Pushkar has a magnetism all of its own, and is quite unlike anywhere else in Rajasthan. It’s a prominent Hindu pilgrimage town and devout Hindus should visit at least once in their lifetime. The town curls around a holy lake, said to have appeared when Brahma dropped a lotus flower. It also has one of the world’s few Brahma temples. With 52 bathing ghats and 400 milky-blue temples, the town literally hums with regular pujas (prayers) generating an episodic soundtrack of chanting, drums and gongs, and devotional songs.
Besides pilgrims, travellers have long discovered Pushkar’s charms, and small, budget hotels outnumber the temples and dharamsalas (pilgrims guesthouses). Many visitors reach here and grind to a satisfied halt, experimenting variously with spirituality, bhang (marijuana) and facial hair. Time can slip by very easily in Pushkar.
The result is a muddle of religious and tourist scenes. The main street is one long bazaar, selling anything to tickle a traveller’s fancy, from hippy-chic tie-dye to didgeridoos. Despite the commercialism and banana pancakes, the town remains enchantingly small and authentically mystic. You can help preserve the spiritual balance by respecting tradition and dressing appropriately and abiding by local restrictions (no alcohol, meat or eggs, and no public displays of affection).
Pushkar is world famous for its spectacular camel fair, which takes place here in the Hindu lunar month of Kartika (October/November). If you’re anywhere nearby at the time, you’d be crazy to miss it.
During this period the town is jam-packed with tribal people from all over Rajasthan, pilgrims from all over India, and filmmakers and tourists from all over the world. And there are plenty of camels and other livestock (it’s best to arrive a few days before the official start to see serious trading).
Pushkar is only 11km from Ajmer but separated from it by Nag Pahar, the Snake Mountain.