During our stay in Jaipur we decided to visit Pushkar for the day. The town is in the Ajmer district of the Rajasthan state and about two hours and a taxi ride from Jaipur away. It is famous for three things: a sacred lake of the Hindus, a Brahma temple and an annual fair. We almost managed to combine all three, but we were three days too early for the camel fair. It was just being set up when we visited the city.
Pushkar is very popular with tourists and has streets lined with shops and cafes, like a tourist town in Spain. I had read posts from people that hate this place (e.g. on A Long Way From Yorkshire) but actually when I visited, the people were friendly (especially those in the backstreets and alleys) and if you quickly passed through the crazy busy streets with shops, and made your way to the quieter residential areas or corners of the lake, you could have a nice time. It probably depends what you do and where you go.
We started by walking along the famous lake…
The Pushkar Lake is a very old, artificial lake (built across the headwaters of the Luni River). It finds mention on coins as early as the 4th century BC. It is surrounded by 52 bathing ghats (a series of steps leading to the lake), where pilgrims throng in large numbers to take a sacred bath. A dip in the sacred lake is believed to cleanse sins and cure skin diseases.
You can walk done some of the steps to the lake, but once you come to the final ones you have to take off your shoes. You are not allowed to walk in shoes on the shore of the lake.
Neither are you allowed to take pictures of people bathing, as they will be very skimpy dressed (apparently this is one of the few areas in India where people would even strip naked to take a bath).
A coinage known as “Puskar Passport” used by visitors to the lake and the ghats denotes the red thread that is tied on the wrists of pilgrims by the priests (for a small fee). This indicates that the pilgrim has visited Pushkar Lake and is usually not approached by priests again for further rites and fees. They kept offering this to us, but we preferred to stay on the steps and just take in our surroundings.
We were not alone on the steps – there were cows, many doves and even monkeys.
It was fun to see the monkeys chasing the doves, the cows trotting along across everything, even over Patricks shoes, and the people trying to walk carefully around the animals.
Here is one more shot, this time from Gary from F8Photography, who captured me and Patrick sitting on the steps, overlooking the Pushkar lake: