Monday, October 1, 2007

Pushkar Camel Fair

A trip to Pushkar is one worth taking, especially during the Pushkar Camel Fair. This extraordinary fair showcases the best of camels and cattle in the northern states of India. Not only can one see these fine creatures but also buy them at this livestock fair. In addition to camels, one can also spot a large number of cows, horses and adorable Indian ponies. And you thought Pushkar was only about camels!

Several competitions are organized during the fair. While the first two days (rather boring if you dont wish to carry cattle home) are reserved exclusively for camel trading, the rest are laden with fun for all visitors as all the trading takes a back seat. Needless to say, cattle and other livestock are also traded, but it's camels that hold the spotlight at the Pushkar fair. Camel traders and villagers from cities and states miles away join at Pushkar to show off their prized beasts. It was really a feast for the eyes.

One Really Decked up Camel !

All cows, horses and camels are groomed and preened to look their best. Some camels are even shaved to form different kind of patterns. These camels are also accessorized interestingly. The accessories meant for camels include jewelry made of silver and beads such as silver bells and bangles around their ankles.

Part of the revelry at the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan is the camel races and competitions that are organized here every year. Yet another exciting event is the camel beauty contest. In this one of a kind contest, visitors can enjoy the sight of camels being lovingly adorned and paraded. The camels strut before their ardent admirers and enjoy every moment in the limelight. The horses though slightly neglected, also receive their fair share of attention as they too are groomed and accessorized. The finest quality saddles can also be purchased her for horses.

Apart from admiring the Pushkar camels and cattle, one can enjoy the riot of colors that swarms the Pushkar Fair. Visitors can buy knick-knacks from all across Rajasthan at this fair. Turbans, women’s jewelry and trinkets are just few of the many things one can buy. One can also sample the delicious but strictly vegetarian Rajasthani cuisine here. Oh how I was craving chicken, an omlette even, nobody has a clue!

At the fair we also saw some to-die-for silver jewelry and what's more, the peices were available at throw away prices! Coming from the UK, I felt that just about everything in India was available at throw away prices. I got an exotic spa deal at a fabulous hotel in Udaipur for just 150 Pounds! Now that is unheard of in Leeds. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pushkar Lake

On one of the days we spent in Pushkar, our tour guide insisted that we must visit the holy Pushkar Lake and explore its ghats and also take a holy dip. Since Pushkar is one of the premier pilgrimage destinations in India, it is a highly interesting town and is located in Ajmer in the Indian state of Rajasthan. Dotted with spectacular temples, Pushkar boasts of a rich heritage and culture. Pushkar is among the oldest towns in India and Lord Brahma is often associated with its creation and also of the Pushkar Lake. Pushkar is also home to a 14th century temple of the Hindu god of creation - Lord Brahma. This is one of the few temples of the deity in the world.

Pushkar literally means born due to flower and lies on the shore of the Pushkar Lake. The creation of the Pushkar Lake is associated with an interesting legend. It is believed that the lake was created when a lotus flower escaped from the hands of Lord Brahma into the Pushkar valley. Immediately a lake was formed from the dew in the flower. The sage Vishwamitra is also said to have meditated here for thousands of years.

The water was placid and we saw many Indians of all shapes and sizes taking a dip in the lake. I have never been at the Ganges, so this was a glimpse of what I may get to see there in case I ever visit it to "purge" myself of my sins. The lake looked especially 
appealing at night when
what looked like a gazillion oil lamps or diyas were set afloat on it. 
I also caught a glimpse of 
an Indian frog.

A dip in the holy waters of the sacred Pushkar Lake on the day of the Kartik Purnima (full moon night of the 11th month of the Hindu 
lunar calendar) is considered same as performing yagnas for several hundred years. Lined with fifty-two bathing Ghats, the lake exudes an unmatched air of peace and tranquility. The water around each Ghat on the Pushkar Lake is believed to have extraordinary powers. The
Naga Kund, for instance, is considered to bestow fertility. The Roop Tirth Ghat imparts beauty and allure .

Verdant hills on three sides and the desert on the other side surround the Pushkar Lake. The lake is most attractive and throngs with tourists during the Pushkar Camel Fair and the day of the Kartik Purnima, when the new moon rises. The Pushkar Lake is said to be at its most benevolent and influential during this phase of the moon’s cycle.

The true fervor and impact of this majestic lake can only be felt on visiting the sacred Pushkar Lake.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Temples of Pushkar

The land of temples, Pushkar is truly a holy city. One can literally feel the rich culture and ancient history of Hinduism. Extraordinary temples, extraordinary architecture 
and extraordinary camels, all this and more awaited me at Pushkar on my India trip last year.
Quite literally and quite stoically, I fell in love with this wonderful place in Rajasthan. And to think, I did not even want to go there.

Among the hundreds of temples in Pushkar, five stand apart. These are Jagat Shri Brahma Temple, Varaha Temple, Apteshwar Mahadev Temple, Savitri Temple, and the Temple of Rangji. The Jagat Shri Brahma Templeis the only temple of the world dedicated to Brahma, who according to Hindu mythology is worshipped as the creator of the universe in Hindu mythology. The Savitri Temple is devoted to Goddess Savitri, the second wife of Brahma according to Hindu mythology. This temple is constructed on a hill behind the temple of Lord Brahma.

The Majestically colorful Brahma Temple

The Apteshwar Mahadev Temple is a worship place built in the 19th century. The striking temple is made entirely in white marble and houses a five-faced statue of Lord Mahadeva. The Temple of Rangji is also known as the Ramavaikunth Temple. This intricately carved Hindu temple has images of 361 deities and was built in 1920. The Varaha Temple is dedicated to Lord Varaha, the god with the body of a man and the head of a boar.

An avid interest in Hindu mythology will certainly drive one towards the king of all pilgrimage places in India. Pushkar is a haven of sorts for Hindu pilgrims and tourists exploring Hindu pilgrimage places. Everything is sacred about this temple town in the city of Ajmer in Rajasthan, India. Beware though, you won't get to feast on any meat here. The temples of Pushkar attract thousands of pilgrims and tourists each year, and last year, I was one of them.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Camels Galore...

On last year's trip to India, we thought of taking a walk on the wild side and heading to the hot hot hot North Indian state of Rajasthan. However, choosing the month of November to explore it was a smart idea. Nonetheless, thanks to our tour operator, we didn't really "feel" the heat (whatever of it there was). Hehehe...

So then after spending three days in Jaipur, we marched onward to Pushkar to see the huge camel fair. When we arrived we came to know that it is not just a camel fair but also a cultural phenomenon where one experiences vivacious merriment as the atmosphere is alive with vibrantly dressed devotees, musicians, folk dancers, traders, comedians, saadhus and tourists exploring this fabulous fair in Pushkar. At Pushkar, a sacred town in Rajasthan is held a one of a kind fair – the Pushkar Camel Fair, the biggest and most anticipated cattle fair across the world. It is held in the month of November.

He's a happy lad, this one!

According to a rather interesting legend the town was formed when Lord Brahma was on his way to search for a suitable place to perform a fire sacrifice ritual and dropped a lotus to the parched earth and its dew transformed to a holy lake. The lake and its surroundings were then established as the town of Pushkar. To this day Pushkar is a pilgrimage place for Hindus.

Although meant originally only for trading of camels and cattle, the Pushkar Camel Fair has now become a major tourist attraction and has earned the reputation of the biggest livestock fair in the entire world. During this ball of a fair, the population of Pushkar rises from 15000 to 200000. Cattle included!