The Pushkar Camel Fair. one of the world’s largest camel fair, is back!
Though I haven’t been to the fair for a long time, I am sure it is still as mad and crazy and colorful as ever. I remember, as a student of art, my friends and I decided to go to Pushkar for taking some candid pictures. On a budget, we braved the winter chill, and reached Ajmer, the closest railhead one morning. After having breakfast in a nearby dhaba, we tried to board an already overcrowded bus to the fair. When everything else failed, we paid the bus driver a little extra to climb up from his side and travel to Pushkar sitting by his side. It was an adventurous start to our photography career! It was a half hour journey to Pushkar and that too, a bumpy one!
Completely unfamiliar with Pushkar, a quiet little town surrounded by the Snake Mountains, we went around in search for a hotel. We were lucky enough to find a budget guest house, which became our ‘adda‘ for not only this year but for the next two visits as well. There are many such guest houses here, people are friendly and they’ll remember you for years. Years ago it was only the RTDC Hotel on Man Ghat, which was the most luxurious…now there are many private camps in the desert offering 5-star facilities. I am quite interested in going back now, after almost 8 years, to see if the town has changed. For some reason, I don’t think it would have!
We were back on the street in a jiffy! Armed with cameras and a tripod we made our way to the market. The main market road connects all of Pushkar, with the RTDC Sarovar Hotel on one end and the Brahma Temple on the other…finally leading one to the Fair grounds. Once we started walking in the market, I realized that I was unable to shoot. There were thousands of people around me- women dressed in colour dresses, Rajasthani men with big moustaches and colorful turbans, animals, beautiful ghats and the lake, and yet..I couldn’t snap a picture. The mela got to me, like it would to any first time visitor. It was here when I met a senior photographer whom we knew from college and he gave me the perfect tip…ENJOY YOURSELF! Don’t go for themes, just keep shooting! It was easy for him to say that but for young students, shooting slides was an expensive issue (No Digital Camera then!)
We kept walking and taking pictures. The markets fill up by the afternoon and the locals shop like crazy. So do the tourist. The pictures you see in this blog are mostly street shots. By the evening, I had a few hundred pictures to take back home. When we got tired, we took a break in many of the joints Pushkar has. Our favorite was the Pink Floyd Cafe, which played Floyd as well as rock, served Italian Food and had decent milkshakes. A young boy named Michael became our friend during the first stay and made sure we were well fed during our next two visits as well. Remember, Pushkar, being a holy town, is completely vegetarian and there is no alcohol available!
Since I have touched upon the subject of religion, I may as well talk about Pushkar’s importance. So here’s the story: The Brahma Temple in Pushkar is apparently the only Brahma Temple in the world, where he is worshipped. According to mythology, Lord Brahma was flying over Rajasthan in a celestial chariot, and three lotus from his chariot fell on the ground, resulting in three lakes. One of these lakes was Pushkar, which Brahma chose for celestial sacrifice. As he needed his wife, Goddess Savitri, to be a part of the sacrifice, and she would have taken a while to get here, Lord Brahma married a local woman to perform the yagna. Savitri, upon her arrival, was so furious that she cursed Brahma that he will never be worshipped anywhere else! That’s the story of the only Brahma Temple in Pushkar…or atleast that’s what the tourist guides say!
There is a temple dedicated to Savitri on the outskirts of Pushkar. It’s a small temple on the top of a hill, as if she has placed herself to watch over the city and most importantly Brahma, who had married a local! It’s an easy trek up to the temple and provides fabulous views of Pushkar. Ghummakkad recommend the climb! On your way down, you will head straight into the mela grounds, where there are various food joints, games and ferris wheels. There is a small stadia where all the events like camel and cattle races, the longest moustache competition, the best bridal wear, the most decorated camel and cattle and a friendly cricket match between the locals and the tourists take place. There is usually a crowd here so make sure you get the best seats!
Adjoining the stadia, is the large expanse of arid land where the camels are parked, inspected and even traded. Tourists are free to roam about and take pictures but be careful, as sometimes the camels can become a bit wild! Make sure you keep your distance. The best time to visit this is early morning as the camels start waking up and go around with their daily chores. I remember going there at six in the morning (it was freezing) and I was the only tourist in the streets…got some good pictures!
In the evening, the best place to head to is the Sunset Point. There are 52 ghats around the Pushkar Lake that offer great views at sunset. The most popular with the tourist is the sunset point and you will joined by hundreds of other romantics like you…watching the sun set. So, sit back, relax and enjoy the silence. The lights of the town come on around this time, which becomes mystical! When you get bored, head back to any of the cafes for a nice meal.
I’ve been to Pushkar thrice and I still want to go back. After a few years, you will realize that life in Pushkar is slow and things don’t change much. The same people, the same shops at the same place. Even the buzz is the same, but I still want to head back, and see the sunset. I hope that I do it soon.
More pictures coming soon.