My first trip of 2019 came quite late in the year. I headed to Pushkar in the first week of March after spending the first two months shuttling between Mumbai and Goa. I was looking forward to the road trip to Rajasthan, my first visit to the state.
Choosing to visit Rajasthan was a pretty impromptu decision, one that we had zeroed down on just a couple of days prior to departing. Since it was March, I was concerned about what the weather in Rajasthan would be like. This period – the first week of the month, just about straddled the end of a cool winter and start of an unforgiving summer.
Our initial idea was to head straight to Jodhpur. We left Mumbai at 8 am and after a long day of driving, halted a little after midnight, a couple of dozen kms after entering the state of Rajasthan. And when we woke up the next morning, we decided to keep Jodhpur on hold for a couple of days and head to Pushkar instead. It was only 4 hours from where we were, while Jodhpur was another 8 hours away.
I didn’t know what to expect of Pushkar. Since I didn’t plan to visit, I hadn’t researched at all. Would it hold exquisite temples, lavish palaces and rigid forts like the rest of Rajasthan? A riot of colour, like they show in the Rajasthan Tourism ads?
Half an hour after crossing Ajmer, we had arrived. We parked on the side of the road to get our bearings on the map and figure out where to stay in Pushkar. On stepping out of the car and crossing the street, I found myself climbing a series of steps and there, right in front of me, was Pushkar Sarovar, or Pushkar Lake, glimmering under the afternoon sun. Encircling the lake like white lace, was the entire white-washed city of Pushkar laid out before me. This city was much tinier than I expected, especially in comparison to the Aravali Hills that surrounded it.
THINGS TO DO IN PUSHKAR
Upon finding comfortable accommodation, I was ready to explore. My first stop was the market road. The bazaar is the main hub of activity, and runs parallel to one side of the lake. To go anywhere, you have to pass it, and inevitably you will end up shoping at the market as you stroll through. You’ll find items like Rajasthani Juttis, turbans, hippie clothing and even swords and knives, their sharp edges gleaming in the light. While the garments aren’t of great quality and fitting, they are cheap and colourful.
My favourite moments at Pushkar were spent walking on the ghats along the lake. The area radiates good energy and you can’t help but feel calm despite the chaos of the market road, just a few meters away. Do try and catch the evening aarti if you can – it takes place on one corner of the lake at sundown. I sat at Dr. Alone Café, a serene spot with a view of the ghats, until I heard the announcement made on loudspeaker that the arti was about to begin. Leaving my shoes at the restaurant, I walked to the spot and watched the simple ritual unfold.
A pandit, flanked by a person on either side, faced the lake and moved his lamp in clockwise and anticlockwise motions to the sound of chants for a few minutes. Everyone was given a handful of rose petals which they released into the water at the end of the aarti. It was interesting to watch the foreigners – some of them knew exactly what to do, suggesting that they have been living in Pushkar for quite a while.
An Instagram follower suggested that I go watch the sunset from Laura’s Café, an eatery that offers a splendid view of the city from above, along with really good food. And that’s just where I headed after the aarti ended. Gazing at the sky as it turn blush pink over the desert city is a wonderful thing to do in Pushkar. From my vantage point, I watched the lights turn on in the windows of houses surrounding the lake, and then flicker on its still waters, as I sipped on a refreshingly good Pomegranate Juice. If you read my earlier blog post on Pushkar, you’ll know that the city, being considered holy, is strictly vegetarian, so you won’t find eggs, meat or alcohol on the menu (but it will be served in certain restaurants on the sly.)
One thing I really wanted to do, but couldn’t find the time to, was to go on a Camel Safari and watch a Rajasthani folk dance, which is one of the very touristy things to do in Pushkar, but probably worth a skip if you just want to take things slow. However, being an Indian food blogger, I couldn’t leave without relishing some local delicacies. Gulkhand Lassi, Malpua and milk based mithai are out-of-the-world good, especially if you have a sweet tooth!
I also passed by the famous Brahma Temple, said to be the only one in India, and one of the very few in the world. The road leading up to the temple is lined with shoe racks and locals try their best to coerce you to leave your shoes on their stands (for free), hoping you’d buy garlands and religious items from them. If you’re into temples, you can also check out Savitri Temple, which is dedicated to Savitri, the first wife of Brahma. It is located on a hill, so you would need to trek – obviously, I didn’t go to either temple because the first one looked too chaotic and crowded, and the second, well… trekking and ThatGoanGirl don’t go together in the same sentence.
That’s all I could manage to do in 2 days in Pushkar, and take it from a slow traveler, you don’t need much more time than that in this tiny temple town.