Pushkar is a small town nestled in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan, bordering on the Thar desert, far away from the crowds and the chaos of other cities in Rajasthan. Pushkar is an attractive destination for both, the religious pilgrims and the curious traveler.
Pushkar is home to one of the 6 temples and the primary temple that worships Brahma (The creator) of the holy trinity in Hinduism. The entire settlement of Pushkar is built around the Pushkar lake, a magnetic lake that is sacred to Hindus and is surrounded by Ghats, Temples and shady touts disguised as priests trying to make a quick buck at the expense of unassuming tourists.
The town is extremely popular for hosting the Pushkar Fair that takes place in November, a fair that has grown in popularity the world over and is a time for celebration for the locals and nearby villages. More than 200,000 people visit the Pushkar Camel Fair during the week full of festivities.
Pushkar in the last few decades has also come around to be a center for hippy travelers, due to the relatively low cost of living. The relaxed laws and the easy availability of Bhaang ( a form of marijuana). It’s intriguing to see how the hippy and the religious facets of Pushkar have both come to co-exist
History and Culture of Pushkar
Pushkar has been around for ages, there have been mentions of Pushkar in coins engraved as early as 4th century B.C. The stories of around how Pushkar came to be are endless and often interconnected.
Some stories point to the city being formed after a manifestation of the Mythical Saraswati river emerged at 5 streams at Pushkar. Lord Brahma dropped a lotus and where the petals fell came to be known as Pushkar (sanskrit for Blue Lotus). Lord Brahma went on to perform a Yagna on the ghats of the lake, he realised that his wife Goddess Savitri was missing for an important part of the ritual. To complete the Yagna he married Gayatri.
When Goddess Savitri arrived, she saw Gayatri sitting in her rightful place, in a fit of rage she cursed Lord Brahma that he would not be worshipped anywhere else except for Pushkar. This is why the most prominent Brahma temple and one of the only few Brahma temples in the country can be found in Pushkar.
Pushkar, primarily due to its religious relevance, has an interesting history. The Pushkar Lake which has been flocked by religious pilgrims since time immemorial, saw a dip in visitors during the Mughal Rule due to a heavy tax on pilgrims and a ban on religious celebrations and processions.
Mughal Ruler Akbar rebuilt a lot of the temples and brought the town and the lake back to its former glory. He also is known to have commissioned the revival of the Ajmer Dargah dedicated to the Saint Moinuddin Chishti, Most temples in Pushkar have been rebuilt in the late 18th century after they were destroyed and desecrated again by one of the last Mughal emperors Aurangzeb.
What most people may not know about Pushkar is that the city is also an important site in Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru lived in Pushkar after he was forced out of Anandpur by the Mughals. Guru Gobind Singh is said to have read the Guru Granth Sahib and given a Hukumnama (a historical order for Sikhs) on the Ghats of the Pushkar Lake.
While Pushkar attracts a large number of pilgrims. It is also popular among travelers for being a relaxed destination and a break from other hectic big cities. The Pushkar Fair that takes place in November is a massively attended festival that is frequented by both locals and tourists alike.
Animals, primarily cattle and camels, are brought from far off places and traded or sold at the fair. It is said that as many as 50,000 camels are sold during the 5 days of the fair. The festival has grown into a celebration over the years with ferris wheel, magic shows, local dance shows and camel and horse races. A popular event of the fair is the moustache competition.
For a small religious town, Pushkar has some great options when it comes to continental cuisine. The middle-eastern food cuisine is on a different level in Pushkar. Street side Falafel shops are a common sight while exploring the by lanes of Pushkar. While the consumption of eggs and meat are banned in Pushkar, the sheet variety of food options makes Pushkar a foodie haven for vegetarians and for non-vegetarians alike,
How to get to Pushkar
By Air – Pushkar is a little over 2 hours away from Jaipur and flying into Jaipur followed by a short drive to Pushkar is a good option as most big cities are well connected to Jaipur by air. Pushkar is technically closest to Kishangarh airport, which is soon to be the second busiest airport in Rajasthan after Jaipur, but till the connectivity improves. Jaipur is your best bet to get to Pushkar
By Rail – Pushkar is about an hour away from Ajmer, and Ajmer railway station is one of the main railway stations in all of Rajasthan, train connectivity with the rest of the state, Delhi, Agra and even Mumbai is great. Take the train to Ajmer and take a local bus / cab to Pushkar.
By Road – Pushkar is 2 hours away from Jaipur, 5 hours away from Jodhpur and around 8 from Delhi. The drive for most parts is pleasant and is definitely an option. Getting a day or an overnight bus to either of Pushkar / Ajmer is definitely an option.
Best time to travel to Pushkar
The best time to visit Pushkar is definitely in the winter. The period between October and March is extremely pleasant, if you can time your trip to be Pushkar for Holi, you’re sure to witness a lot of fervour and celebrations. The celebrations are insane and there’s a huge street party. If you are a female traveler we recommend being in groups for the street parties
We recommend avoiding the months of May and June as they can be extremely hot since Pushkar is very close to the Thar and the weather can be extremely hot and Arid in these months. July and August are only slightly better but can be visited.
Getting around Pushkar
Pushkar is a really small town and very easy to walk around, while there are a few rickshaws it’s extremely easy and the best way to explore the town is on foot. You could choose to hire a bike, but unless you’re good at navigating tiny alleyways full of people and perhaps even cows. We recommend you stick to walking. If you plan to visit the dargah in Ajmer, we recommend renting the bike, as the ride there is quite nice.
Breaking stereotypes about Pushkar
Camel Safari in Pushkar – Yes, Pushkar is also technically in the Thar Desert and the Camels are real, it’s not really a safari experience as there’s no sand dunes in, around or close to Pushkar. You should save the camel safari experience for Jaisalmer.
Sunset Point – Watch the sunset fall over Lake Pushkar from Sunset Cafe, one of the main sunset points of this little town. One of the best places to unwind at. The Sunset cafe also has amazing Enchiladas and you must try them when in Pushkar.
Brahma Temple – The Brahma Temple in Pushkar, is the primary temple of Lord Brahma, The creator in the holy trinity of Hinduism. Since his wife Goddess Savitri cursed him that he would only be worshipped in Pushkar. The city and the temple came into being. It is this temple primarily that made Pushkar the holy site of pilgrimage for thousands of devout Hindus.
Savitri Temple Trek – The Savitri Temple on the outskirts of the town, offers a great panoramic view of the town, the lake and the rugged hills around. While it’s a great place to catch a sunset from, we strongly recommend you go all the way up to see the sunrise over Pushkar.
Walk around the Town and Shop! – Nothing beats walking around Pushkar and we’d be lying if it isn’t one of the best places to shop in all of the country. Shopping wise, there’s so much to buy here some really cool ethnic accessories and collectibles are what you should ideally take back from Pushkar.
Deer Park – Just towards the outskirts of the city, a cute little Deer Park has found its home in Pushkar, go around 4 PM to watch the caretaker call them to come eat and drink water. Very underrated and if you can find your way here, an absolute must visit!