Rajasthan is a desert state in India’s far west. It occupies the area between Pakistan and New Delhi/Agra, and it is one of India’s most visited regions. This is partially due to its convenient accessibility from New Delhi, but also because among its vast desert expanses Rajasthan has some truly remarkable sights. Gigantic fortresses stand guard on mountain tops, opulent palaces house the remnants of Rajasthani royalty, bustling markets bring life to dusty towns, and holy temples dot the landscape.
Among all of this, Pushkar would seem to be an unspectacular destination. It is, after all, only a small town on a lake. But what Pushkar does have is some pretty serious spiritual significance.
Pushkar is a mandatory stop on the Hindu pilgrimage route, as one has to bathe in its holy lake if a pilgrim hopes achieve salvation. This lake is said to have been created by Lord Brahma—one of Hinduism’s three central deities—when he dropped a lotus flower to earth in order to determine the site of his impending holy sacrifice.
Brahma grew impatient—as one might do when waiting to commit suicide—while waiting for his wife Savitri to arrive, so he took a second wife. Savitri, as would be expected, was furious at this news and vowed that Brahma would never be worshiped outside of Pushkar.
Or at least this is the story told to explain why Pushkar is one of the only places in the world with a Brahma Temple.
Pilgrims arriving to Pushkar will usually make their way to the Brahma Temple where they consult with its resident holy men before performing a sacred ritual in the lake. Tourists are welcome to participate in the blessings as well, and there are always touts around who are eager to assist—for a small fee.
To pay one’s respects to Savitri requires a bit more effort than bathing in the lake, as her temple is situated on the top of a hill overlooking Pushkar. The climb can be done in as little as an hour and the views are excellent, but in the scorching desert heat the walk can be strenuous. It’s not unusual to see older worshipers struggling on the hillside path.
Beyond just its spiritual significance, however, Pushkar also has a burgeoning tourist trade. This is best seen when walking through the town market, as it resembles one large tourist bazaar. Here shops sell everything from arts and crafts to souvenir clothing.
Pushkar’s most interesting shopping experience, however, is the annual Pushkar Fair. Held in October-November, this is one of the world’s largest livestock fairs, with the animal of choice being the camel. Villagers from across Rajasthan descend upon Pushkar and the city does its best to provide a celebratory ambiance. If you are anywhere near Pushkar during the fair, do not miss it, but be prepared for the city’s “unique” smell, as thousands of camels in a small town are no joke!