After visiting three cities in six days we were ready to take a break and relax for a bit, and the small city of Pushkar was a nice place to do just that.
Pushkar is an important pilgrimage site and holy city for Hindus, containing one of the only temples in the world dedicated to the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma. Legend has it that after the demon Vajra Nabha killed Brahma’s children, Brahma struck and killed him with a lotus flower. One of the petals fell here, creating the holy lake around which the city sprung up. Hindus take a pilgrimage here to walk around the lake and then go down its fifty-two ghats, or steps, to bathe in its waters.
The first thing we noticed about Pushkar was that it was noticeably cleaner than every other city we had visited. Not pristine - for example, when someone noticed Vesper holding a food wrapper he said “it’s ok, my friend, just throw it [on the ground]” - but still better than others. It was refreshing to walk around the shop-lined streets without staring at the ground to avoid stepping in trash. And if you’re into shopping, Pushkar probably has the nicest street market in all of Rajasthan. Every street had colorful and sparkly decorations, and you could stroll along and find all sorts of religious, festive, or kitschy souvenirs to buy.
The part we enjoyed most about Pushkar was that it was the most laid back and least pushy city we had been to yet. We were free to walk down the street without having to triple decline rickshaws or turn down offers for hotels, restaurants, etc. The part about Pushkar that we did not like were the scams around the lake. We had been warned so we were prepared, but we have never met such pushy “priests” before. Like it or not, they try to give you a blessing and then insist that you give a donation of $30-50 per person. Don’t worry - they take credit card! That being said, this was easy to escape by simply avoiding the lake. It’s sad that this tainted the most important part of the city for us. We basically went our first day, took a few pictures between forcefully replying “no” to inquiries about blessings, ignored the group of six “priests” ready to make sure we gave a large donation, and never went back to the ghats.
Because it is a holy city, Pushkar is a place where you can try bhang lassi. Its use dates back to 2000 BC, and it’s now a legal, government-regulated form of cannabis often used in religious ceremonies. The ground paste is mixed with lassi, a drink made of water and yogurt commonly blended with fruit. We tried many types of lassis throughout India (mango being our favorite), and we were game to try this one too. We had read numerous comical blog posts of travelers asking for strong versions of the drink and stumbling back to their hostels in a stupefied haze, so we scoped out a well-rated cafe and took the owner’s recommended dosing. It wasn’t the best tasting lassi we’ve ever had, but I’ll tell you what: the tikka masala flavored chips we had later that night were DELICIOUS.