Pushkar is one of the smallest towns we’ve been to so far with probably the highest ratio of cows to people and cow dung to pavement!
Situated in between Jaipur and Udaipur, everything in the town revolves around their holy lake. This small body of water was supposedly formed when bhrama planted a flower which then caused the lake to spontaneously rise out of the earth (I mean…). Despite the perhaps slightly unbelievable nature of the lake’s origins, I can very much confirm there is a lake and it is, for the locals, very holy. Filled with fish and turtles the wildlife are left alone and live in blissfully abundant peace (along with the locals taking a holy bath).
Encircling the lake is the towns main road; a thin road which could squeeze a small car through if you really tried, but wouldn’t want to. The steady stream of motorbikes and pedestrians along the busy bazaar as well as the sellers who extend their shops as far into the road as possible means when cars come down (hands pressed on horns the whole way) it’s a bit like human Tetris.
The main bazaar is full of the usual tourist shops with the exception of having a decidedly better selection of clothes. End of season meant rates were cheap and the sellers and friendly if not slightly desperate for a sale. Our main attraction to the bazaar was its unparalleled street food. Serving the usual Indian style chickpea curry, samosa, potato pockets, etc. They also have laffa and falafel stalls, juice carts, fresh lime and soda carts and some of the cheapest shakes and lassi we’ve had so far. It was a foodies paradise, costing less than £1 a meal.
Other than that, it’s just the local town of Pushkar. Very simply, everyone’s homes all stemming away from the lake; a very simple and easy village to make your way around. In surrounding areas are mountains and hills to hike up to see the sunrise or sunset, and there are temples throughout the village of course. Much like everywhere else in Rajasthan, since houses are built up quickly and close together, everyone opts for rooftop restaurants. Offering customers a quick hike up 4 floors and a panoramic view of the lake.
📷 Pushkar Lake
We only planned to stay in Pushkar for 3 days due its size but found by day 2 we were pretty much ready to set off again. That’s not to say it’s boring, it’s just simply very digestible in one day, with a second day to laze in the beautiful scenery and restaurants, then head off again. I have to say, by day 3 we were at a loss. Having seen the sights (I’ll admit my need to hike up to another temple had slightly diminished so we didn’t see all the sights), bought some cheap clothing, found some £1 ‘Bay Bans’ to replace our very scratched – or in Fitz’s case, very lost – sunglasses, ate our weight in street food and had a spiritual half hour chat with a pilgrim, we did enjoy our stay, however, the town isn’t entirely without its faults…
After our lovely chat with our spiritual pilgrim we were wandering back to the main bazaar when a man ran at us holding flowers (the famous Pushkar). Begging us to the throw the flowers in the lake for good luck and spirituality we finally relented thinking we’d just throw it in, give him a 10 rupee tip for the flower and leave. Having had the flowers already thrust in our hands we didn’t seem to have a choice anyway. What a mistake! As soon as we started walking down the steps men appeared from everywhere, all dressed in white, pulling us to the waters edge and talking endlessly about the lake, it’s origins, etc. We had read about these men. Fake bhrama priests, they perform very long, very boring (in my opinion) prayers which is supposed to bless your whole family. Afterwards, they expect a donation. While we’d read about them – and been warned by our pilgrim friend – we hadn’t quite realised they would appear as a nice man just trying to get a flower thrown in the lake. After 20 minutes of sitting there thinking ‘How have we been so stupid’ we were asked for a donation. Fitz gave them 50 for both of us (it would buy 2 meals for our 2 ‘priests’). Suddenly the man we first met started looking into fitz’s wallet mentioning he could see 500 rupee notes (our money for our accommodation). Fitz quickly shut him down telling him to stop looking in his wallet and back off. The other one said 50 rupees was too low. If we didn’t know we were dealing with fake priests before, we defiantly did now! No one ever rejects a donation, especially when donations are normally only 10 or 20 rupees and we had spent less than 20 mins with them. When asked their ideal donation they said – quite seriously – 4,000 rupees. Let’s put that in perspective; the most luxury boutique hotel in Pushkar costs 2,500 rupees a night. Nothing – literally nothing – costs that much. We instantly laughed and Fitz started reprimanding them for pretending to be priests and being so greedy as to rip of tourists. They all shuffled rather uncomfortably and started to panic when we said we’d take back the 50 rupees if they take so much more money from other people. They quickly readjusted their views and accepted the 50 rupee donation.
Angry at ourselves for getting caught in the Brahman trap, it left a sour taste in our mouths, not only because we had trusted the man who seemed so genuine in wanting a simply flower to be thrown in the lake to bless our families and his, but because some tourists must actually pay such a huge fee to men who haven’t actually blessed their families at all.
Despite our little blunder, when we did inevitably pack or bags to go we were sad to say goodbye to Pushkar but ready for the next adventure. Having eaten and drank our weight in food and drinks, we made our way to the bus stop to catch a lift to the train station. Stumbling across a taxi driver who had left his lunch in Ajmer (where the train station is) we managed to strike up a very cheap deal and instead of taking the bus managed to get a private AC taxi to the train. Feeling slightly more like seasoned travellers, we set off on our 5 hour journey to our penultimate city; Jodhpur.
Top Places in Pushkar
- INN Seventh Heaven – my dream hotel is not only the place to stay (if you have the budget) but it also has an incredibly beautiful restaurant without inflated prices.
- Babas Rooftop Restaurant – above the main bazaar this restaurant has fair prices, is perfect for people watching and has great chai.