy lake. The reflection of the temples and edifices in the stagnant water of the lake made the vista picture perfect.
It was a warm, sunny morning in Udaipur. We were boating the calm waters ofFateh Sagar Lake. The sky was blue and the sprawling water reflected the shade of the sky so beautifully that it was difficult to understand where the sky ended and the water began until I saw the range of hills in the horizon which split the blue frame in two halves.
“The camel fair is over. What’s the point of visiting Pushkar at this time?”, I thought, after looking at the itinerary of our Rajasthan Tour. A small town with a few temples and a lake is not a place to attract me – a person who likes to stay away from temples. After a daylong sightseeing in Jaipurwe headed for Pushkar the next day. I had no idea what surprise was waiting for me there. We started early in the morning and reached our hotel (Hotel Teerth Palace) in Pushkar at around 3:30 pm. Our 7-hour long drive included only one stop at Ajmer Sharif for a quick visit at the shrine of the sufi saint, Moinuddin Chishti. We also had our lunch break there.
After dumping our luggage at the hotel we quickly got fresh and set out to explore the religious town, which is also one of the five sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites in India. Even if the famous Camel Fair was way over when we visited in December we found there are more things to do in Pushkar.
Walking tour of the town
In a small place like Pushkar a walking tour is the best way to get the vibe of the place. It takes 15-20 minutes’ walk from the hotel to the Holy Lake through a lively market area. There were textiles and garment shops, handicraft stalls, eateries and miscellaneous stores on both sides of the road that led to the Holy Lake. Looking at the garments and accessories stores all around I figured out that Pushkar would be a good place for shopping. And I was right! We’ll talk about shopping later.
It was already 5:15 and a tea break was necessary. I tried mint tea. It was refreshing. After gulping our tea in a few quick sips we resumed our walk. By the time we reached the entrance of the Holy Lake I felt that I started liking the place. 🙂
View sunset at the Holy Lake
The holy lake is the lifeblood of Pushkar. It is the pulsating heart of this small Rajsthani town. As you step down the stairs of the Ghats you will instantly feel the sanctity of the place, a sense of calm and spirituality. Don’t forget to put your shoes off before you step down to the water.
When we finally reached our destination it was 5:30. The sun was approaching the horizon. The temples around the lake were gleaming in the golden streaks of setting sun. Our shadows grew taller. The pigeons flew back to their nests. The sunset at Pushkar lake is perhaps the most beautiful one I have experienced in Rajasthan.
Watch evening aarti at Bramha Temple
After enjoying a beautiful sunset at the lake we made our way to Bramha Temple or Jagatpita Brahma Mandir to witness the evening aarti (Hindu way of prayer). The temple, situated by the holy lake, is one of the oldest temples (2000 years approx.) dedicated to Lord Bramha who is believed to be the creator of this Hindu pilgrimage town.
Visit Vishnu Temple
The Vishnu Temple or Rangji Mandir is a unique gem among the cluster of temples in Pushkar. The majestic white temple in ancient South Indian style architecture is sure to impress a traveler at first sight.
Visit Shiva Temple
Sri Panchkund Shiva Temple is located withn a few kilometers from the lake in Pushkar. The legend says the temple was built by the five pandavas from Mahabharata.
Trek to Savitri Temple
Savitri Temple, dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Bramha, is located on top of a hill overlooking the holy lake. The trek up the hill is toilsome, as you have to climb hundreds of steps. But the end result is quite rewarding. The breathtaking panorama of the town is enough to forget the pain of getting there.
Enjoy Camel Safari
Camel safari is a popular tourist activity in Pushkar. The safari takes you to the nearby villages and desert to give you a closer look to rural life, art and culture in Rajasthan. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to indulge in camel safari. I kept it in my wishlist for a second tour in Rajasthan. 🙂
Shopping in the town market
Pushkar is an ideal place for shopping Rajasthani items. You can buy colorful handmade tote bags; silk scarves; mirror-worked Rajasthani lehenga (pair of indigenous skirt and blouse), bags and purses; local-made oxidized metal jewellery and trinkets at competitive price. I bought a few bags and purses as souvenirs and a cute little set of lehenga for my little niece.
After a walking tour of Pushkar when we came back to the hotel I was a different person. I started my journey to Pushkar as a skeptic with an empty mind and came back a contented soul with a bundle of memories to cherish forever. Pushkar travel taught me to open my heart, to accept things as they come. I realized that we travel to find many of our preconceived notions about a place are actually wrong.
The next day we were on the road again on the way to Udaipur.