Pushkar in India is a holy place that offers the experience of bathing in a holy lake, playing drums with a group for evening prayers, finding your inner peace with yoga, eating falafel from Israelis who gather around, visiting some temples and relaxing for a couple of days in a peaceful environment. Pushkar has given countless local experiences from A to Z to I TRAVEL FOREVER and here you can read about what you can expect…
Before I talk about how I ended up in Pushkar, I have to share a little background info about how it all happened. I traveled to Pushkar with Anita from Argentina who I met in Jaipur. Her plan was to meet Abhinav (a local guy she knew through an organization called the Global Shapers). Once we arrived at the Pushkar bus station, we hopped onto an autorikshaw to take us to a hotel. The driver was showing us a couple of hotels – as they do – and so the experience in Pushkar began.
Finding a hotel
The autorikshaw driver drove us to different lodges, which I was not happy with as he just showed us some spots that were too far away from the lake. At the end I just told him to drop us off near the lake in order to find a place to stay by ourselves. The first place we found was a really a nice lodge with amazing lake views called Lake View Hotel. I was not 100% satisfied with it because the rooms seemed quite dirty. Anita and Abhinav checked in anyway. I went to view a few other hotels and lodges in the area to get an idea in what kind of standard I can expect here, as this varies from city to city here in India.
Walking around, I bumped into friends I had met in Nepal. In the end, I decided to stay in the Lake View Hotel because the standard is pretty much the same everywhere else and waking up with that view was an incredible way to start the day.
Pushkar local cultural experience
The next stop on my travel adventures around the world was Pushkar, one of the five sacred dhams for devout Hindus that was formed by the tears of Lord Shiva. Pushchair means lotus flowers and offers a very calm, peaceful, relaxing experience as it is located right next to the holy lake at an elevation of 510 meter (1,670ft) where pilgrims descend to bathe in the sacred waters. I found this quite interesting and I must share various local bits and bobs:
>Drum player group for prayers
During my time in Pushkar while staying in the hotel named above, I observed a group of people playing drums for evening prayers and others dancing around. I am always curious and it seemed that anyone could just join, so in my last night I did and it was a pretty cool experience – they were very welcoming feeling from the start.
The evening prayer lasted for about an hour, was a lot of fun and a good cultural experience, something I can totally recommend when visiting Pushkar. You can do it at no cost! However, they try to get you afterwards, asking you to buy a CD of their music or take a drum course with a cost – but fair enough. I didn’t do it but the experience was so much fun! Very interesting characters usually join in so it was a good place to meet people.
Check out my Instagram channel @ITRAVELFOREVER for some video summaries.
>Watch out for the blessing scams
Before I joined the drum player group in the evenin I was part of a big blessing scam that is widespread in Pushkar and I had absolutely no idea about that.
However, I wanted to do a blessing anyways to have the experience, but luckily I was smart enough to pay only a small amount and it was worth doing. However, to give you a little insight into what happens and to protect/advise you of the man known as the holy man: when you walk around the lake, there are a lot of people having a bath but also there are some men looking out for tourists like you and me and make you feel very bad if you reject their favor of doing a blessing. It’s really smart.
Let me tell you what they do: The holy man asks you to take off your shoes. He goes down to the lake with you, sits down next to it and goes through a blessing.
The blessing ends with a donation to their charity and the man tries to push for one donation per family member. He tries to influence you by telling you what other people normally pay per member and push for 2,000-3,000 rupees (ca. 40 USD). They try to make you feel bad if you pay just a little bit for your family member – like they are not worth paying more – a terrible but smart way of making money. He didn’t even want to accept the small amount of money I offered but he did in the end. However, if they ask you, be polite and decline their invitation to pray for your family. Never accept any blessings at/near the lake. They are all SCAMMERS ! Here I wanted to raise awareness for this but for me, it was still a fun experience.
> Business meeting
Another day Anita, Abhinav and I went for an early excursion around the lake and Pushkar. It was a great cultural experience to spot some of the locals and see their unique hip fashion style. Most of them keep staring at you but this is just because they are very interested in you, so don’t take it as an offense.
Later, we then joined Abhinav for a business meeting at the Venus Leatherware store, where we got to meet the owner, sit down and have a Chai.
