Like the 'Kalpavriksha' or the wish-granting tree, Pushkar fulfils the desire of every soul that visits with a purpose of its own. For some, it might mean soaking in the electrifying energies of a mad-rush mela, for some- a hidden treasure of stories and photographs and for some, a blissful journey in search of purity and spiritualism. Over the years, Pushkar has moulded its deep-rooted traditions and rich cultural legacy to perfectly blend with the contemporary tastes of the tourists that flock here from all corners of the world to witness the phenomenal ‘ Pushkar Mela’.
But there is more to this quaint town than the Mela. Pushkar for me, turned out to be a melting pot - of smoking faces beneath colourful turbans, of beauty hidden in cramped alleys, of lingering aromas of sinful delicacies, of a serene lake oozing spirituality, of thousand camels and their tireless herdsmen and much more. Every element of Pushkar paints a mural of its own universe, yet all of it seems to be connected and making perfect sense!
A little about Pushkar Mela -The quaint Pushkar, also one of the oldest cities of India, suddenly bursts with superlative energy during Oct-Nov each year with the Pushkar Mela - the largest camel fair in the world! Traders from Rajasthan, Gujarat and other states come to Pushkar to trade their camels and horses during the festival that lasts for 7 to 8 days. The dates and itinerary of the mela gets listed well in advance. The Mela is a herculean affair of crowd, dust, food, cacophony, stalls, joy rides, tourists, photographers, horses, camels, more camels, confusion and chaos happening on an outsized fair-ground. The last day of the fair that happens on the banks of the Chandrabhaga River during full moon is considered the most important of all days. The highlights of the mela are undoubtedly the colourful and artistically decorated camels with intricate designs on their skin crafted by the traders themselves. Pushkar Mela is a phenomenon worth to be witnessed once in a lifetime!
What to do at Pushkar : Landing in a place like Pushkar for the first time and not knowing where to start can be extremely confusing and frustrating, ! The below snippets intend to make it a wee-bit easy.
I strongly recommend sparing a day in your itinerary exclusively to screen Pushkar. Walk the 3km main road all the way to the mela to get a hang of it.
Pay a visit to the rare Brahma temple and Savitri Temple, the latter is situated on a hillock.
Walk aimlessly in the alleys to explore its quaint and traditional aesthetics.
Circumvent 52 ghats around the lake and soak in its calmness and serenity. Spend an evening at an adjoining restaurant and cherish the views from the top.
Connect with the locals, they are filled with warmth. Strike conversations with the foreign tourists and exchange stories over a pizza! Yeah! you will vouch for the Pizzas served at the cozy 'La Pizzeria'.
Relish hot Poha from a street cart and Bhang Lassi at 'Out of the Blue.'
Give your taste buds a feast at 'Halwaai Galli! Hog on creamy lassis, steamy hot Kachoris, succulent dhoklas and the sinful “Rabri Malpuas”.
Sip Kullad-chai (served in earthen cups) near the Mela ground.
Try the authentic “Daal Baati” at a local restaurant. Ask for that extra cup of ghee..
If you can dare to chuck hygiene, try the sweets and savouries from one of the hundred roadside stalls in the Mela, especially the samosas and jalebies
Ride on a decked-up camel cart to the dunes at sunset where you can also enjoy the Kalbeliya dance.
Skip hotels and choose a homestay instead! You can get one at as cheap as 250 INR!
Shop for souvenir like miniature puppets and handmade eco-friendly diaries.
Smoking-up seems to be common for the tourists and the locals. Don't get baffled.
Pushkar is extremely safe for a solo woman traveler. Personal discretion is recommended
From the eyes of a lens :
Portraits from the Pushkar Mela is something that a photographer would cherish for life!
The best way to frame Pushkar is to walk endlessly. Look out for decorated camel and carts, smoking and cooking herdsmen, especially at dawn and dusk. Pushkar is great for silhouettes at twilight.
Walk beyond the mela on the road leading to Savitri temple until you reach a clearing that holds hundreds of camels! If you are lucky, you might get shots of dust blown by running camels! A few good landscapes can also be attempted from this temple located on a small hilltop.
Roam in the narrow alleys of the village on a lazy afternoon to look at Pushkar from a totally different angle. The traditional houses can make way for some unique frames.
Nothing great to capture in the mela ground since it serves to entertain a tourist from abroad who finds the concept of a Mela fascinating. Skip it! Actual action is outside!
Visit during the early days of the Mela, avoiding the last 2 days, as it gets extremely chaotic. Also, most herdsmen and camels leave Pushkar a day before the Chandrabhaga Fair.
Not to Miss the Halwaai Galli for street and food photography!
Warning : Most locals ask for money to pose for photos. Strike a deal before clicking. Bargain can start at Rs. 10 or 20 and go up to a whopping 2000! Sadly, I saw most photographers asking for poses and action. Id say 'go candid!
Club Kumbhalgarh, if time permits. Read here : https://gauricosmos.com/2017/01/01/the-speaking-silence-kumbhalgarh/
I tried to sum up Pushkar in words. Though, at the end, I was convinced that my lens did a better job.