This part of the trip has been meticulously not planned. The idea was to gauge the opinions of people who had recently visited places, and to see if travelling to those towns was feasible. It is why I am probably not visiting Jaipur, and is the reason that I went to Pushkar; a place I had not heard of before touching Indian soil.
Pushkar is famous, though. It is a very holy place for Hindus. The story goes that Brahma, the Hindu God of creation, dropped a lotus flower on Earth, and Pushkar then appeared. Whether he also dropped all of the tacky shops and stalls in this increasingly touristic town is debatable. To commemorate him, Pushkar is home to one of the very few Brahma temples in the world.
Why so few, I hear you ask? Well, our man Brahma wanted to perform a yagna, or self-mortification, at the lake. His wife didn’t attend, so he did what any loyal husband would do. He picked out a random woman from the crowd and married her. Wife #1 obviously didn’t approve, so vowed that Brahma would not be worshipped anywhere else. After a couple of ‘accidents’ at Brahma temple construction sites, people believed in the curse, meaning there are very few of these temples around. I love a story with a happy ending.
The temple itself (photography not allowed, sehr annoying) wasn’t anything special but, as I walked around it with Ian and Paul, I was able to appreciate the rarity of what I was seeing. Ian and Paul, you say? Ian and Paul were two of the Indian college boys on my train from Mumbai to Jodhpur. I bumped into their group as I walked down the street in Pushkar; a place none of us knew that the other was going to. Incredible coincidence, but it doesn’t stop there.
These Indian friends of mine are brash yet hopeless when it comes to attracting the attention of foreign girls. Boy, do they persevere. Two of them shouted at a couple of white girls. I looked across to see who was next in line, and saw a familiar face. It was Steph. It was the girls who lived in Korea who I had hung out with in Goa. The first time. Almost a month ago. Amazing coincidences.
One time we were getting lunch – if something is called a ‘special chapatti’, you have to order it – and playing cards, when an elderly man who closely resembled Jafar from Aladdin started talking at us. I say ‘at us’, as opposed to ‘to us’, as he refused to accept anything we said in a conversation that soon turned into a feisty debate about culture. His argument was that only a shepherd or hunter has culture. When he had dug himself into a large enough hole, he proceeded to swear a lot at Niamh, the Irish girl, before storming out. Always knew Jafar was an evil one.
Though there only ‘special’ aspect to a special chapatti was how good it tasted, there are plenty of menu options using this word for a very different purpose. ‘Special Lassi’ is a good example. This contains bhang which, as I have mentioned before, has a similar effect to marijuana. I thought I had bhang lassi in Bangalore – either I didn’t, or it was very diluted. These things perform a knockout blow an hour or two after drinking them.
A Hindu on a pilgrimage may not drink a special lassi, but they may decide to sip some of the water from that lake where Brahma has a shotgun wedding. At the very least, they will bathe in the sacred lake from one of the ghats. A ghat is a series of steps or landing on a river or other water area. Often they are associated with holy water. Early in the morning, worshippers will come down one of the many ghats, maybe bringing the offering shown below, and then wash.
Once you get there – and believe me, it’s not easy when your bus dumps you 10km south of the bus stand in the next town over – Pushkar is, on the whole, a peaceful and friendly place. The presence of pilgrims is explained by the lake and the temple. The presence of tourists is explained by the bhang lassis and other green stuff being readily available. It’s a strange yet healthy mix, and perfect preparation for my next stop – the capital.
Love you all