Pushkar as a Religious Centre
The ancient city of Pushkar, situated 11 miles from Ajmer, is one of the main Hindu pilgrimage sites as it is home to the only Brahma temple in the world. The description of pilgrimage places in the Tirtha-Yatra (Piligrim journey) section of India’s great epic, the Mahabharata, suggests a grand tour of the entire country. The pilgrimage begins in Pushkar, sacred to the god Brahma, and continues in a rambling clockwise direction throughout the subcontinent, ending in Prayaga (Allahabad). Though it is as important as other pilgrimage cities like Haridwar, Varanasi, Tirupati etc, Pushkar does not have the same exposure, except during the famous cattle fair.
Pushkar is a quaint little town, which time seems to have forgotten. The focus point is a lake surrounded on all sides by 52 ghats (wide steps leading to the waters’ edge). The town has over 400 temples of which the famous ones are the Brahma Temple, the Rangji Temple (with a decidedly South India flavor) and the Savitri Temple, built atop a hill. The other important temples are those dedicated to Mahadev, Badri Narayan, Gayatri and Varaha.
When visiting Pushkar, a visit to the Brahma temple and the lake is a must. At the lake, you can witness various prayer ceremonies and the holy bath by the pilgrim who come from all over India. The priests at Pushkar are supposed to maintain the genealogical records of all Hindu families and many pilgrims come to visit their priest and get their “records” updated. You can watch the traditional Aarti being performed in the evening. At sunset, you can see the lights of the temples around the lake come on one after another accompanied by Shlokas sung melodiously by priests at the different temples.
A visit to the Savtri temple should be undertaken by those ready for a steep uphill walk. Though once at the top, the view of Pushkar Lake and surrounding landscape is simply magical.
On request, a special day time Aarti service with a short prayer ceremony or an evening Diya Arti Service (with small floating candles) can be organized.
The Pushkar Fair
This peaceful town comes alive every year during the month of Kartik - (October & November), when thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of cattle converge here for the now famous Pushkar Camel fair. During this week long fair, camels are bought, sold, beautified, raced and paraded. Being attended predominantly by villagers and tribal folk, Pushkar becomes a showcase for Rajasthan. Traditional artifacts, jewelry (mainly silver), beautiful tie-n-dye fabrics and leather goods, are all available here in the numerous stalls that dot the entire town. The evenings have their own charm, filled with soulful ballads, performances of some of the most captivating Rajasthani dances, puppet shows and plays; entertainment abounds. All this is accompanied by sumptuous local delicacies.
Once the trading is complete, at the end of the fair, numerous camel, horse and bullock-cart races are held, which are great crowd pullers. The fairly trade driven fair culminates in a religious festival where thousands of people from across India, come to pay homage to Lord Brahma and take a dip in the holy Pushkar Lake. The beautiful 'Deepan' ceremony rounds off the celebrations when millions of tiny candles are set afloat the serene lake.
A visit to Pushkar even apart from the fair is recommended. Though basically a religious place, the overtones here are peaceful. Walks through this quaint ancient town are replete with surprises and the tiny shops store treasures that you could purchase at a bargain for family and friends back home. The best of course are the sunrises and sunsets over the lake, which are magical.
South west of Jaipur, Ajmer is an oasis wrapped in the green hills. Ajmer is a popular pilgrimage centre for the Hindus as well as Muslims. Especially famous is the Dargah Sharif – tomb of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, who is equally revered by the Hindus and Muslims. Childless couples from all over the country flock here to seek blessings. The Dargah has a secular appeal and is a must visit. From the beautiful mosques and the marble trellised tomb to the amazing urns – it is a visual delight. Don’t miss the Adhai Din ka Jhopda, a mosque that legend has it was built in two and a half days. This is a masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture. Only ruins of the mosque remain, but the hike up to them is invigorating and the scenery breathtaking. The Nasiyan Red temple is a Digambar Jain temple which has a double-storey hall adjacent to the main temple. The hall displays a series of large gold plated wooden figures depicting legends from Jain mythology. The entire hall is richly adorned by glass mosaic, precious stones, gold and silver work. A full day excursion to Ajmer can be organized.
Kishangarh is 27 Kms north-east of Ajmer and was founded by Kishan Singh, a Rathore Prince. In the 18th century it gained fame as one of the finest schools of miniatures paintings. Though it was a smaller school, with a much shorter duration it had a more refined style. Today, the artists still create duplicates of the work, which can be bought at any of the souvenir shops. The town is today an industrial town for marble and textiles. A visit to a marble factory gives you a glimpse of how marble is mined, polished and finished into various beautiful pieces. A half day excursion to Kishangarh, including a visit to a marble factory can be organized.
Tilonia is a small town 25 kms from Kishangarh near Ajmer and 7 kms off Jaipur-Ajmer highway. Tilonia is a success story of how a village can be made self-sustaining with modernization acting as a support rather than a change in ethos. The Barefoot College, which started work here over two decades ago, officially known as Social Work and Research Centre, addresses problems of drinking water, girl education, health & sanitation, rural unemployment, income generation, electricity and power, as well as social awareness and the conservation of ecological systems in rural communities. A souvenir shop allows you to pick up Rajasthani handicrafts at a good rate and the proceeds of the sale go directly to the artisans. A half day excursion to Tlonia can be organized.
Just 25 km from Pushkar lies Pisangan, a small artists' village. Here you can watch artist at work on various schools of Rajasthani painting. A full day excursion to Pisangan is offered including a packed lunch.