Saturday, November 12, 2022

The Rajasthan Diaries - Day 3, Pushkar, The Prabodhini Ekadashi at the Pushkar Mela

Today is the first day of the Kartik mela which coincides with the Kartik Purnima. Apart from the religious significance for Hindus who believe that this date is auspicious and a bath in the Pushkar lake on Kartik Purnima day (the last day of the festival) will help in attaining moksha, the side affair is the cattle fair where camels, horses, cattle and sheep are traded. The fair also is about various competitions - longest mustache, tug of war, camel races along with music and dance. Much trading and selling of all sorts of items, clothes, jewellery happens alongside. With lakhs of tourists and pilgrims attending the fair, these 9 days have a super festive mood. Our idea was to experience that.

The market

Look at the building - The sign says 'Spiritual Walk'

More beautiful buildings

Vicky told us to head towards the Sunset Cafe which is exactly on the opposite side of the Brahma ghat and temple where our Vela Resorts was located. He told us that over a lakh diyas would be lit along the ghats which would be quite a spectacle to watch. I also liked the idea of wandering through the narrow market place enjoying the sights and sounds and being part of it. So at around 5 pm we set out for our tryst with Sunset Cafe.

Full Power Shop

The market

Another view. Abhinay trying to buy something 

Meanwhile Abhinay updated us of his escapades in the afternoon when he had set out to explore the city with Pravesh and the two young foreign girls and had bumped into some aggressive locals who felt he was taking their business from foreigners away. Luckily it ended peacefully and Abhinay returned in time leaving Pravesh and the girls to handle themselves. We could see how focused the locals were on the foreigner crowd when Abhinay wanted to buy a head band and the shop owner quietly came to us and asked us to come later - he was planning to sell the same headband to the foreigners which he would sell to us for 60! He was very open and nice about it so we agreed to drop in on the way back.

The ghat at the Sunset Cafe - the hoola hoop lady in front

Waiting for the inauguration

View around the lake

The market place was beautiful and all decked up. We could see young children going into the ghat area dressed in clothes that were alike, people all dressed up. The CM would inaugurate the male open at some point in the evening. There were jewellery shops, schools that offered jewellery courses. We went into one very interesting jewellery shop 'Dev Jewellery Smith' run by this Bengali babu Deepak. It's also called Full Power Workshop - he was a very interesting character and he did some interesting work (Ph 967274364/8949888755). Those interested in some jewellery should check this out - if nothing else - for him. 

Shops which sold clothes, trinkets, kullad chai, malpua, kachori. Abhinay took us to a bookstall that he had visited which has been mentioned and a picture taken in National Geographic. He had been there several times and introduced us to the owner. We passed by a shop where the owner played sad songs - the song for the evening was 'Dil ke armaan aasuon mein beh gaye...' and we wondered who he was playing it for. Perhaps his neighbour who married someone else!

Vasu and Abhinay lighting lamps on the left

Me in selfie mode - was trying to capture this chap who was doing some juggling tricks


The roads are very narrow and there is no chance of really driving a four wheeler and even the occasional two wheeler needed a great amount of expertise and skill. The locals however drive with complete faith in the divine and get away with it. We passed by some lovely houses or devdis all of which housed a temple. There are innumerable temples in Pushkar. Since we were walking along the outside of the lake, each of the 52 ghats kept opening up along the way. Sadhus, foreigners, people with long mustaches, young kids who were travelling from India, photographers, was teeming with activity.


The two hills behind signify something 

Onward we went, stopping here and there, picking up some small item or another and identifying others to buy later. In sometime we found the path to Sunset Point and saw that it was a nice fancy cafe which was near the ghat. It was early evening, maybe 6 pm, so there was much light still but the diyas were lit all round the lake, mostly by school children from various schools. You cannot step on to the ghat with your footwear s we left it and went on to the ghat. As the diyas kept getting blown off anyone can go and light them again and Vasu and Abhinay went ahead and kept lighting the lamps that went off. I watched some foreigners putting up a show - one lady with the hoola hoop and one guy doing some juggling tricks. Screens were set up all over to show what was happening at the Brahma ghat where the CM had arrived. 

Aarti in progress


As the evening grew darker the diyas looked spectacular and we merely looked on taking in the beauty of the moment. After the CM inaugurated the event, the aartis were performed on each ghat and so it was near our ghat as well. It was a fine spectacle and went on for a long time to the accompaniment of mantras and sounds. By the time it ended, it had become dark and the lake looked immensely beautiful. We thought for a minute on how everyone was busy capturing the moment on their mobiles which seems to have become our default behavior - to capture for later than experience then - and how if not for the mobiles people would have put their hands together in prayer. Hmm. 

Sunset Cafe

The two guys on their drums

The two drummers, Abhinay and the dancing sadhu

We walked towards the aarti place and found two guys playing the drums in a wonderfully rhythmic manner and a sadhu, must have been 75 at least or older, looking in the pink of health and dancing like a 10 year old. His complete lack of inhibition, complete immersion in his dance were  such a joy to witness and we do become in such moments, aware of our own baggage. He'd just do his own thing, go on one leg, sway and clap...beautiful. Very soon a large crowd showed up and that's what 'being yourself' can do - attract people to you. A few people came and pushed one another in to join the dance - one foreigner finally jumped in and did his own thing. Vasu joined the dancing on the fringe too. But no one could match the old man and his immersion in his dance. After the dance he would laugh and say 'Anand aaya?' That's all he was concerned with - whether he was spreading happiness.

Sadhu ji in his element

Another one - the two girls in front of us

Meanwhile Abhinay found a pair of drums and joined the two drummers for a bit and more and more people joined. Oh it was heady stuff. And then we had competition from a local drummer who led the show for a while, once again a brilliant exhibition of skill. We loved the how which went on for 30-45 minutes at least. So glad we went to the Sunset  Cafe.

Vasu checking out the menu on our rooftop restaurant 

The market on the way back

There were fireworks after the aarti and we settled down in a restaurant next to the busy Sunset Cafe and enjoyed the fireworks show for another 30-45 minutes. It was close to 9 perhaps when we decided to head back. People rolling their cigarettes was quite a common sight this end. On the leisurely walk back Abhinay and Vasu checked out and bought some shirts and pants which had Pushkar written all over them. Then we found a rooftop place and ate a very continental dinner - falafel, pizza and something like that. We found that Abhinay's foreign friends and Pravesh had found another bunch of people and they came to the same place too. Anyway we chatted, overate and as a consequence, walked leisurely back.

All the shops were still open. The bookstore, the chap who sold head bands at different prices and so on. We slowly stumbled back to our rooms at the Vela Resort and crashed out. It had been one hell of a day. Tomorrow we check out at 11 and head back. But before we check out Vicky said we should do a parikrama of the ghats from the inside at sunrise. That sounded lovely. So an early start tomorrow again!                       

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