January 28, 2013

Pushkar - A "Special" Place (Pushkar, Rajasthan, India)

You can find a variety of "special" things in Pushkar. Special pizzas. Special lassis. Special chocolates. But "special" doesn't mean it's the day's unique offering. In Pushkar, "special" is code for "loaded with marijuana" (which is called 'bhang' in India), so order carefully and never eat anything a hippie hands you. What you won't find in Pushkar: alcohol and meat. Pushkar is a very holy Hindu town, and these two things are strictly prohibited. Of course, I was still sick (beginning with the train ride from hell and continuing with the Best Guesthouse EVER), so I was happy to do without beer and chicken. We had heard about Pushkar from a few different people, all of whom had said it was a great place to spend a few days and that it was some of the best shopping in all of India. (crazy, crowded, chaotic Delhi markets excepted...except, who wants to mess with that?!?!) So, as December was nearing an end, we decided that "Christmas in Pushkar" had a nice ring to it and we took the train from Jaipur to Ajmer, and then a bus from Ajmer to Pushkar. As a Christmas treat, we decided to splurge a bit on a room, and we spent our first 2 nights in Pushkar at the beautiful Inn Seventh Heaven ($36/night). Click to read about our Christmas celebration.

Pushkar Sneak Peek!

The inside lobby of Inn Seventh Heaven

Remember our Pushkar Christmas tree?
Sadly, we couldn't continue to break the bank at Seventh Heaven so we packed up and, on their suggestion, moved to Hotel Everest $10/night), which turned out to be a perfect place for the rest of our time in Pushkar.

A little about Pushkar:
The word 'Pushkar' means lotus flower, which is said to be the seat of Brahma, one of the Hindu holy trinity, who is worshipped as the creator of this world. The legend has it that the demon Vajra Nabha killed Brahma's children, and that he in turn struck him with his weapon, a lotus flower. Vajra Nabha died with the impact, and the petals of the lotus fell at three places. One of them is Pushkar, where it gave birth to a lake. Pushkar is the home to the only Brahma temple in the world, making it one of the five most sacred pilgrimage sites for devout HIndus. This is also considered as Adi Teerth or Teertharaj meaning ancient holy place or the most important of holy places respectively. In Pushkar, the streets are filled with pilgrims from all over India, making their way to the lake's ghats to bathe and to reap the salvation that comes with a dip in its waters. It's inappropriate to take photos of the pilgrims, so we didn't, but you can feel the holy energy of the town just walking through its streets.
A local woman stops to receive the blessing of a holy cow in front of a food stall
Our days in Pushkar were near perfect. The only downside to Pushkar are the crazy touts. Not only are there all the usual - "mothers" trying to convince you to buy baby formula that they they sell back to the shop owner for a profit, kids asking you to take a photo of them for 1 rupee, aggressive jewelry vendors, etc - but there were also some enterprising holy men and not-so-holy men who would either offer you a flower and, as your hand was upturned, force it in your hand and then ask for money or try to convince you that it was a "holy time" and that they wanted to show you around the lake which, inevitably, turned into a request for cash. Also trolling the streets - henna women. As I would walk through the streets, women would say hello and offer me their hands in greeting. You only have to accept their hand once to feel them abruptly turn it over and start to apply henna to your palms. It's incredibly annoying, and we spent most of our walks with our hands firmly clamped to our sides to avoid the henna, holy walks, and flowers.

As promised, Pushkar was a great place for shopping and we spent a lot of time perusing the shops. Often times, popping in to check out some throw pillow covers turned into tea with the shopkeeper, a long conversation and an afternoon spent socializing with locals. We shopped A LOT! Embroidered purses and totes, camel leather bags, hand-painted ceramic drawer pulls, jutti shoes, earrings, silk scarves, pashminas, pillow covers, papier mache boxes, turbans for kids, mortar and pestle, paintings. Pushkar had all the great things we'd seen all over India - condensed on one street - and the quality and prices were great.
Shopping for ceramic drawer pulls

Shopping for camel leather bags
When it came to food in Pushkar, things were pretty hit or miss. Popular Pushkar restaurants are suffering from the Lonely Planet Curse - once they've been written up positively in LP, they completely stop paying attention to quality and service and visitors following LP's advice are greatly disappointed. So, with those options ruled out, we quickly found our favorites. Oddly, there were these street carts making falafel wraps that were DELICIOUS, and we had one nearly every day. Not only was the food delicious - the crew there was amazing and friendly.

When we weren't shopping or eating, we were just walking around, enjoying the Pushkar streets, which were always interesting and beautiful.

A sunset dotted with kites flying high

Before we knew it, our 2-3 day stop turned into 9 nights! We even spent New Year's Eve in Pushkar! That story is coming very soon! But, until then, check out all of our Pushkar pics here. A few more of our favorites are below.

Natural pigments for painting, makeup, fabric dyeing, etc...

Check out all of our Pushkar pics here.


  1. It's almost like I'm reading about our own experience in Pushkar... flowers.. henna, and whole men... I guess nothing changes there :)

    Super jealous of you guys, have fun!!!!

    1. We loved Pushkar and would have happily stayed longer! Hope all is well in the Bay! xoxo