Rajasthan, the land of Kings, is probably one of the most sought after destination in India. It serves the interests of basically everyone, you want to experience rich history and magnificent royal architectural marvels, Rajasthan is famous for it. You want a peaceful, serene time relaxing, head over to Udaipur or Mount Abu. The amount of treasure Rajasthan has and offers is beyond any quantification.
Naturally, being a History enthusiast myself, Rajasthan has been on my mind since a long time, perhaps from the time I was a little kid watching television shows on brave tales of Rajasthan, of Maharana Pratap, of Rani Padmini. I was in Bangalore when the idea of a solo trip across Rajasthan hit me for the first time. Unfotunately it was 2020, and the Covid situation had worsened bring the entire nation to a fullstop. disappointingly I had to cut my ideas and plans for the time being, as although wanting to take a trip desperately, I decided to act responsibly according to Covid protocols. Anyways, cutting short to February 2021. Now I had shifted to Delhi from Bangalore for a short time back in December 2020 due to personal reasons. The thought again crossed me, about taking a trip across Rajasthan. Even the first wave had settled down. And I lost no time in getting my things together and booking the required tickets. Ditching the several ideas given to me by my fellow peers who had experiences in Rajasthan, I decided to set and follow a route of my choosing.
So I chose my route initially as Delhi--Ajmer--Pushkar--Jodhpur--Jaisalmer--Bikaner. But later on as found, due to certain unseen circumstances I cancelled my trip to Bikaner and instead, replaced it with Udaipur and Chittorgarh, before returning back to Delhi. So after a deliberate plan and getting things in order, I finally boarded the train to Ajmer from New Delhi Railway station, on 4th of March 2021. As expected, the first part of my overnight journey from Delhi to Ajmer was quite uneventful. The train compartment had the usual crowd of Mothers tending to wailing babies, aged people talking amongst themselves, locals talking, sometimes bickering. Also the train departed quite late at night, close to 8:00 PM in the night, so within just a couple of hours of the journey, people went to bed. Unfortunately for me, I always had problem sleeping in trains. So I rather decided to spend the rest of the night watching movies or series. I started watching the newly released series of Abhay Deol, "1962-War in the Hills" which was released just a few days ago. I realized how effective movies, series are in passing your time on a train journey. Because by the time the Series ended, I reached Ajmer. It was very early in the morning, around 4:30 AM. The train reached 30 minutes prior to its scheduled time. Although the first stop of my trip was Ajmer, yet my trip actually began from the Holy city of Pushkar, 15 KMs from Ajmer, and that was where my Hostel was where I stayed for the time in Ajmer/Pushkar. So after descending from the train and exiting the station, I had to start looking for a way to reach Pushkar.
PUSHKAR - The First Stop
So, from Ajmer Station Exit 1, you can find a continuous array of buses, minivans heading towards Pushkar, which is a great option for solo travellers on a budget. It hardly costs 40-80 rupees for one way depending upon the mode. I chose a Mini van, which took me to Pushkar in 40 Rupees. However, travelers wanting a bit more comfort can also opt for private auto-rickshaws, or Taxis it might again cost anywhere between 200-500 rupees. Having a good Negotiation skill can help ease the costs a bit.
So anyways, I reached my hostel, MOUSTACHE which was wonderfully located right in the heart of the Pushkar Market, a few blocks away from the Brahma Temple for which Pushkar is popular with devotees. The hostel not only gave a beautiful view of the beautiful town of Pushkar but also the majestic Aravalli mountains which surrounds Pushkar and much part of Rajasthan.
So, after freshening up, taking my bunk in the hostel and after a much needed, filling bowl of Cheese Maggi, I spilled myself out on the streets of Beautiful, Holy Pushkar. A beautiful town indeed, Pushkar's main significance lay in the Brahma Temple, one of the only temples dedicated to Shri Brahma Deva, one of the divine trinity in Hindu faith, who is also regarded as the God of Creation. And adjoining the temple, and stretched along the town is the holy Pushkar Lake or the Brahma Lake. Adjoining the lake are several Ghats, which are also a integral part of the religious beliefs of Hindus and devotees coming from all part of India. Amongst all the ten Ghats, the three most important Ghats are The Brahma Ghat, Gau Ghat and the Varaha Ghat.
As I followed out of the narrow lane within the main market road, where my hostel was located, I moved across the crowd towards the Ghats. The entire market area was thronged by tourists, devotees and was looking bright and colorful with all the shops which sold anything from cloths, dolls, toys, earthenware, small figurines to even several shops of exquiste, beautiful carved swords (considering the fact that Rajasthan is known for its brave kings, warriors and their valiant past, swords seem to complete the atmosphere in Rajasthan). Here and there you can even find many shops of local food, which I will be discussing in the later part of this article.
The ghats were the most beautiful aspect of Pushkar. Surrounded by a panaromic view of the Aravallis, the ghats were a spot of bustling activity of both tourists and devotees. The place gave a vivid visual of the deep rooted, ancient Hindu customs, religious marvels of India. Devotees taking dips in the holy lake, offering their prayers and conducting the religious rites. The tourists were engrossed in capturing the incredible scenes in their lens. There were locals, priests, shopkeepers sitting along the ghats for casual relaxations.
