Day 2 of our Rajasthan tour was spent almost entirely in the car. We had to make the long drive from Udaipur to Jaipur with a stop in Pushkar on the way. It took us 5 and a half hours to get to Pushkar, so we had to get an early start on the day. The trip up was quite lovely and once again I was struck by just how colorful India is, a stark contrast to the gray steel of our modern cities. I took several pictures out the window.
Pushkar is a small town full of temples and ghats, and is very walkable. It’s famous in the backpacking community for the camel fair that happens in November during the full moon (which we unfortunately missed), but the most important site is the lake. In Hinduism, it’s common to do a parikarma – a walk around a religious object, so we set off to walk around the lake ourselves.
This picture kind of reminds me of Venice (not that I’ve been there) with the stairs leading into the water and pigeons flying everywhere.
I found this sign to be rather amusing. Rule 5 is basically telling you to follow the first 4 rules, just in case you were thinking of breaking them.
About halfway around the lake we came across a funeral procession. A large group of people were parading down the street, carrying the deceased on a wooden board covered with cloth. Everyone was singing and scattering flowers on the road. I didn’t take any pictures of the ceremony as it would have been highly disrespectful, but it was very interesting to stand by and watch.
From here, our guide led us into one of the lakeside temples to be blessed. It started off fairly interesting with the “holy man” putting different items including flower petals, rice, sugar and tilak powder onto a plate for each of us.
But as the ritual got going, the “holy man” started to ask us for money. He began by claiming that the money was for our loved ones and to keep that in mind when we decided how much to give. “Would you only want to give your family a few dollars? Is that all they mean to you?” I ended up putting on about $5, though I wish I hadn’t given in. They really work on your sense of guilt and love for your family and I’m mad at myself that I felt so pressured out of my money. These types of scams are common in Pushkar, so if you ever visit, make sure not to fall for this. As soon as they start asking for money, firmly but politely say no and walk away. It’s OK to not take part in these “blessings”.
We finally escaped that tourist trap to continue our parikarma. A few hundred yards further down the road we came to the shopping area. This was clearly targeted to tourists and was the most crowded part of the lake, but it was also the most colorful. It seemed like the entire street was a work of art.
Even the monkeys seemed like they were there to entertain the tourists. They were so funny, just sitting on the steps, hanging out. We knew better than to get too close though. Monkeys can attack for no reason.
This is tilak powder. It’s used to make a paste to paint holy markings on the body, most famously the bindi on the forehead. I had no idea it came in so many colors.
We didn’t stop to eat, but even the food made for colorful works of art.
Back at our starting point, we took a few final pictures of the lake and the figurines left behind as offerings.
At last it was time to get back in the car for the 3 hour drive to Jaipur, and I was glad to be leaving. Pushkar was a very picturesque stopover, but it was full of scams that kind of tainted our experience. You always want to expect the best of a place considered holy, but it just felt like everyone was trying to take our money. If you’re a confident traveler who doesn’t mind dealing with constant hassle of people trying to trick you, then Pushkar is worth an afternoon visit. Otherwise there are plenty of other places to see and things to do in Rajasthan to fill your time.