Fairwell Pushkar

Location: Jaipur again.  Heading to Delhi for flight home

Hotel: Hathroi Palace again

Apparently the Pushkar Fair wasn’t nearly as big this year and it was blamed on the money ‘crisis’.  Because of a shortage of cash many people were unable to travel.

But there was still a lot of people in town.  The first few days is more about the livestock, the last few, more religious.

According to Wikipedia

It is celebrated for five days from the Kartik ekadashi to Kartik Poornima, the full moon day (the 15th) of Kartik (October–November) in Hindu calendar. The full moon day is the main day and the day, according to legend, when the Hindu god Brahma sprung up the Pushkar Lake, thus numerous people swim in its sacred waters.

Numerous people is an understatement.  Thousands of people bathe in the lake and I found it endlessly fascinating – I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.  It was a combination of sheer numbers, the ‘novelty’ factor compared to my cultural experience, the colours, the rituals, the location, and more.

Photography isn’t allowed so I didn’t take this shot before a whistle wasn’t blown me.

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I am not sure why, but part of the rituals is offering what looks like puffed rice to the gods, there is also lots of wheat scattered around.  This attracts and maintains huge flocks of pigeons that are regularly spooked and fly off adding another spectacular dimension to the spectacle.  You can see them in the photo above and in another doesn’t do it justice shot, they were all around this pool.

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The lake is the spiritual focus but the streets have a quality of their own.  I regularly have to remind myself that this is The Real Thing™ and not some sort of recreation by actors for the benefit of tourists.  Because sometimes it is so surreal it seems like that.  I especially have that fleeting thought when I see the Rajasthani men in their big turbans.

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They are so ridiculously fantastic I love them.  The turbans, though the men likely too if I got to know them.  I would expect that in the desert heat the last thing that makes sense is wearing 10 beanies, but somehow they must keep people cooler than not wearing them. One of my few purchases, I have bought a length of turban material, that I managed to tie badly once :o)

There are a lot of desperately poor people here as pilgrims.  Someone explained that people will save for years and sell gold and other precious possessions to make the pilgrimage.  As I mentioned in a previous post there are organisations and temples giving them food.

This was a roti production line.

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and there was no shortage of willing recipients

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I love this photo for the memories it invokes, as well as the story I think it tells – though it’s hard to be objective about that.

In the streets I was talking to one of the vendors I know and as I left there was some commotion down the street heading our way.  No idea, but knew it would be something interesting.

Aside: I am still kicking myself for accidentally deleting a video of a group of men walking, playing instruments and singing.  One guy came and joyfully put his face right in the camera singing..it was so great…and irreplaceable 🙁

Anyway, something was coming so I climbed up to a vantage point and…

By now you know I am a cynic so keep that in mind as I say that this all felt contrived.

A couple of days earlier I had seen a naked-ish sadhu.  He was wearing no clothes but had some material over his shoulder hiding front and back and he was quietly heading down to a ghat, no big deal, but kind of startling to see.  In contrast these guys were parading and making a big deal of their presence.

My understanding is that the nakedness is about renunciation of all possessions including clothes so that they can focus on meditation, so in my mind, as a fairly astute observer of people, the video is a little weird.  I would have thought there would be humility and devotion – but who knows, maybe that is what it looks like. And I know this is my take on it based on my assumptions and I may be really, really wrong, so please correct me if you know more.

Numerous people? Oh yeah!  The streets were crowded but not unbearable, mostly.  At one point where the main tourist street met a street leading to a popular ghat at certain times it fell into the unbearable category.

After taking the video – from the safety of a restaurant – there was what I though was a break in the madness.  I needed to get through this intersection so seizing the moment I went for it.  Bad judgement = big mistake.

It was a crush that was insane.  People were pushing and shoving (is that the same thing?) and at one point I was actually carried backwards.  Now that I was in the middle, the only way to get through was to also push and shove.  Almost everyone came out the other side sort of laughing, I think it was out of relief at having survived. After this I needed a break at the hotel didn’t go back that way for many hours.

At another spot people were giving away what at first I thought were potatoes.  Good for poor people but not me.  Until I saw a guy bite into one and it wasn’t a potato at all.  So back I went and was given what is called a tsikooor or chiku .  Yummm!!! So good I went back for another, it was incredibly sweet and tasty.  Glad I have tried chiku, singura and ber, some really unusual and tasty fruits.

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OK that’s it on the Pushkar Fair.  Time to head out and hit the ATMs again.  Also since I am back in Jaipur I may go check on the progress of my carpets.

Less than one week to go…

Meanwhile, of you want to review my back catalogue, all my YouTube videos are here

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