HINDU PILGRIMS GET RID OF THEIR SINS BY DIVING IN AND OUT OF THE HOLY LAKE AND PAY HOMAGE TO THE SOLE BRAHMA TEMPLE IN THE WORLD.
Little leaf boats filled with flowers and oil lamps inside are left on the surface of the holy lake. They are dazzling like thousands of stars with their flickering reflections on the water… You witness one of the most romantic and impressive scenes of Pushkar, an unassuming town in Northwest India. Pushkar proves its sanctity one more time that night. Rajasthan in northwest India is a region famous for its palaces, castles and temples. Pushkar to its east, with a population of 14 thousand, is a sleepy town with a traditional lifestyle located within the golden triangle of Delhi- Pushkar- Jaipur- Agra and Delhi. Yet, this town comes to mind once a year with another feature of it; Pushkar Camel Fair. Peasants from all over India gather in this large cattle bazaar, the largest of its kind in the world, to market their cattle such as camels, horses, elephants and cattle. The site where the fair is located is home to India’s craziest characters, games and circuses There is a deep philosophy and faith behind every festival or celebration in India and so is Pushkar Fair.
Pushkar is a center of pilgrimage which pious Hindus wish to visit at least once in their lives. Also known as the city of temples, Pushkar houses 500 temples and 52 bathing ‘ghat’s (steps). The bathing ‘ghat’s (steps) in a town on the outskirts of the desert around the holy lake shaped like a half moon surrounded by hills are flooded by pilgrims. While are camles are traded one the one hand, prayers continue on the shore of the lake on the other. Hindu pilgrims get rid of their sins by getting in and out of the holy lake and pay homage to the only sacred Brahma temple in the world. A separate meaning is attributed to each ‘ghat’ surrounded by the water. Naga Kund grant fertility, Roop Tirth provides beauty and appeal, Kapil Vyapi Kund cures leprosy, while taking a deep in Mrikand Muni brings wisdom. Long camel caravans proceeding in the deserts of Rajasthan brave an arduous journey to reach here. The Marusthali Desert, which is empty and gloomy for most of the year, witnesses an influx of people and a riot of colors during this festival, which it is not used to at all. For Indians, this fair means forgetting poverty and struggle with harsh desert conditions for some time.
Hopes for doing good business are high during this fair, which lasts for a week. Women and children, along with camels, cows and sheep, also come. Camels, horses, cows, goats and sheep are sold during the first five days. Watching bargains for cattle is in itself a worthy experience; it sometimes extends so long as if it will never end and sometimes hands are shaken in the blinking of an eye. When the heat of camel trade subsides, participants of the fair are carried away in a wave of merriment. The traditionof camel races in Pushkar are based on the desert culture of the Middle East as well as the Arab Peninsula.
Camels are used for entertainment in addition to transportation. Pushkar Fair reflects the culture of Rajasthan on the one hand, and underlines the significance of camels in the lives of desert people on the other. Camels act as if they were ostriches during the camel races. When music comes to a halt, they have to pass their long necks through two poles. In the meantime, camel owners manipulate their camels with a silk rope they tied to a ring attached to their noses. In the camel beauty contest, on the other hand, decorated camels parade before a jury accompanied by music. The way the camel carries itself, its decorations, to what extent it obeys its owner’s orders and its tricks all play a part in their chances of winning. Another competition that makes everyone burst into laughter is ‘Laadoo oonth’ where how much burden a camel can carry is tested. A human tower tries to climb over the camel. When this tower collapses as the camel attempts to rise to its feet, a very funny scene occurs. Moreover, events such as cricket matches, footbal matches, decorating oxen, horse dances and camel dances, headscarf tying contest, milking contest, and Indian bride contest add to the fun at the fair.
The crowds in the fairgrounds are not limited to pilgrims or camel and animal dealers. The fair is like a mutiny of colors in the monotony of the desert. The bright saris of women clothed in jewellery from head to toe stalking around and the colorful turbans of men add new aesthetic dimensions to the fair’s aesthetics.
Women in saris giggle in ferris wheels, stalls are thronged by curious shoppers, poets and minstrels tell people surrounding them stories about heroes, films are shown in tent cinemas, dinners are cooked when the evening falls and campfires glimmer like stars in the sky. With street vendors, musicians, wagerers of camel, horse and donkey races, actors, acrobats, comedians, dancers, tattooists and tourists around, you find yourself in the middle of a carnival.
Matchmakers or India’s holy people ‘sadhu’s are also there. It is believed in India that one has to get married to one’s caste, race, religion, economic and educational status. Advertisements are given to newspapers to this end or there are reliable people who are believed to arrange the desired kind of marriage. Sadhus, who cast aside mundane possessions, are believed to be representatives of gods on earth. Those how revere them and come to Pushkar on a pilgrimage give food and clothes to sadhus on the enlightenment road as part of their religious rituals.
The culmination of the fair is Kartik Purnima, which is the day when vows are made in rituals. This is at the same time the closing event of the fair. Bathing in Ghats starts at dawn. The place bulges at the seams. The mystic waters of Lake Pushkar take away sins. After the bathing rite, believers line up in long queues to worgöship Brahma. One of Pushkar’s most romantic and impressive scenes occur on the night of full moon. The next day, long caravans set off to take their new camels to their new homes. No camel knows who their owner will be in the next Pushkar.
Fly above Pushkar in a balloon in early morning at dusk. When you are above Lake Puskar, you capture a view which you have not noticed when you were in the midst of the crowd below. You fly above ferris wheels, caravans of camel,a unique mosaic of colors, the sand dunes of the Thar Desert and luxurious campsites where tourist stay. It is not cheap at all.
One should not take off shoes to join people in the Ghats,or smoke or take photographs. Those who have come on a pilgrimage may feel offended by tourists’ behaviors.
DO NOT MISS:
Since the camel bazaar and other major activities in Pushkar start on the first day and continue during the first three days, it is important to arrive at Pushkar early in order to witness the festival in its most vibrant state. The festival gets more crowded towards later days due to their religioussignificance.
A BREAK FOR PHOTOGRAPHS:
A panaromic view of the lake from Savitri Temple, the sand dunes around and the view of the lake at sunrisefrom the Rangji Temple, which is climed after an hour’s walk are worth seeing.
Pushkar means “lake created by the flower” Legend has it that, the Creator God Brahma drops the lotus flower while he is looking for a place for the holy sacrificial rite and a lake forms there.
Join a camel safari in the Great Indian Desert. Pass through Medieval towns, picturesque hamlets and observe life in distant villages. Proceed on the golde sands of the Thar Desert in tempo with the rhythm of camels along the sand dunes, hills, sunrises and sunsets of the Aravalli Mountain Ranges. Set up tents in the desert, sample Rajastan’s food and feel closer to the desert people.
The festival is held during the full moon in the Hindu month called Kartika corresponding to October or November every year.
You can consult this agency to join tours organized in Rajasthan area and get help regarding the festival.