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Our Indian Odyssey: The Pushkar Fair

If India could be represented by a particular color that best captures its spirit and vibe, then perhaps you would have to think beyond the colors of its national tri-color flag.

Orange, green and white very aptly symbolize our diversity, progress, and peace – but this is a land so replete with rich tradition, that one can associate a thousand different colors with a forever-expanding palette of cultural diversity and rich history.

Central to India’s culture are its festivals, which aren’t distinguished by religious beliefs when it comes to celebrating events together.

A Hindu will be seen exchanging gifts and pleasantries with his Muslim friends during Eid, and a Muslim will bring presents, cut cake and bite into the pudding during Christmas with his Christian friends.

There is also the festival of lights “Deepawali,” the colorful celebration of “Holi,” “Rakshabandhan” (the customary tying of the thread of protection onto a brother’s fist by his loving sister), as well as every festivity associated with a million plus gods and goddesses who find their way into a Hindu household and the public holiday calendar.

The “Cattle Fair” in Pushkar, Rajasthan, is one of our favorites. It’s a festival of song and dance, and games and competition, with the buying and selling of cattle and livestock being the central theme of a five-day gala affair.

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The Wonder That Is Rajasthan

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Pushkar, India

The largest state in India in terms of its geographical spread, sprawling across a mammoth 342,240 kilometers (to be precise) is the princely state on the western frontier called Rajasthan, or the land of Rajas. There is some soul-stirring charm about this desert state.

Once, it was home to the Mughal emperors and the Royal Maharajas, who at the peak of their powers had built dazzling architectural delights, fortresses and palaces that stand tall today on the ruins of a beautiful past.

The huge forts, massive palaces and a million plus “Havelis” (homes of the rich and famous of the past) are scattered throughout the tourist-friendly cities of Udaipur, Bikaner, Kota, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer.

And the barren emptiness of the desert calls out to the visitors to be cognizant of Rajasthan’s beautiful and mesmerizing history. The scorching heat during the day transforms into melodious evening breezes, which flow gently over the many lakes and rivers and capture the spirit of purity, simplicity, and charm of this royal state.

One deep gaze into the eyes of the locals from Rajasthan, and you will be instantly moved by their warmth and manners, by the sight of the colorful clothing and turbans, and with the way they offer their regards saying, “Khambagani,” the local salute for welcome.

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The Pushkar Fair

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Moustache Competition Winner, 2011

Pushkar is a small city in the Ajmer District, in Rajasthan. An important spiritual center containing a vivacious amalgamation of Rajasthani-speaking locals and eclectic foreign-speaking nationals, Pushkar is home to the one of the largest cattle fairs in the world.

Each year between the end of October and the first week of November, a huge cattle fair and festival is held on the banks of Pushkar Lake, where merchants engage in the buying and selling of cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, and camels amongst an electric atmosphere of music, dance, games, and artisan stalls.

What is perhaps the most exciting part of the ongoing festivities is the popular “Moustache Competition” — which declares the man sporting the longest moustache the winner.

There are also a host of other fun and cultural programs — like the temple dance at the footsteps of the Brahma temple, the “langdi tang” or one-legged run, a camel decoration competition, a water pot-carrying race, and an interesting “turban tying” challenge.

The beginning and end of the five-day cultural fest is marked by a Maha Aarti on the banks of the river. This is a spiritual gathering where hundreds and thousands of people participate in mass worship — blissful moments of serene silence ensuring that a multitude of prayers are echoed to the gods.

Things To Do In Pushkar City

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Brahma Temple, Pushkar

The city contains an interesting mix of spirituality, local shopping experiences, and the rustic charms of a desert land.

It is a popular belief in Indian mythology that while Lord Vishnu is identified as the sustainer of life in the entire universe, Lord Shiva was the destructor of all evil.

Forming the third part of the trinity is Lord Brahma, who is known and widely worshiped as the creator of the universe. The Brahma Temple in Pushkar is not only one of the few remaining temples dedicated to Brahma in the entire country, but also in the entire world, hence commanding an immense following.

Pushkar Lake is a beautiful waterscape located right at the heart of the city center — and spread across its major banks are a wide array of local restaurants, eateries, and sweet shops that are forever flooded by foodies, travellers, and villagers desperate to bite into the divine culinary delights of Rajasthan.

For those of us who like to review and do a proper Internet ‘reiki’ of bars or restaurants, almost all major city based eateries have been covered and reviewed on Trip Advisor.

Things To Avoid

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Portrait of Unidentified Police Officer, Pushkar Fair, 2012

While liquor shops are spread throughout the city, one has to be careful not to cross paths with local policemen, as open consumption of alcohol is strictly illegal.

One of the most intriguing facets about Pushkar is the widespread availability of local marijuana. Having long been part of local traditional use (especially for treating ailments and diseases under medical supervision and prescription) marijuana is available in any restaurant in the city, sold under the counter.

Used commonly as a recreational drug by many visiting tourists from the United States, England, Australia and Israel, you can easily bump into a local shop poster selling “Space Cookies.”

Local law enforcement, however, won’t take it in stride if they catch someone openly using marijuana for recreational purposes.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

How To Reach Pushkar

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The best and most convenient way to reach the festive and historic desert town is to arrive by air to Jaipur, Rajasthan’s capital, also known as the “Pink City.”

Once in Jaipur, you can hop onto plenty of taxis or buses that will safely take you to your destination located within 150 kilometres of Jaipur.

You may take a taxi from Bani Park, Sindhi Camp, M.I. Road, or the Ajmer Road.

The highways are smooth and create a stress-free travelling experience.

Another, alternate, way is to drive from Jaipur to the city of Ajmer. Pushkar is then only 14 kilometers from the bus stand.

Whether you are journeying by car or by bus, the drive is steady and won’t make you the worse for wear.

Perhaps, one should acknowledge the infrastructural development of the Rajasthan Government and Tourism Department and thank them for ensuring that visitors are treated to a smooth and hassle-free journey.

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Contributor Dev Tyagi can be contacted at dev@newswhistle.com

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PHOTO CREDITS
Lead-In Image: OlegD / Shutterstock.com
Pushkar City Image: Alexander Mazurkevich / Shutterstock.com
Moustache Image: neelsky / Shutterstock.com
Brahma Temple Image: Mikadun / Shutterstock.com
Unidentified Police Officer Image: photoff / Shutterstock.com
Pushkar Fair Ferris Wheel Image:  Kokhanchikov / Shutterstock.com