The Bohemian Imp of Pushkar

In 2007, on a beautiful end-of-January morning, I drove into Pushkar, Rajasthan, with a group of friends. We were on a visit to Ajmer and had offered prayers at the famous Dargah Chishti. Whether it was the promise of spring hanging in the air, or the psychological relief after facing the claustrophobic experience at Ajmer, we were strangely relaxed and jovial as the winds of Pushkar touched our face. And not only our face, touched us somewhere deep within our souls. One of the members in a group is a creative film editor, and I also find myself to be of a creative bent of mind, and we both were nearly swept off our feet by the positive and artistic vibes of Pushkar.

Pushkar is a major Hindu pilgrimage center, renowned to have the only temple in India, dedicated to Lord Brahma. This is a slight misinterpretation of facts, as there are some other temples dedicated to Brahma in India as well as Cambodia. One Brahma temple is in a village in Goa, one in Khedbrahma in Gujarat and one in the village of Khokhan in the Kullu Valley. There is also a shrine for Brahma within the Bramhapureshwarar temple in Thirupattur, near Trichy and a famous statue of Brahmā, 52 km from Solapur district in Maharashtra. The largest statue of Brahma is in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A six feet tall statue was also discovered at Sopara near Mumbai. In the temple town of Kumbakonam, in Tamil Nadu and in Thirunavaya in Kerala, regular prayers are offered to Brahma and during Navratri, this temple comes to life with colorful festivities.

While Pushkar’s claim to fame is the prominent Brahma temple the sacredness of the place is subdued by the prevailing Bohemian culture. Pushkar is a haven for Israeli tourists, who flock to enjoy unrestrained abandon, and drug-induced nirvana. The streets of Pushkar are filled with Israeli travelers, who come here in search of spiritual upliftment, but get hooked to the cheap drugs that are smuggled across the borders of Rajasthan. While hash-filled aroma filled the air, and recklessly relaxed white-faces and blue-eyes met our gaze, I wondered why Pushkar was home to so many travelers from Israel. I soon got the answer during discussions with co-travelers.

Israelis serve compulsory military service and are conscripted young into the army. They lose out on vocational education and only gain skills in wielding weapons and see a lot of bloodshed and strict military schedule during their most impressionable years as individuals. While the disciplined life leaves them with a devil-may-care-attitude after they serve their conscription; the years of war and trauma leave their souls scathed. With few professional avenues and ample psychological impressions, these young adults, realize the futility of life. They are happy to have survived the years of war, and they want to enjoy their newfound existence.

India, as a land of spirituality, draws them into their fold. Pushkar hooks them with the availability of drugs, fellow countrymen, and the relatively lax law. I saw touts, beggars, priests and tourists, but I didn’t see a single policeman; not that Pushkar is unlawful or disorderly, but the travelers are usually left in peace. It’s a symbiotic relationship; Pushkar gives peace and harmony to the troubled travelers; they in turn give precious revenue to Rajasthan’s tourism industry!

The colorful hippie culture is contagious. The scene is almost picture-book like. Vibrant t-shirts, psychedelic kurtis, bell-bottom pants, elegant wraparounds, funny balloon pajamas, large hats, the strumming of a guitar, the hash-smoke from the hookahs, pretty white faces, and unkempt dreadlocks, huddled in small groups, looking on dreamily or chatting with the local shopkeepers; time stands still in Pushkar.

As evening draws the scene becomes more colorful, especially close to the Sunset café, which serves blissful ice-creams in the light of variously shaded lamps, overlooking a small lake. In the still of the night, as a light wind blows, and the city lights shimmer in the lake, the Bohemian Imp of Pushkar, whispers in your ears endearingly, asking you to stay back, to give-in to the charms of Pushkar, and vile away the rest of your life in a seemingly idyllic setting of dreams, drugs and music!

Back in Delhi, Pushkar still beckons me. There was a strange creative vibration in the airs of Pushkar. The free-flowing thoughts and carefree daily existence, lend Pushkar a strange artistic vibe that translates into a desire to draw, write, paint, sing, perform … to become one with Nature. The trip to Pushkar revived in me the desire to write again, and I have continued to pursue the creative side of me, but sometimes when my pen becomes lax and my mind refuses to see the art in daily existence, the Imp of Pushkar, smiles at me and calls me into its fold.

