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And The Buffoonery Continues…

by Ragini Puri
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The madcap shenanigans of Day 1 of the Rajasthan tour had given us a taste of things to follow. We had made a detour even before starting on the journey, had charted out a new (wayward) route in a jiffy, had followed a wrong car on a state highway, had trekked up a shaky and abandoned water tank and had checked out at leisure a farm with ready cotton crop!

Recap of the madness!

While climbing up the railing-less water tank upped our adventure quotient, on the other side of the road, a camel too stood waiting, all poised to get clicked with us! More fun followed on the streets of Ajmer, which we took to, after paying respect at the Dargah Sharif. This time, our toy joy was the common place rickshaw, which we took turns riding around the streets, all thanks to their amused owners!

And the madness continues

So after bringing the house down with boisterous fun, frolic and adventure on Day 1 of our Rajasthan tour, we welcomed Day 2 with similar zeal – all set to hit the road leading into Jaipur, to feast our senses on all this famed Pink City had to offer. But looked like another ‘slight’ change in plans was in the anvil at the checkout counter as we all trudged out with our luggage! 

‘Sir, we hope you will enjoy the hospitality at our Pushkar hotel too,’ these parting words from the Hotel Manager stopped us all in our tracks.
‘Pushkar? But we are not headed there. Enough of spirituality for all already,’ somebody from our group utters.

‘But sir, it is just half an hour drive from here, and of course you would not want to miss the famous Brahma Temple, considered to be the only temple of Lord Brahma in the world. And you can take a round of the Pushkar Lake as well. It is considered a sacred cleansing ritual.’

Okay, so there went the dart, bang on target.  Whenever and wherever the word ‘ONLY’ or ‘Supposedly Only’ is strategically placed in a sentence about places, it is sure to ring bells in some people’s ears. We had some such people in our group too. So 10 minutes down, we were in our cars heading north westward towards Pushkar.  Was I surprised? You do the math.

Pushkar is around 12 kms from Ajmer, and an uphill winding road leads us to this sleepy little town regarded as one of the five sacred dhams for devout Hindus. Just when the monotony of driving through almost barren hills begins to set in, a beautiful scene presents itself – the hint of which I gave in my last post! 

The solemn troop of langurs!

Yes, this troop of langur monkeys sitting huddled together on the branches of a particularly shady tree, made an incredible sight indeed. For a specie, famous for their ‘monkeying skills’ they had quite a solemn and curious look about them. While this group stuck together, one of them was perched up on a higher branch, probably playing the sentinel, keeping an eye on the surroundings! 

The silent sentinel

By the time, the monkey magic wears off, we are just 10 minutes away from Pushkar town. Just as our car takes to the bridge built leading into Pushkar town, we are flagged down by a young man sitting alone on the bridge railing. Does he need a lift into town? Is a just another hapless hippie asking for some help? Is he just another vagabond who might harm us? Thoughts such as these are expressed aloud inside the cars, but then curiosity gets the better of us and we gingerly come to a halt in the middle of the bridge built on the Pushkar Lake.

Turns out, the young man is a priest in making and on some days dons the cap of a Guide to earn some extra bucks. Oh, what a way to peddle your wares – flagging down unsuspecting travellers on a deserted bridge and then offering to show them around! As always happens, the seniors in the family are taken in by the guileless charms (and dogged pursuit) of the young man, and so now we have a Guide!

And we get a guide, right off the road!

And our Raju Guide starts right away, launching into a seemingly oft repeated story about Pushkar and its religious relevance amongst Hindus. Since his story sounded all gibberish to me I will take to Wikipedia to get a little more insight into Pushkar. The Wikipedia says that according to Hindu theology, the pond at the Katas Raj temple Near choa saidan shah in Chakwal District of Pakistan has a theological association with Lord Shiva; it was formed by the tears of Lord Shiva which he is believed to have shed after the death of his wife, Sati.

