Next morning, we walked down to the Varah ghat which is one of the main ghats at the Pushkar Lake (the other two being Brahma ghat and Gau ghat). The narrow lanes leading upto the ghat from the Brahma Temple are full of shops selling a range of goods like bangles, brassware, and clothes; though I find them a tad overpriced for the budget Indian pocket.
[ Monkeys on Rooftops ]
Along the way, you will come across guides offering a piece of history, Pandas (Brahmin priests) trying hard to vie for your attention and monkeys sitting pretty on rooftops probably gazing down on the scenes below.
The picturesque Pushkar Lake is surrounded by 52 ghats, all done in pristine white color and in Rajputana style architecture, built over the years by various Kings and nobles. The lake was formed by Lord Brahma at this place where a lotus had fallen down from His hands (Read the whole story here). During the month of Kartik (Oct-Nov), at the time of the 5 day Pushkar fair, it is said that all the Gods and Goddesses are present here to bestow their blessings. Lacs of pilgrims from far and wide come to attend the fair, take a holy dip, perform various religious activities and pay obeisance to the Brahma Temple.
[ Top View of the dried Pushkar Lake ]
The lake was devoid of water (when I had visited in May) as it was being cleaned to prepare it for the Pushkar fair. But small kunds (pools) were made at the ghats so that the devotees could carry out their religious activities. Photography is not allowed at the ghats; but since the lake was dry, the rule was relaxed and hence people were happily clicking away.
[ Devotees performing various activities at the Ghats ]
The ghats resonate with the sights and smells of thousands of pilgrims who gather everyday to perform various religious practices. Some are seen taking the customary holy dip and offering prayers to the sun god, some lighting oil lamps (Deep daan) and incense sticks and some meditating with their eyes closed, some others can also be seen performing profound rites of passage like Pind daan and Tarpan which require the help of a priest; but almost all of them seem to be absorbed in intense thoughts of salvation fully convinced that the sacred waters of the lake will wash all their sins away and cleanse their soul (To know more about these rites and rituals click here).
[ A lady performing Deep Daan ]
[ A woman offering water to the Sun God ]
[ A group of pilgrims performing a puja
assisted by a priest at the Pushkar Lake ]
Be it the locals or the tourists, everyone here forms an individual bond with the water, held together tightly by that intangible thread called ‘Faith’. The water of the lake is also said to have healing properties and skin diseases are believed to be cured by taking a bath here.
After sprinkling a few drops onto myself, I descended a few steps of the ghat until my feet felt the cool waters. I lit a diya and spent a few quiet moments in prayer…I climbed back up and strolled around for a while. Just besides the lake, the pigeons quietly picked the grains fed to them by the pilgrims. Some cows had made their way in too!
No rowing boats, no monumental princely mansions around, no ritualistic evening Aarti and no Holy river Ganga… still I could not help but flash on the similar set of stairs I had descended a few months back in the ‘City of Light – Varanasi’… What differs is the name, the place and the legacy… the activities, the atmosphere, the aura remains the same!!