After our camping trip and two days in Udaipur, I’m feeling a bit more chilled. In comparison to the frenetic streets of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, Udaipur has a much slower pace. There is less traffic and hard sell, more tourists and we have even spotted our first restaurant selling pizza! The views over Lake Pichola from the roof top of our hotel are spectacular and the air is fresher. I have enjoyed my time here. Maybe the palm reader predicting a long lucky life (I’m going to live till 99!), has given me a new perspective!
We arise early to catch the 5.30 am train to Amjer, and after a 30-minute taxi transfer we arrive at our hotel, high above the holy city of Pushkar. Pushkar is home to Lord Brahma, who is a creator god in Hinduism. Of the hundreds of thousands of temples across India Pushkar is the only city which hosts temples dedicated to Lord Brahma and is considered one of the 5 holy places that many Hindus make a pilgrimage to in India. Pushkar is also home to 12,000 priests and both meat and alcohol is prohibited. However, if you are feeling in need of a lift a ‘special’ lassi, a traditional yogurt-based drink of India, is laced with marijuana in Pushkar! The contradictions in this country never cease to surprise and amaze us….. nevertheless our guide strongly advises us against trying this local lassi. We have a quick lunch and emerge from the dining room to find a protest going on in the grounds of our hotel. Local villagers who have been disputing land boundaries with the hotel, have driven a tractor (and a heard of goats) into the hotel wall, built a funeral pyre and proceeded with a cremation in the grounds of the hotel. One of the local priests arrive to take us to the lake for a blessing ceremony and we are ushered down the hill away from the spectacle. The blessing at Pushkar Lake involves releasing spices, flowers, rice and sugar into the lake and receiving a bindi. A cotton wrist band is tied around our wrists. It is a place of serene calm and we all sense an inner peace.
Meanwhile on our return we are quickly transferred to another hotel, for fear of trouble brewing later and then we set off for our camel safari into the Thar desert. This arid desert covers an area of around 80,000 square miles in north western India. The camels are kind of cute, in a crazy kind of way and in the main they behave themselves!
The next day we have a free morning. Having a certain affinity with Lord Brahmas second wife, Gayatri, I feel compelled to visit her temple! Legend has it that after marrying this second wife Lord Brahma’s first wife, Sarasvati, was very angry so cursed her husband and moved up to the hill above Pushkar, where her temple still exists to this day. On entering the temple, we receive a flower and are instructed to place a petal on each of the shrines of Lord Brahma’s guardians, and then to break the rest of the flower in two placing one half on the shrine of Lord Brahma and the other on the shrine of Lord Ganesh. Our student guide informs us that such a ceremony will ensure a healthy, wealthy and happy life and the next time we visit Pushkar we must bring all our family so that they too will receive such a blessing. I wonder if the Miller and Renfrew kids are up for a visit to Pushkar?