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  1. Wow, am so nostalgic all of a sudden. So much has changed since then. Changed for the good for all of us who travelled to Ajmer and Pushkar. I feel like going there again, this time with the better halves of our lives :-)
    I am going to share this with Vinayak.
    O BTW, did you check his website? He has given his website some face lift.
    http://www.vinayakdasphotography.com

  2. @Snigs … I am dying to go to Pushkar, and I do hope we can make a trip. I also wonder sometimes that did the Dargah visit, make the difference in our lives!!! Will check Vinayak’s website and leave some (not-so-)expert comments!!!

  3. Ansy..hmm. I dont know, may be it did make a change to all our lives. I mean most of us happily married and settled, have gt whatever we wanted from life. May be it was Dargah…

    This year I wont be coming to Delhi but lets see how soon we can plan meet and go..

  4. Well, Shobhna believes that Ajmer Sharif’s dargah did make a difference, as per what Hitesh told me! She tied a thread there & got what she wanted! :) Maybe you gals also wished for the same thing(getting married to men you love) & all three of you got married in less than 1 year, eh, talk about co-incidence! ;)

    As far as I’m concerned, I don’t believe in such things, but somehow I found peace in all that hubbub at the dargah. Besides the dargah I’ve felt that same kind of peace inside me only at Rishikesh, Tungnath & Khajuraho.

    As for Pushkar, we can go there again if you people are interested. Its a good place for a quiet weekend, but I think will be better if we go in early november(before Urs) or in december. Late january was kinda hot for it as we experienced last time! :)

  5. @Amit: As you know I was too claustrophobic even to complete the entire process of chaadar-charhana; but when I came outside, I tied a thread at one of the lattice grills, and just prayed that let what is right and best for me happen in my life! Needless to say I was thinking of the two most significant things in my life at that point in time: 1. my single status; 2. my job which kept me independent. I also said a special prayer for my father’s healing. The latest reports show some improvement in his disjointed bone, after 6 years of unhealed fracture!! Maybe faith is compelling; as Paulo Coehlo says, if you really want something, the whole Universe conspires to give it to you!

  6. @Ansy, I agree with you. When you want something the whole Universe conspires to give it to you. In my case also, all I wanted was peace in my life and the way Vinayak and I met, things happened between us my faith in God has only become stronger.

  7. Ansy, maybe you are right, maybe you are not. I don’t possess that much wisdom to argue on this issue, atleast not at this stage of life. Maybe sometime in future I’ll have the wisdom & knowledge to be able to do discussion on such a topic! :)

    Snigs, your scenario is beyond normal, yours was what I’d say fast food marriage if you know what I mean, hehehe! :D

  8. @Snigs, with due respects, the term Fast Food marriage recieved a big HA-HA-HA laugh from my end; and BTW, Amit, even Manish and my marriage was pretty fast ;-) Just 15 days between my parents meeting his family, and then a quick Arya Samaj wedding!!!!

  9. Ansy, your case wouldn’t be called that since your & Manish’s courtship had been going on for quite sometime. But Snigs & Vinu’s story started last year only when she moved to Bangalore, if I’m not wrong, yeah? So thats why her case deserves that title, the Web 2.0 types marriage – see it, love it & get registered! :D

  10. @Ansi yes lets get Chhota Amit settled quickly.
    @Amit yes ours was a fast food wedding. WE met on 30 Jul 2007 and got Married in Sep 2008 (Tunganath) the formal wedding happened in Dec 2008. Super fast indeed. But there was not a dirth of doubt that this is the man I want. May be that the Ajmer magic for my life too. :-)

  11. Again beautifully written, I am going to bookmark this link and am sure when I visit the place, I’m gonna see it with my eyes as well as that of yours! You have painted its image very well.

  12. @Ansi yes lets get Chhota Amit settled quickly.

    Yeah well, who says I’m unsettled! ;) I’m quite well settled in my chair at the moment! :P

  13. its like reliving the past….and somehow i believe that the changes in me and shobhna began happening soon after our trip to pushkar and as we got married, the charisma began to overwhelm us. effect of Pushkar was so intense that we planned to start our new life together at pushkar. we spent our honeymoon at Ajmer/pushkar this year, and explored pushkar even more than we did on our last visit. we rented a bike and went to Baidyanaath temple some 12 kms south to pushkar. the journey and destination both were something to remember.

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  15. Hi, Congrats to you for your writing skills as you have remarkably portray Pushkar in your words and every bit of it gives a colorful picture in my imagination. In Rajasthan, my fav. place is Pushkar and for the same reasons which you have mentioned in your blog. Call it a hippy era town or psychedelic land but it gives you a refreshing instructions to yourself and city also gives a time to take you away from you . Help to transcends an artist who was never know to you and there you can explore your deeds to Nirvana. Life is so complex and anything like Pushkar, is so simple that it always help to gain ecstasy.