The town is considered to be probably the oldest religious town of India, second only to Varanasi. Pushkar is also known as the ‘Rose Garden of Rajasthan’ and the essence of the famous Pushkar rose is exported all over the world. The town is not only spiritually and religiously rich but also hosts an annual cultural extravaganza by the name of the Pushkar Mela(Fair) which dates back to around 100 years.
The cramped alleyways, whitewashed ghats(stoned staircases), earthen scents, and chock-full of people in their kaleidoscopic attires and elaborate makeup… these are few of the many things that make the Pushkar Mela(Fair) one of the most ethnically rich affairs of Rajasthan, a hotspot for India’s cultural richness. Set around the Pushkar lake and bordering the Thar Desert in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan is the serene town of Pushkar which is away from the hubbub of the big cities and soaked into its old rural traditions.
Commencing on the Ekadashi(Eleventh day) of the Holy month of Kartik(according to the Hindu calendar) and extending over a period of 5 days till Kartik Poornima is the resplendent Fair of Pushkar. Apart from being a cultural spectacle, this occasion is a huge cattle trade fair and also bags the title of being the World’s Largest Camel Trading event. Every year during the months of October and November, over 200,000 traders and tourists adorn this occasion with their presence over the course of 5 days. A huge number of traders come to Pushkar to trade their cattle with the trade of camels being the focal point of the gathering.
The fair is celebrated with great enthusiasm and is also an amazing recreational getaway for visitors. The fair is further enriched by the boho themed shopping markets, delectable street food rides like the Ferris wheel to entertain everyone. The enchanting carnival gives you an exceptional opportunity to shop for the exotic Indian attires or the ornate pieces of jewelry or even things to decorate your animals with. Besides that, there is a spectacular display of Rajasthani folk dance and music for the audience to enjoy. Another major attraction of the fair is the considerably cheap hot air balloon rides that give you a picturesque view of the beautiful town and the boundless stretch of the Thar Desert, a sight that is a treat to the eyes.
The golden sand of the Thar Desert taken over by the beautifully decorated humped beats on one side and the captivating markets and the eye-pleasing crowd on the other side are not the only engaging activities at Pushkar. The fair also hosts a number of cultural and entertaining competitions like the camel race, or the fastest turban tying contest, or the longest moustache competition that provide the tourists with an unforgettable experience and bags full of memories to return with.
Over the years, the fair has garnered massive attention from the foreign tourists and the photographers for whom the fair seems like a ‘paradise’. Every year huge numbers of foreign tourists and photographers come to Pushkar to witness and capture the beauty of the event. In recent years the natives have also started to make profit by being paid to get their pictures clicked in their traditional outfits by the foreigners and the photographers.
What is interesting is that this small town has much more offer other than just the great Fair. It serves as one of the major touristic towns in Rajasthan and is loved by the visitors.
Other Attractions at Pushkar
1. Pushkar lake
Set in the center of the city is the beautiful Pushkar lake running along which are 52 ghats and a number of temples that are jostled with pilgrims who take a dip in the holy lake and seek blessings in the temples. The lake has cultural, spiritual and religious significance making it the heart and soul of the town. Other than this the lakeside also gives a scenic view of the sunrise and the sunset.
It calls for a lot of adventure when in Pushkar. The town offers a variety of safaris like the Camel Safari or the Jeep Safari. The bumpy ride on the camel back through the sand of the Thar desert is quite an experience in itself. If you’re an adventure lover, Jeep Safari is the best choice which takes you through rough paths and off-centre trails. It is definitely an opportunity not to be missed.
3. Famous Bazaars(Markets)
Pushkar is the one of the hubs of shopping for Rajasthani souvenirs including traditional Rajasthani clothes, beautiful silver jewellery, handicrafts, handlooms and what not. Sarafa bazaar and Sadar bazaar are a must visit for all the shopaholics.
4. Rose Garden
Pushkar is world-famous for the rose essence from the rose garden in the town. It is used in making a variety of products like rose water, sherbet, gulkand, and perfumes. The Pushkar rose scent is loved by foreign tourists.
5. Local Delicacies
The real essence of the place lies in its food, rightly said so. Complementing the boho vibes and the quaintness of the town is the lip-smacking spicy Rajasthani street food. The variety of delicacies that are available in the bazaars of Pushkar are surely going to tingle your taste buds. Some food spots to look for when in Pushkar are:
- Pushkar Raj – These stuffed puff pastry like khasta kachoris are a flavourful delight. They are usually smashed and are topped with tamarind and spicy chutney(similar to sauce) and are a locals’ favourite, best of which are served at Pushkar Raj.
- Lala ji’s – The parantha(heavily stuffed flatbread) man attracts a huge crowd every evening post sunset when he walks around with his hand-drawn cart selling the most heavenly stuffed paranthas. He sells chunky sized paranthas stuffed with fillings of several vegetables like – potato, cabbage, beetroot, and capsicum and not to forget, there’s an exclusive ‘special paratha’ as well.
How to Reach Pushkar?
Pushkar is situated around 15 kilometers from the famous town of Ajmer which makes it accessible through all modes of travel.
By Air- The nearest airport to Pushkar is the Sanganer airport at Jaipur which has connectivity with most of the major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata. From the airport the distance to Pushkar is around 155 kms which can be covered in a cab or a bus in around 3 hours of time.
By Train- Ajmer Junction is the closest train station which is connected to major cities like Delhi through the Shatabdi Express or the Pink City Express. After getting down at Ajmer Junction, Pushkar is a 30 minutes car drive away.
By Road- The town has proper connectivity with major roadways and highways and can be traveled to by a personal vehicle or by a bus from cities like Indore, Ajmer, or Jaipur.
Although the Pushkar Fair is such a traditionally rich affair, in recent times the Fair has lost its actual meaning and the cultural heritage seems to fade away amongst the commercialization of it. These days you will find more photographers and tourists than you will the traders who come to trade their cattles and ornate the occasion. Similar to most of the other festivals, fairs, and exhibitions, Pushkar is also turning into an annual money making occurrence and is getting deprived of its actual meaning and richness. If you visit the town sometime other than the Fair, you could feel the tranquility and soothingness of the town which gets camouflaged in the hustle and bustle of the Mela.