Brahma Ghat, Varaha Ghat and Gau Ghat were amongst the most important of all the ten ghats. All the three ghats offered incredible scenes, which would make you feel your trip to Pushkar as worthy. While Brahma Ghat, which was the most closest to the main Brahma Temple, served as the prime spot for people and devotees to take holy dips and bathe in the holy waters of the Lake, adjoining which was beautiful hanuman temple, right in the lake. The Gau Ghat, which translates to the "Ghats of Cows" was dedicated to Gau Mata, or Mother Cow, which is the holiest animal in Hinduism. The ghats was filled with beautiful and calm cows existing peacefully side by side with Humans. Gau ghat had some of the most impressive ancient buildings, painted in shades of white and blue. Varaha ghat is one of the largest with impressive architecture and views. It gives a wide eye view of the Pushkar skyline. Varaha Ghat is also the place where the beautiful Sandhya Aarti is held, at around 5:30 PM in the evening.
After exploring the ghats a few more time, I proceeded towards the Brahma Temple, and as with all important religious sites, Photography inside the temple was not allowed. Hence I kept my camera, equipments back in the Hostel before I proceeded to the Temple to offer my prayers and take part in the religious customs. Being a deeply religious person myself, I can tell you, the visit to the temple and the subsequent partake in prayers and customs really made my trip to Pushkar totally worth my time.
After the time spent in the beautiful Temple and its environs I proceeded to explore the town of Pushkar, the little lanes and beautiful markets. Also it is very important to mention, amongst all the gems of Pushkar, there is also a beautiful South Indian style Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, or Lord Vaikuntha Venkatesh, another one of the three holy trinity gods in Hinduism. It is not only an architectural marvel and visual treat, but also infact one of the ancient temples within Pushkar.
The evenings in Pushkar ghats are a treat in itself. Just few minutes before sun starts to lower its gaze on this majestic town, the Ghats especially in Varaha ghat, starts filling up with people and devotees again. Because it is the time for a beautiful Sandhya Aarti (Evening Prayers) performed by priests of the Temple. A really refreshing experience, I was totally filled with devotion as well as wonders, for the the entire duration of the aarti. It felt beautiful, as the sun dipped in the horizon, with the sounds of the mantras, sanskrit chants filling up the air around.
Now that I had been roaming since almost 7:00 AM in the morning, my stomach began to rumble in pangs of Hunger. So this meant, the beginning of my food exploration. The food in Pushkar is similar to almost every other North Indian town and cities. During Breakfasts, you can find an impressive array of Kachoris, Puri Sabzi, Jalebi, and hot refreshing tea. Not to mention, food is quite cheap and affordable, along with being delightfully delicious. For Lunch, I started exploring the market area for some good local delicacies. Lunch in Pushkar is also the most usual north Indian varieties including chole chawal, roti sabzi, daal-chawal etc. People with affinity to Non-Veg might find Pushkar a bit challenging, as finding meat is almost impossible. With lunch on my mind I was roaming around the central market, in one of the narrow lanes filled with shops of figurines and religious items. That's when I came upon a Tibetian cafe sitting right in middle of the Pushkar market. So I decided to try it, and ordered some Mushroom Thukpa and veg dumplings. It was one of the most filling and contending food I had since my trip started. The manager of the cafe was quite interactive and spoke to me about a lot of things, including hard-to-know things about Pushkar. Also, post my meal, he even offered me a piece of Yak Milk Cheese to taste. It had a really delicious, strong and musky flavour. Apart from the usul heavy meals, Pushkar is filled with stalls and "Thelas" of delicious street food like panipuri, dahi chaat, jhaal muri, papri chat etc. You can always fill your hunger pangs while exploring the streets. The most unique food in Pushkar, can however be found around and after sunset. It is when the Halwai shops (Sweet Shops) all around Pushkar is filled with delicious aroma of Pushkar Malpua. Dipped in lip smacking flavors and syrup this is one of the most delicious preparation unique to Pushkar. I stuffed myself with enough to fill up my stomach. It was so satisfying. After an entire day of exploring and stuffing myself with food, I settled for a humble, yet filling meal of Kadhi-Chawal in my Hostel.
As I sat in my hostel, reminisicing through the days various experience, I couldn't stop smiling at my fortune, that I could experience Pushkar at its prime, the real jest of the religious town, culture surrounding it, the diversity of people living here and their customs, way of life. I found Pushkar to be a simple, deeply religious, yet so beautiful, so honest and expressive. The people I interacted, be it my hostel's manager, the local staff, or the people on the streets, fellow tourists, the ascetics, priests, or the shopkeepers, were all so much full of stories, so much knowledge. I have to admit, Pushkar has a certain attraction, which pulls the people visiting the peaceful little town towards it even after they have left. Because after a day, when I finally bid adieu to Pushkar, the memories, the sweet smell of the Ghats, the beautiful aroma of incense burning in the temples, the hubub of people, it kept reminiscing back in my heart. I would definitely go back to Pushkar someday.
With my exploration of the beautiful almost complete, I settled in the bed for a deep, refreshing sleep, for the next day was going to bring me a plethora of new exploration, a new place - Ajmer city.