Pushkar is thronged by thousands of tourists from India and abroad during the Pushkar mela (fair) which is generally held during the last part of October or the first part of November. Pushkar is sometimes called ‘mini Israel’ due to the influx of a huge number of tourists from Israel. You can spot many shops and hotels have Hebrew Language written on their them, instead of the local language.
Pushkar mela is an an annual multi-day livestock fair and cultural extravaganza. It is one of the India’s largest camel, horse and cattle fairs. Apart from the trading of livestock, it is an important pilgrimage season for Hindus as the only Brahma temple in the world lies in Pushkar. The Pushkar lake is also considered among Hindus, as they believe taking a dip in its waters washes away one’s sins. You can visit the official website https://www.pushkarmela.org/ to check this year’s schedule and get more information.
Pushkar lake is a sacred lake among the Hindus. It is located in the middle of pushkar and is accessible from all direction. From morning till evening, there is a continuous chanting of prayers by priests as it is thronged by devotees who take a bath in the lake. After 5pm, bathing is forbidden and the rush of devotees goes down. It is the best time to visit as there are less people and you can sit in the ghats and watch the sunset. Shoes are forbidden, so you have to keep them outside the ghats. They could be a possibility of shoes getting stolen, so do not wear anything expensive.
Mela ground is a stadium where various cultural festivities take place through out the day. Sporting events like races, traditional rural sports, turban and moustache competitions, musical chair etc take place in the mela ground where both locals and foreigners participate. If you are interested in knowing the schedule or want to participate, you have to visit the official website, which I have mentioned above.
Around the Mela ground
Outside the stadium, a number of stalls are set which sell tea, lime juice, ice creams, household articles, agricultural implements, jewelry, devotional items and festival decorations. One can also see a huge number of white tents are set, where the cattle herders live as they come from far villages to buy and sell camels and horses. It is very sandy and dusty out there, but you will be able to watch and learn about the lifestyle of these traders.
A huge number of camel rides are available near the mela ground. Hop into one of the carriages for a few hours and visit the surroundings of Pushkar. I do not how much they charge as I did not ride one, however negotiate whatever they ask for.
Walk the streets
Pushkar is a very small town and can be easily covered by foot. There are police checkpoints at a lot of places, so there is no need to worry about safety and if you get lost, you can ask them for directions. During the fair, the streets are heavily decorated and it is a amazing experience to walk along the lanes with colorful shops on either side.
Every year, a huge number of photographers visit Pushkar solely for the purpose of taking pictures. Some of the big, well established names in the field of photography also conduct Photo tours during the fair, for which they charge a lot of money. There are no hindrances while taking pictures, so if you are confident in your abilities, you can do it all alone, like I did. Most photographers seem to concentrate on portrait photography as there is a abundance of priests, bearded man, banjaras etc.
During the mela, huge number of shops are set, which sell traditional Rajasthani items like handicrafts, jewelry, shoes, clothing items, swords etc. Do not miss this great opportunity to go on a shopping spree and buy these exotic items.
Street food tasting:
A huge variety of stalls selling mouthwatering dishes are seen through out Pushkar. Make sure you taste some of these food before leaving Pushkar. Also, Israeli dish like falafel, hummus, shakshuka, malawach etc is very famous and served in many restaurants.
I have heard that lot of foreign tourists are hassled by locals by a thing called ‘Pushkar Passport’, which is nothing but a red thread tied around your wrist, which signifies that they have performed the necessary rites and rituals. Tourists are also asked to pay large sums of money in order to make a blessing at the lake. If you want to avoid these kind of problems, just tie a red colored thread around your wrist and you can evade a lot of tricksters. Occasionally, you will also be approached by priests, old women, gypsies, beggars etc to give them some money, in these situations I paid them 10 rupees to get from my back. In general, it is a safe place with lots of tourists, so you should not have much problems.
How to Reach:
If you coming by public transportation, only way to reach Pushkar is by coming to Ajmer. After reaching, it is best to book Ola or Uber. I paid Rs 350 for a one way ride from Ajmer to Pushkar with Ola, whereas the taxi drivers standing outside the railway station were charging 600 rupees. There are also public buses that depart from Ajmer bus stand, but they are overcrowded with local people and it is too difficult to travel with luggage.
When to visit
Although Pushkar can be visited from October to February as the weather remains cool during this time, I will recommend to visit it during the fair. Hotels needed to booked at least 1 month in advance, as you will not get any accomodation in Pushkar during the fair.