It’s that time of the year. The world famous animal fair is just round the corner. From 30th October to the 6th of November. And if you haven’t done it already, then one must make it there, at least once. To get the taste of a cacophony and celebration of a different kind. While the place will be generously sprinkled with global travelers wanting to catch the exotic and spiritual east, this is one place where the core India gathers to have their share of fun. A mela more than a fair, it still has ‘maut Ka kuan’ [ the well of death], strange puppet shows, exotic magic corners, and camel race at the backdrop of all the selling and barter of livestock.
While this town is called the holy city, with the only temple in the world dedicated to lord Brahma [ the Hindu God of creation], and many mentions across Kalidas’s classics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the prime attraction otherwise is the animal trade fair. When the whole town is buzzing from early morning to much late in the night. With pilgrims, revelers, photographers and spiritual seekers. From humble farmer and cattle rearing homes to ostentatious stud farms from Punjab, people from far and near come with their livestock. With their animals brushed and cleaned and dressed in finery. Hoping to make a good deal. And while the business goes about it’s own way, there is place for fun. Rides, tricks, tents with village art, shopping, camel race, village music and an indescribable haze that seems to have come out of all the Indian heartland movies.
If you think you will get only bajre ki roti [ bread made with black millet] and sabzi [ vegetables], think again. Yes, you will find the rustic thali in many tents, along with lip smacking flavors. But the holy city has many small eclectic joints which serve quite the international array. There is even a hard rock cafe [ not THE hrc please], and the french onion soup and the enchiladas there are quite yummy. In the midst of the market place, in a thandai shop, one can even find some bhang. Snacking options range from fried delicacies to decadent sweets.
The place has many holy sites. Quite a few temples. The most popular out of the lot is the Brahma temple, followed by the Savitri temple situated on top of a hill. The Mahadeva temple is also a beautiful one built in the 19th century, with a while marble Mahadeva. Sages throng the crowd with their colorful ensemble. All chilled out in their disposition, with ‘live and let live’ air about them. People go about offering prayers and taking a holy dip in the large lake. In the evening the place lights up with little jewels shining on the banks. And the effect is quite magical.
And while you are there, try hiking to the Savitri temple, built on a hill top. The sunrise or sunset is quite spectacular from there. And one can see the whole city and beyond. It is vast and refreshing, and the line up of monkeys on the way is quite entertaining. Many pilgrims make their sturdy way up, with breathing and refreshment breaks. It is best to be aware that it is a bit of a breathless, around 60 minutes climb but totally worth it.
The other reason this place is a sheer delight is because it is such a treasure trove for beautiful clicks. The place is colorful. The people are colorful. The fair is full of things that are begging to be captured. The streets are far removed from clinical and boring. And even when you are not looking, you will find an easy frame. A pile of vermilion, colorful notebooks, leather products in vibrant dye, a neon turban. The list is endless. Even if you are just operating with a phone camera, you will have plenty to play with.
For the weekend traveler, between 30th October and 6th November, you will get only one weekend. If it has been on the list, I would say now would be just about the right time to get going. All you need is two days and one night.
I once stayed at this place called The third eye. http://www.pushkarthirdeye.com/. It is usually quite reasonable but during the fair the prices are hiked up. The sit out area is gorgeous. They have a few friendly dogs. And the pancakes and most of the menu card is quite awesome and reasonable. It is a short 10 minutes walk from the Pushkar lake and all the other important sites like the Brahma temple, market place and the fair grounds.
If you are leaving from Delhi, there are overnight volvo and sleeper buses that leave at midnight and reach by breakfast time. From anywhere else, the nearest rail head is Ajmer. From there it is barely half hour away. All in all, very easy to get there. And very fulfilling an experience
This trip was first published on The Travel Shrink.