18.09.2012 30 °C
When we think of India, scenes of vibrant saris, meandering cows, exotic cuisines and almost theatrical religious practises spring to mind. In many places around the country however, our perhaps romantic notions of an ancient and exuberant culture are overshadowed by the harsh reality of what can only be described as organised chaos. An ear splitting cacophony of sound, death defying traffic, stifling heat, filth and poverty mean that many towns and cities can be simply overwhelming, and it’s easy to miss the beauty and fascinating history of the place when faced with such unappealing features. One place however, is able to offer us a calmer, manageable environment, providing us with a colourful and pleasant bite sized burst of Indian culture – Pushkar.
This Rajasthani lakeside town is an important Hindu pilgrimage site that it is always bursting with activity around its numerous ghats. However, this hustle and bustle never seems to become too much for the foreign visitor. Large groups of Hindu families gather around the shore, the ladies displaying and array of vibrant, majestic clothing, to perform mysterious religious ceremonies and bathe in the lake. At sunset, a soundtrack of bells and chanting takes over the town as Pushkar comes alive with the strange contradiction of clamour and spirituality which makes up the evening prayer. Heading to one of the many roof top restaurants which boast views of the moon shimmered lake makes for a perfect way to while away the twilight hours.
The main bazaar provides a fairly relaxing shopping experience offering the usual Aladdin’s cave type goodies of intricate sequined throws, baggy pantaloons and elephant-shaped everything. The haggling is friendly enough and there are sufficient colours, shapes and sizes to keep even the most fervent shopaholic satisfied.
By venturing a little further afield up some of the back streets, visitors are rewarded by some architectural gems, frozen in time. Beautifully designed palatial buildings, which in Europe would surely be tourist attractions, lay forgotten and empty, except for the odd monkey or two, who there in those princely mansions truly are the jungle v.i.p. The weathered facades and intriguing shadows add to the bewitching mystery surrounding these buildings which can’t help but allure and bewilder passers-by.
Of course, this is still India, so we are confronted by dazed cows, lunatic drivers and unnerving smells. But, for a destination that offers an authentic insight into the enchanting India we long for, Pushkar truly is an unforgettable place to spend a few days.