India Part 7: The Holy City of Pushkar

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My trek through India’s Golden Triangle continued with something extra… a stop to the holy city of Pushkar.  As with Jaipur, Pushkar is in the state of Rajasthan.  It’s one of the five sacred pilgrimage sites for devout hindus.  The legend goes that when Lord Shiva (one of the major gods of hinduism) lost his wife, he cried so much that it formed the holy pond all of the worshipers visit in Pushkar.  There’s also a temple to Brahma, another major hindu god located within Pushkar.  Such temples are rare, and I’m sure makes the city even more popular with hindus.  For some reason, non-hindu tourists are attracted to the area in relatively large numbers.  This was the first city in India where I saw almost as many westerners as Indians.

It’s kind of rare when one of the highlights of a city I visit is the place I stayed in, but this hotel is definitely worth a mention.  It was about 2 kilometeres from the city center with all the vendors, shops and cafes.  That meant it was far enough away from the noise, but still within walking distance when I wanted to be around everything.  There were these big hills surrounding the area as well, and made for some awesome views.

IMG_5639IMG_5685 Perhaps I’ve become so accustomed to low budget accommodations and dorm rooms to know any better.  But to me, this place was a palatial tropical paradise.  India doesn’t really have the dorm style hostel places I usually stay in.  It’s mostly guesthouses, and this was one of them.  At $10 a night, I couldn’t believe the price.  It was kind of warm in Pushkar, and the open air guesthouse with the evening breezes created a relaxing vibe.IMG_5687 IMG_5669 IMG_5683

Vicky (same guide from the other cities) warned me about a common scam I needed to be aware of in Pushkar.  There are a number of these guys called “babas” who pretend to be holy men.  They try to pass out flowers to passers by.  If you accept, then they want a donation.  You can’t just give them a few rupees either.  They apparently harass you for hundreds of rupees and can become extremely aggressive very quickly.  I learned to just ignore them completely and never take anything from them.  This worked, and I never had an issue.  On a related note, Vicky and I were also approached by a group of women in saris who I’m guessing were asking for money.  Vicky said something in hindi that made them leave us alone.  I asked him about it, and he told me that he told them I was a police officer from the US on assignment in India to protect American tourists.  I laughed, but Vicky told me they totally believed it.  I have a shaved head and a military style cap I usually wear, so I guess it’s plausible.  I never had anyone approach me after that little white lie, so perhaps it worked.  Vicky started referring to us as the “Crazy Cops”.  I loved it, and it became our perpetual inside joke.

Cosmic Head Massage

If you’re familiar with some of the viral videos on YouTube, you might have heard of the Baba Head Massage.  Here it is in case you haven’t seen it.  The video features an Indian man giving a “cosmic” head massage to a tourist.  Many commenters of the three minute clip claim the music, in combination with imagining getting the massage themselves, puts them in a relaxed state of mind.  I saw this clip years ago, and I thought about it while I was in India.  It turns out that Baba is actually in Pushkar.  Since it’s such a small city, I felt if I just walked around, I could find his shop.  I was right…IMG_5663I was kind of interested in experiencing this cosmic head massage for myself, but figured if Baba knew about his internet celebrity, he probably charged a huge sum to tourists.  Baba wasn’t there on my first day, but Vicky talked with the guy filling his place in the shop.  He said he was Baba’s brother, and that Baba was away cutting the hair of a man about to get married.  We were told to come back the next day, and Baba would be there.  I set a price in my head of 500 rupees ($10) as my max for one of these epic treatments, and was hoping Baba didn’t demand more.  Sadly, upon returning the next day, we were told Baba was still away, but we should come and wait anyway.  I got the feeling he wasn’t going to show, so we left.  So I didn’t get to meet Baba himself, but I did get his business card.  I also got confirmation that he’s well aware of his YouTube celebrity.IMG_5716

Pushkar is filled with little shops selling mostly stuff to tourists… pashminas, scarves, clothes, shoes and cheap jewelry.  Still, there’s a certain charm to it.  There are also a lot of very odd people walking around trying to handout flowers and begging for spare change.  One older, bearded Indian guy in particular was the strangest of all.  He was wearing nothing but a long suit jacket that just barely kept him from exposing himself.  He would march up and down the streets barefoot, his legs covered in sores.  He wouldn’t say a word or harass anyone, but just stop in the middle of his march, stare blankly into space, and then march on after a minute or so.  No, I didn’t get a photo of that dude.  But here are a bunch of photos of the streets of Pushkar.IMG_5661IMG_5656 Unfortunately, a very common site in India is rubbish all over the street.  There’s usually animals sifting through the larger piles looking for scraps of food.  It’s sad really.IMG_5689 IMG_5695 IMG_5697Holy Waters

Here are the holy waters that are the reason devout hindus make the pilgrimage to Pushkar for.  You have to remove your shoes before getting anywhere near the water’s edge.  As long as they abide by this rule, and show respect, non-hindus are welcome to visit the temples as well.  However, as with any temple in India, no photos are allowed inside.
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Food and Treats

I probably look silly taking photos of my food all the time, but it’s such a big part of my travel experience.  I had a familiar breakfast in Pushkar… Paratha with curd.  This is the same meal I had every morning in Shimla when I did my homestay.  It’s a flatbread cooked in oil, and is served with a yogurt curd, and spicy pickles.  It’s so filling, and a good way to start the day if you might not have time for lunch.

IMG_5681 Here was another foray into street food… the street sugar cane drink.  The raw sugar cane is fed through a press that is powered by foot.  The guy below would feed the cane through multiple times in order to squeeze out every last bit of liquid.  A touch of salt is added, and you get a nice sweet treat.  I’ll admit, the flies that were attracted to the machinery were a little off-putting.  As with a lot of things in India, you kind of just look the other way and pretend you didn’t see it.IMG_5649 IMG_5651Thali… this is a mix of different items served with chipati bread.  There’s usually a veggie, some daal (lentils), rice and curd.  Nothing particularly special, but pretty good.  By the way, 60 rupees is $1.20 for the meal.  Love prices in India.IMG_5707 IMG_5679 And, of couse, what visit to an Indian city would be complete without a stop to a sweet shop.  I really miss these places, but it’s probably best for my health.  I was unable to resist stopping whenever I saw one.  A small bag of treats would be around 75 cents, so hard to pass up.IMG_5703

There’s not much else to report as far as Pushkar goes.  It’s a really small city, mainly known for the pilgrimages Indians make there, as well as all the tourist trap shops and babas.  Pushkar was a great place to visit after dealing with all the hectic mess of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.  The place was basically like a vacation within my adventure.  The guesthouse was super relaxed and had a very chill feel.  I enjoyed cheap lassi’s, pots of chai, thali and treats.  After two nights there, our driver Victor got us back to Delhi safely.  That guy was an amazing driver.  I would have gone insane if I had to navigate the highways and busy urban streets of India.  Victor never seemed phased, and said he had been driving those streets for twenty years and it was just another day.  We finished the day back in Delhi with a final photo of the group.  Vicky is on the left with Victor in the middle.  Thanks guys, I had a great week doing the Golden Triangle with you.  It’s no exaggeration to say it was an experience I’ll be telling people about for the rest of my life.

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2 thoughts on “India Part 7: The Holy City of Pushkar

  1. Hi Tom, I’m Cody from Oslo / Norway and I was thinking to go in Jaipur / Pushkar area next month. I would like to ask you about your indian driver. Can I have his number to call him and hire him during my trip? As you say is more easy and simple to avoid many obstacle having a good driver there. PLs contact me and waiting for you in Norway:). Best regards, Cody +4746221825 or email rcodrut46@gmail.com

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