Visit Pushkar When The Moon Shines Brightest!
Pushkar, a little town bordering the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, is known for its picturesque lake and religious significance. Visit it around the time of the annual camel fair and during Karthik Purnima, a holy Hindu and Jain festival celebrated during the full moon. Priyanka Naik tells us why this gorgeous place should be experienced at least once.
Pushkar had been on my bucket list for a while. The camel fair at Pushkar, Asia’s largest, is said to bring together about 2,00,000 people and 25,000 camels every year. Adorned with colourful ornaments, the camels are a sight to behold, each better than the next. After planning this trip for a while, I finally managed to make it this year. While Pushkar is amazing all through the year, I really wanted to experience the cultural extravaganza it is famous for. So I planned my trip in November around Karthika Purnima, when Pushkar is buzzing with people, festivities and culture.
Here are some of the places I visited in Pushkar, and would recommend to everyone planning a trip to Rajasthan.
Pushkar For The Culture Lover
I’d heard a lot about the grand Pushkar Mela so I was pretty excited about this one! And the fair was huge, possibly covering an area as big as the town itself! I walked up and down the streets with stalls displaying all kinds of wares, from household goods to clothes to weaponry to toys. But, a word of caution, these are local products meant for local visitors, and not of the best quality. So I didn’t really buy anything from the fair’s main area except for a few small trinkets. Regardless, this place is definitely worth a visit.
The main fair ground, where fun competitions like the best moustache and the turban-tying contest take place was fun! You can choose from the camel rides or camel cart rides that are available here.
Pushkar Main Market
Serious shoppers have the option of the Pushkar market. I say night market here, because although this market is open 24/7, this stretch really comes alive in the evenings and is much prettier then. In fact, the market does not shut at all on the eve of Karthika Purnima. The quality of products in this main market is pretty good so you can pick up as many souvenirs as your heart desires, but don’t forget to bargain. My haggling over a pair of jootis meant I bought them for just ₹ 200 instead of the initial ₹ 650 quoted.
Tip: Plastic money is not accepted at most of the stalls, so remember to carry cash!
Camel Ride To The Dunes
Riding a camel is one of those things I’ve always wanted to do. And so it is with many others, making it super popular with visitors. You’ll find several vendors offering rides on camel back or by camel cart across the fair and to the dunes (just about 1.5km outside the fair area) and back. But don’t get duped into thinking something magnificent awaits you at the end of the ride, because this is neither a desert safari nor are there any actual dunes. It’s fun if the experience is all you’re in for! The vendors mostly charge Rs 500, though they’re open to bargaining during the day because of the heat. This price can go up to Rs 700-1,000 in the evening, especially around the time the sun sets.
Tip: Tie up an afternoon camel ride with the sunset slot, since there’s a higher chance the vendor will be open to bargaining.
Pushkar For The Religious
Pushkar doesn’t have much in the way of public transport, so I ended up exploring the town on foot. I came across hundreds of small temples, but the most significant among them was the Jagatpita Brahma Mandir. Dedicated to Brahma, the god of creation, and the only one of its kind, this ancient 14th-century temple is a must-visit for those travelling to Pushkar. As is common for all popular religious places in India, I had to stand in a long queue only to feel stifled once inside the main entrance. Still, visiting Pushkar and missing this Brahma temple would be a total no-no!
Tip: Shoes and bags are not allowed inside the temple, so pick a nearby stall or flower seller to leave them with.
Another thing you must do in Pushkar is visit the ghats (stone pathway around the lake), 52 in total, where pilgrims bathe. On my route, I had some of the best views of the beautiful old white architectural buildings set along the banks. While finding a peaceful spot among the pious crowd is tough, I got lucky. Sitting on a far away ghat, one of the least crowded, I seeped in the sun’s reflection in the clear water. It is forbidden to take pictures during the day to ensure the modesty of women bathing in the lake, but since I picked a ghat farther away, I managed to sneak in a couple of clicks without offending anyone.
Tip: No shoes are allowed on the banks and the pathway is stony and rough, so carry a pair of thick, cushioned socks to protect your feet
The ritual of offering prayers as the sun sets every day is a beautiful thing to see. Banks are cleared, and this was probably the only time I got to see the lake without people in it. Starting at about 6pm, the half-hour Maha Aarti is quite grand and loud, taking place simultaneously across multiple ghats (I counted four) to accommodate the large crowds.
I’m so glad I didn’t miss the hike to Savitri Temple, located at the top of Ratnagiri Hill and dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma. This is about 2km away from the Brahma temple, which is an easy walk to the base of Ratnagiri Hill. From the base of the hill, I had the option to hike up or take a cable car to the top. I chose the trekking trail and though tiring (obviously!), I enjoyed it every step of the way. This was probably the only place that seemed quiet in contrast to the bustling town and fair.
Tip: After offering prayers at the temple, walk around the structure for a stupendous hill-top view of the surrounding areas
Like I mentioned before, this town is filled with temples of all kinds and dedicated to several gods. If you’re interested, like I was, you should definitely take out some time to go from temple to temple, because some of them are quite grand and have interesting stories.
Tip: Most temples don’t allow bags inside, and in some cases, there is no place to store your stuff either. Carry your valuables in a small bag or leave them at home!
Pushkar For The Foodies
Do NOT miss out on the scrumptious Rajasthani cuisine when visiting Pushkar. I ended up going to some random eating places and had the most amazing local food.
For good ambiance and neat seating, there is the Aroma Royal Restaurant, but be prepared for a long wait. Hungry, I waited for more than one-and-a-half hours before I gave up and headed for a place that could serve me food immediately. I ended up at a far more humble joint, but don’t regret it one bit because the food was delicious!
You have to try the popular kadhi kachori, available at most sweet shops, for breakfast or a quick snack with the signature gatte ki sabji, peeli dal and churma for lunch or dinner. At the town’s main junction, the three-generation-old Narayan Cafe & Restaurant stands testament to the town’s evolving tastes. I spent more than an hour here, watching the crowd and chatting about Pushkar’s history with the owners over cups of steaming hot coffee. I prefer local food while travelling, but if you don’t want Indian food, there are quite a lot of pizza places and cafes that offer contemporary food options.
Tip: Next to Narayan Cafe, the Funky Monkey offers a variety of contemporary food options, making it popular with the foreigners.
I visited Pushkar over the weekend, and I think two days is quite enough to explore this town and do all of what I’ve mentioned above. Having said that, two days cab be a bit rushed if you want to just sit still and immerse yourself in the peaceful vibe of this place. If you’re in it for the feel, stay a few extra days to just relax and watch the thousands of devotees partake in a ceremony that is centuries old. Finally, apart from the famous camel fair, Pushkar’s Holi celebrations have also become quite popular. So, if November is too long away, plan your trip around March instead.
Fact File On Pushkar
Location: Pushkar, Rajasthan
Languages: Hindi, Marwari, English
Currency: Indian Rupees
Food & Drinks: Try gatte ki sabji, peeli dal and churma
Time Zone: IST (UTC+5:30)
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About The Author
Priyanka believes life is an endless collection of new experiences, with a story born every moment. Every time one sets eyes on something new or reviews something with a fresh view, the narrative changes. A marketing & PR professional, she strives to live and share her experiences with food, travel and dance, by penning down her stories, and relive those priceless moments.