Once a while, you get an opportunity to show off your colorful and incredible country, India.
Pushkar in Rajasthan is a holy lake town. When a friend from the ranches of Texas wanted to see India instead of being in the city, we took her by the Shatabdi Express, which is apparently the fastest train, made her eat all things authentic, give her a taste of the village and took her to temples. It was January 2010 and the trip was nothing we expected. The train was late by five hours (Did anyone say fastest?) and the ride to Pushkar from Ajmer in cab was full of questions. The lake was apparently dry and the locals were upset. The spirits were high though. Tourists and devotees still flocked this small lake town.
We found rooms opposite the lake after looking everywhere. We had too many constraints. Money was one major. The Sunset Cafe was next door. With an extensive menu, their playlist of World Hindu Chants made the days especially mornings fresh.
We explored the length and breadth of Pushkar. The Brahma Temple was our first stop, the next day. One of the two Brahma temples in the world, this temple was made of marble and stone tables. Built in the middle of the market, it is considered the most sacred temple for Hindus.
We hired bikes and went in the search for the desert like the movies show. In the process, we crossed many small villages. Devnagar was one of them which had the most interactive residents. Badi Dadi invited us for tea and asked her granddaughter to serve us and asked us to click her photos. We had to wait till she finsihed her bidi (the Indian rendition of cigars). Dada ji was the village head or sarpanch, as they called it. His wife was extremely shy to let us click her photo. Dada ji on the other hand wanted me to frame his and come back the next day to present it to him. He combed his moustache for the occasion.
As we bid them goodbye and went further, the village amazed us. Clean and welcoming, this remote village had a few cars and many smiling faces. We couldn’t see the desert but the rurality was definitely eye opening.
Lost art and dedication was still alive in this small town. The snake charmer tried explaining that the snake doesnt dance because it could hear the music but because of the movement of the ‘been’ or ‘pungi’ (instrument like a simpler version of trumpet). The Jodhpuri Chai wala travels everyday three hours from his village to sell the tea which is traditionally made. The mud cups in which it is served is made by Kishore and his brothers every day before he travels to provide for his family.
The Gayatri Temple, which is in honor of Brahma’s second wife, Gayatri on the east side of the lake was a walk of almost an hour. From there the whole of Pushkar could be seen. Monkeys were everywhere and one had to be careful with the offerings at the temple.
All restaurants and shops in Pushkar are built in synchronization with the old architecture and it makes everything more attractive. The menus, I noticed in most restaurants were full of spelling mistakes. Dont let it hamper your decision, the food here is very innovatively cooked as all of it is vegetarian and has to cater to the taste buds from all over the world.
Shopping was the highlight of this trip and my American friend bought everything that had an elephant on it. I was after colors though. All kinds of clothes in all possible colors. Gifts for all friends in Delhi and a nice leather duffel bag to fit them all.
The train from Jaipur (capital of Rajasthan) was delayed by four hours and we showed her a little of Jaipur too on a cycle rickshaw. A brilliant sunset and we were off in the comfortable second class train. I travelled with three others in January 2010.
How to Reach: Well connected by road, we took the Shatabdi Express from New Delhi Railway Station.
Flights are also available to Ajmer’s Kishangarh Airport.
Stay: Hotel Pushkar Palace in Choti Basti is a good spot on the lake. With cafes and shops at a walking distance, this is a good hotel to be at.
Hotel Oasis in the main market is a good budget hotel with a pool and restaurants in the vicinity
The Greenhouse Resort is a hotel with Swiss tent-like rooms and away from the hustle bustle of the city. A must stay if you are escaping chaos.
Eat: Out of the Blue is a personal favorite. With their comfortable sitting and the color blue, it serves a good array. Their momo (Tibetan dumplings) are a must try.
Best time to visit: October- April is a good time. Post that, the summers start and the desert gets unbearable.