I've always said that I'm an extremely fortunate human being to have been born and brought up in Delhi because of its proximity to a plethora of beautiful states such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, and most of all Rajasthan. Apart from being the largest state in the country, Rajasthan is essentially known for its endless deserts and regal magnificence. Before I had ever visited it, my perception of Rajasthan was formed by the opinions of my kith and kin, who majorly talked about the grandeur of the forts and palaces spread throughout, the great variety of food, and religious places. Since I was born an explorer, I had always desired to spend some quality time there in order to truly understand the culture of the kingly state. And that time finally did arrive in December 2016, when I took three days off from my office to padhaaro into Rajasthan.
Unlike entering through Jaipur like most Delhiites do, I decided to follow a slightly unconventional itinerary: Delhi – Pushkar – Ajmer – Jodhpur – Delhi. I had booked my bus ticket to Pushkar for Friday night right after office on December 24, and hence began my life-changing solo trip to Rajasthan.
Pushkar – The creator's abode
I reached Pushkar early on a pleasant Saturday morning, striving to fathom the goings on of the Tirth Raj – the king of pilgrimages in India. The city is also home to the most renowned Brahma Temple in the world, and so the agnostic within me expected a totally religious place with devout disciples queueing up outside the temple. But, fortunately, I was wrong. Even before I had checked into a reasonable hotel in Pushkar, I noticed the feel-good, hippie vibe of the city. After freshening up, I went in search of breakfast and that's when I realised that the city was actually a seamless melange of the liberal western and traditional Indian cultures. Where there was the staple poha-pakode being sold by hawkers in the market, there was also a flurry of cafes that served western breakfast platters, including Israeli, English, American, and what not. I was obviously surprised, but this only proved to be a welcome beginning to a place I had grossly misunderstood.
I stayed very close to the ghats of the holy Pushkar Lake, and hence I had the utmost liberty to move in and out of my room directly on to the ghats whenever I pleased. The main Brahma Temple is also situated along the same ghat stretch, so it was walkable. Considering it was the largest temple of one of Hinduism's primary trinities – Brahma – the number of visitors was considerably less, probably owing to the fact that it was around Christmas. I had ample time to sit inside the huge temple and ponder over various lesser gods, I had read about in the Mahabharata, that had taken refuge there in their separate corners.
I was jolted back from my trance by an old priest who probably thought I had lost my way, literally or metaphorically. I suddenly realised I had been sitting there for the last two hours so I just thanked him for waking me up and walked out of the temple compound. I wondered why I had spent that long inside without actually holding any religious beliefs, but then it felt peaceful at the same time.
Pushkar is a funny place where you can seek your own nirvana one way or the other. Sitting by the Pushkar Lake ghats in the afternoons, you would be visited by many brahmins who will offer to say prayers for you in order to atone you and your family for the sins you have committed. There are many people that did go back happily after those pooja sessions, so I have no reason to believe that faith cannot heal. And in Pushkar, you do realise there is no dearth of faith anywhere.
On Monday morning, I checked out from my room to catch a local bus to another holy place, Ajmer, which is just 15km away.