Working our way from the bus station to the town center I begin to realize the layout of Pushkar; the town forms a semi-circle crescent around the lake. Along the way, we stopped at a few hotels, checking on the prices and conditions. As we walked along, I shot some photos of the locals as they sold their wares and walked about the town.
As we rounded the corner from one street to the next, a small blue demon jumped out and gave us a near heart attack. I had never seen a demon before and I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating. The little blue creature jumped out with his pitchfork in hand and said, “Ha!” This little demon was completely blue and about 4’ tall. About a second later I realized that it was a child dressed up to look like the God Shiva. Wow, what a realistic costume. This kid could do wonders on Halloween. He hit us up for a donation, “Photo! Photo! Ha ha, ten rupee photo!” For the rest of the week, I would come to see this kid EVERY day. He was full of life, always smiling, and soliciting for 10 rupees to take a photo with him. He was quite successful and made a killing in donations each day and evening. His mother must spend an hour or two each day dressing him up. I suppose he makes enough money to support his entire extended family. His costume, while it did change colors each day, was always immaculate.
After looking at the third hotel, I was tired and decided to do something else. The 3 hotels we had seen were dirty and dingy. I was getting ready to just pony up and go stay at the 5 star hotel. I inquired on the price and it was a whole $35 a night. Simply amazing.
I finally reached the lake and could hear traditional Raj music being played. The restaurants by the lake had inviting wicker chairs, food, and drink. I plopped down and ordered some lunch. While I rested, I was immediately taken by the relaxed atmosphere of the town. Everyone seemed to be very laid back and dressed in a very casual manner. The religious pilgrims bathed in the lake while the tranquil music played.
The lake is surrounded on all sides by Ghats – Hindu holy places where the faithful can swim in the holy waters and cleanse the soul. Restaurants and hotels ring the lake just inland from the marble steps of the Ghats that lead to the sparking blue water. So revered is this lake that Ghandi’s ashes were scattered over the lakes mysterious water 13 days following his death as prescribed by tradition. No meat is sold in the entire town. It is a strictly vegetarian affair.
… bathers at a Ghat on the far side of the lake…
Most of Pushkar is closed to vehicle traffic. Motor bikes did zoom down the streets but most of the loud traffic was gone. It reminded me of the town of Panajachel in Guatemala on the shore of Lago Atitlan, a rain filled volcano cone high up on the peaks of a still active volcano. The lake is over 1000’ deep. It was referred to as “Gringo Land,” as so many Americans came there on vacation and never went home. My friend Jeff and I met an American woman who sold jewelry on the side of the road. When we asked her about the Visa situation in Guatemala, she said every month George (pronounced Hor-hay) took all of the Gringos passports to the border with El Salvador. For a $10 fee, he would get your passport stamped. The Salvadoran border guard received $2 per stamp as did the Guatemalan guard. That left $6 for each passport to George – less expenses. We figure that he ran 500 to 1000 passports a month. Not a bad racket. The woman told us that her passport showed that she had transited to Salvador 30 or 40 times but that she had never actually been there.
As the bathers came out of the lake in their clothing, they paused to disrobe and wash their traditional clothing – a long cloth that is wrapped around the body. It is a popular affair to bathe in the holy waters of Pushkar. As the multi-colored fabrics were stretched into the wind, they made a beautiful foreground with the lake’s blue waters behind.
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