The story goes that when Sati died, Lord Shiva cried so much and for so long, that his tears created two holy ponds — one at Pushkar in Ajmer in India and the other at Ketaksha in Pakistan, which literally means raining eyes, in Sanskrit.

Pushkar as seen from the bridge

The Hindu scriptures describe Pushkarit as Tirtha-Raj – the king of pilgrimage sites related to a water-body and relate it to the mythology of the creator-god Brahma, whose most prominent temple stands in Pushkar. The Pushkar Lake finds mention on coins as early as the 4th century BC. 

So suitably intrigued by all the tears that Lord Shiva shed to create the Pushkar Lake, we decide to head back to our cars, with the guide in tow, to get into Pushkar for some touristy dekko, as well spiritual cleansing. But there’s a jaywalker blocking the tiny road!

A jaywalker on the road!

Camels make such a pretty sight! Their demeanour, the almost dance like walk, the hooded indifferent eyes – it’s all quite a sight to behold. Once this casual walker is on his way, we head back to our cars and are on our way into Pushkar.

Pushkar town is serene and chaotic, both at the same time. It sounds paradoxical, but that’s how it is. The tiny inside roads and lanes are cluttered, but as a whole, the place has a quiet sleepy and laidback feel about it. Once in the middle of this little town, our first stop is at the Pushkar Lake.

The legendary Pushkar Lake

While our guide narrates his own gibberish of a story about the Pushkar Lake, Wikipedia has more interesting narratives to offer about the legend behind this lake. It says – according to the Hindu scripture Padma Purana, Brahma saw the demon Vajranabha trying to kill his children and harassing people. He immediately slew the demon with his weapon, the lotus-flower. In this process, the lotus petals fell on the ground at three places, where springs emerged creating three lakes: the Pushkar Lake or Jyeshta Pushkar (greatest or first Pushkar), the Madya Pushkar (middle Pushkar) Lake, and Kanishta Pushkar (lowest or youngest Pushkar) lake. When Brahma came down to the earth, he named the place where the flower (‘pushpa’) fell from Brahma’s hand (‘kar’) as ‘Pushkar’. It is also said that the sacred Sarasvati River emerged at Pushkar as five streams. The three lakes were assigned their presiding deities as the Hindu Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, respectively.

The Shivlinga in the middle of the lake

So that’s how Pushkar came about – an interesting narrative indeed! After performing relevant religious rituals at the ghats, and absolving ourselves of all our sins, we join the crowd on the streets, making our way to Lord Brahma’s temple, considered the only Brahma temple in the world. But why does Lord Brahma – the creator of this whole universe just have one temple dedicated to his name?

The rush at Lord Brahma Temple

The temple, a little more up close, photography restricted beyond this point

Now the story behind this too is quite intriguing – When Brahma came down to the earth, he named the place where the lotus fell as ‘Pushkar’. Brahma then decided to perform a yagna at the place, at the main Pushkar Lake. However, his wife Savitri could not be present at the designated time to perform the essential part of the yagna. Brahma, therefore, married a Gujjar,a dominant agricultural race named Gayatri and completed the yagna with his new consort sitting beside him. However, when Savitri finally arrived at the venue, she found Gayatri sitting next to Brahma in her rightful place. Agitated, she cursed Brahma that he would be worshipped only in Pushkar. As a result of this, yagna performed in the presence of all the gods, it is said that a dip in the lake created at this place is credited with holiness, assuring salvation from all sins. It is now one of the five holiest centres of pilgrimage for Hindus.

So turns out that even the high, highest rather, and the mighty were not spared from the wrath of a woman scorned. This was some punishment for taking a spur of the moment decision of taking a new consort to perform a religious ceremony! Strange are some Gods and stranger are their ways!

Thus musing on Gods and their strange ways, we leave the temple complex, to look around the bylanes of this little town and gorge on some delicious Rajasthani street food. And an hour down the line, we are back on the road, hopefully sticking to the itinerary this time! 

PS – Day 3 finds us in Abhaneri, exploring its famous stepwell! More on that in the next post!

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