Hi, Charlotte here!
That seems like a bit of a harsh title doesn’t it? But it’s true, Pushkar is pushy – full of people who are trying to hustle you into buying something, be it a Pashmina, some falafel or a “Pushkar passport”. But scratch beneath the surface and this place has a heart of gold.
Pushkar has long been a bit of a hippy hangout, a place on the traveller circuit where people can chill out and put their feet up for a few days. We’ve definitely taken advantage of this, but don’t worry we haven’t gotten too lazy, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to stretch our legs and explore as well!
Pushkar is centred around a lake, as you can see from the picture above. There are several bathing ghats and it is a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus. The streets are bustling with families in rainbow coloured saris and holy men in their orange robes (or sometimes no robes at all!) A dip in the holy lake is believed to cure skin diseases and wash away sins. One thing to be aware of when visiting is the prevalence of the “Pushkar passport” pushers. They will press a marigold flower into your hand and tell you that it is good luck, or it’s respectful to go and offer it to the Lake. As soon as you accept the flower you will be whisked down to the water where someone will be waiting to do a blessing. They conduct a short ceremony where they ask you to repeat some Hindi words and phrases after them, while you offer some flowers to the lake and sprinkle some of the holy water on yourself. The ritual finishes with them tying a yellow and red string around your wrist (this is what they call a Pushkar passport, and wearing it will allow you to walk around all the bathing ghats at the lakeside without further hassle) and then asking for an extortionate ‘donation’ to guarantee good luck. We had heard about this before, with some accounts saying people had been approached quite aggressively, and so we were on our guard. Still, when a friendly looking man pressed a marigold flower into my hands outside a temple, a little voice said “maybe he’s just being nice” and I found myself swept along. Going into it with open eyes, I did actually enjoy the experience, and I didn’t feel pressured into giving the £20 ‘donation’ that I was asked for afterwards. I donated 200 rupees which was all I had in my purse and walked away happy, with the ‘holy man’ grumbling behind me. David was more savvy and waited for me at the top of the steps, politely refusing to take part. Understandable since we had heard stories of people being swindled and pushed around.
On Tuesday evening, we set off for a walk up to Gayatri Temple which is located on a small hill overlooking the town. We timed it so that we would be able to watch the sun setting from a perch high on the hill, and we weren’t disappointed. David took some amazing photos and we sat back and enjoyed the spectacle.
As if that wasn’t enough, the following day we decided to walk up to another temple on yet another hill – lucky we had our walking boots on! There are two hundred steps leading up to Savitri Temple (plus a cable car for the faint-hearted) and the view out over Pushkar and the surrounding hills and desert is fantastic. When we reached the top we were very glad to rest our weary feet and enjoy an ice-cold Limca, while we watched some cute monkeys trying to steal food from anyone and everyone!
Since Pushkar is a popular backpacker hangout, there are several cafes and restaurants offering healthy options- signs advertising vegan and organic choices are a common sight. After nearly a month of delicious yet rich ghee-filled curries we were glad to take advantage of this. Pushkar is also completely dry – alcohol is banned within the city limits – so tasty smoothies and fruity teas were the order of the day. Our two favourite spots were Honey and Spice where I had probably the best muesli I’ve had in my entire life, and Nature’s Blessings where I had an incredible salad with a delicious sweet mango dressing, and David had a light and fresh Thai curry.
We’re off to Jodphur bright and early tomorrow on a 7am bus, I’m very excited to see the Blue City. If you’ve got any recommendations, please do let us know!