The name ‘Pushkar’, literally means ‘lotus flower’ is one of the sacred Dhams (pilgrimage site) in Hinduism. For tourist like me, its place where colors and cultures come alive, where every grain of sand dunes has its own music, where no one will stop you from doing nothing or everything.
According to the legend, Brahma Dev killed the demon Vajranash by intoning a mantra on a lotus flower. The parts of that lotus fell on three places which later came to be known as Jyaistha, Madhya and Kanistha Pushkar. It was later restored by Nahadeva, ruler of Mandore.
Pushkar is equally known for its annual 5-day cattle fair held from Kartik Ekadashi to Kartik Purnima which usually falls in the months of Oct-Nov. It’s the time when whole town comes alive.
The closest city to pushkar is Ajmer, well connected by road and railways to most other Indian cities. From Ajmer, one can either hire a taxi or take a local bus which takes close to half an hour to reach and which I feel is a better and economical way.
Staying in Pushkar
Pushkar has every kind of stay – right from cheap bag packing hostels to luxury resorts and if you are planning to stay in a decent bag packing hostels/hotels like us, there is no need to pre-book – Just reach and bargain, even during peak season of Pushkar fair. We got a room with hot water supply for four of us for INR 1000 at Hotel ArAvAli which is right at the start of Pushkar market. It has a nice and quiet rooftop restaurant. I loved it.
General Dos & Don’ts
- Hire bike or scooty. The main hotel area is far from fair ground. It is nice to walk around for once but it becomes a pain when you want to go every time (like for capturing some good shot during some odd time)
- Try to get the fair itinerary which contains details of all main events before zeroing down on date of your visit. Make sure to include a new moon or full moon day in your itinerary
- Not every restaurant is good. Avoid one which serves lunch at INR 50-60. Street food is good.
- Pushkar is no-liquor zone. No restaurants serve alcohol especially during fair. The only liquor shop/theka is somewhat around 2-3 km outside the town. The hotel can get it for you at exorbitant price.
- I could find only one medical shop in main market area. In case of need, general stores charge as high as INR 100 for ORS.
Here is image of map which highlights every important points/location:
Things to do
Visit Camel Fair: Of course it is needless to suggest this but it more important to know where to visit and at what time. Best time to visit fair is during morning or evening (preferred). The main camel area is not so photogenic as compared to dunes area (refer image of Map). Do visit horse zone as well. Also I would advise to take a ride on Merry-go-round for a panoramic view of the area during day time. Also keep a tab of various competitions which usually happens in fair especially camel beauty contest, Horse race, camel dance competition, and mustache competition.
Visit Pushkar Lake & Surrounding Market: Pushkar Lake is a beautiful amalgamation of spiritual chaos of Ganga ghats and elegance of Gadsisar Lake. Surrounded by 500 temples, 52 palaces and 52 ghats, the lake is a kaleidoscope of Hindu culture. Some of the important ghats are Brahma ghat, Varaaha ghaat and Gau ghat.
The market surrounding the lake is littered by shops selling traditional jewelry, glass lamps, Rajasthani puppets, decorations and pottery items. For me it was street photography paradise.
Ballooning: Pushkar is one of the few destinations in India which offer a hot air balloon ride. The flight last for an hour and cost around INR 10,000. Early booking is recommended.
Camel Safari: Well of course isn’t it quite obvious. I would suggest you to walk to the farthest end before availing one.
Where to eat?
Ganga Restaurant: A roadside restaurant famous for falfals, humus, pan cakes and fruit salads. It is located next to the Narsingh Ghat of Pushkar Lake
Funky Monkey Café: It is a popular hangout area with garden and indoor sitting. It was just beside our hotel. One can sit here for hours. Sandwiches, Pastas and German Cakes are amazing here.
Hotel Lake View Rooftop café: It is located in the Sadar Bazar overlooking the Pushkar Lake. Better known for amazing views but pizza and pastas are really good
Any Poha Stall: You cannot ask for a better breakfast than poha. Try it any poha stall and you will love it.
Sarvadia Sweet House – It known for its signature dessert called the rabdi malpua. It is in the middle of main market and overcrowded with sweet lovers
Out of the Blue café: Go there for impressive blue interiors décor. It also boasts good view of lake.