Abhinav is a friend of the owner, who gave him some helpful tips to increase his business abroad and for a product marketing strategy. I really enjoyed being part of this experience and meeting the locals.
> Only in India
This morning we went to Cafe Nirvana for breakfast, a fun experience because after we ordered, it took around an hour until they served us even though we were the only customers. However, the fun part was when the guy left after we ordered and then came back with the ingredients to prepare our breakfast – ha ha, only in India.
Thereafter, we wandered around again but it was incredibly hot and we had to find shelter. I really love the way they respect the holy cows in India. Nobody would ever harm them in any way, nor kill one ! Read here, an article about “23 must knows before visiting India”
The next thing I was doing the same day probably sounds terrible but I actually let somebody clean my shoes because they were dirty. We had a fun conversation meanwhile and I totally respected him for what he does to make a living. People in India outsource everything and you get a different person for everything – somebody who brings down the rubbish, a personal driver, someone who walks the dog, someone who picks up the laundry, etc. In my opinion, it’s sometimes terrible what some people have to do earn a living but at least they create opportunities for people to make a living. I just didn’t have the facilities to do it myself so it was easier that way and I also met another local, which is something I obviously love.
What you have to eat when in Pushkar: Rabri ke malpue, Gajar ka halwa
> Booking a train – a big challenge in India
Late at night, Abhinav and I went to an agency to book my train to Delhi because booking a train or bus in India seems to be very complicated and most of them are fully booked way in advance. That was also one of the fun times I promised you, ha ha.
> Pushkar Camel Fair
Pushkar is very well known for the annual Pushkar Camel Fair in November, a highlight that attracts a lot of locals and tourists from all around the world. I didn’t make it but its suppose to be spectacular.
>Outside the comfort zone
We woke up to a beautiful blue sky over the lake and my friend, Karan, decided to read my palm. Well, this was all very exciting, but I don’t believe much in this kind of spiritual stuff. However, it was another experience and something to tick off my bucket list.
> Negative travel experience: sharing a bed with a stranger
During the last days of the trip, a guy we met in Jaipur came to Pushkar. He came to stay in our hotel and as the hotel was full, he asked if we could share my room. I didn’t mind that because that’s what travelers do. One evening, however, Anita, he and I were sitting on the terrace sharing a blanket as it was cold with me in the middle. At one point, I thought I would felt a hand on my leg, which shocked me. I really didn’t feel good sharing a bed that same night with but everything was okay after all. Still, it’s not a good experience when something like this happens.
> Visit the temple and have the best view over Pushkar
On my last day, Izas (a Spanish friend who I met in the hotel) and I decided to wake up early to hike to the Savitry Temple, located just 45 minutes to an hour outside of Pushkar.
It was a very hot day and the sun was already shining strong, which is why you should definitely take a lot of water to hydrate. The fun part began when we had to walk up the stairs and pass by some monkeys, of which I’m never a fan because they can be so unexpectedly cheeky – and they were. I walked passed and one of them stopped and showed me his sharp teeth. I froze for a moment and then continued walking up. You probably think I’m crazy because they look so adorable, but they aren’t. We reached the top, visited the Savitry Temple and enjoyed incredible views over the peaceful Pushkar. On our journey back, we bumped into some kids who asked for money.
Around midday, we got back to the hotel. I packed and said goodbye to Anita, Izas and Karan.
I TRAVEL FOREVER’s VIEW & RECOMMENDATION
I really, really enjoyed traveling to Pushkar in India because it gave me such a different view of the country while experiencing the local culture in such a holy environment and, of course, the lake. It’s a beautiful, spiritual, relaxing place to find your inner peace but very influenced by tourism. My favorite part of the trip was definitely chilling on the hotel terrace – very relaxing with a breakfast including a Lassi overlooking the beautiful holy lake. A Lassi is a popular Indian yoghurt drink that originates from Punjab – very sweet, delicious and refreshing. Sometimes Lassi, sometimes chai – I love it. The most fascinating thing about Pushkar is definitely the interesting people you find; in my opinion it is very unique, especially the holy lake in Pushkar – very holy with a very calm hippie vibe.
I had a great time with Anita and Abhinav. Thanks again for introducing me to your culture. I hope to see you again somewhere soon.
The journey continued to Jodhpur, well known as the blue city.