The main lane in Pushkar is the Badi Basti. This is exceptionally narrow and goes back to medieval times. It twists and turns filled with shopkeepers, hippies, pilgrims, donkeys, camels, beggars and pujari's. All overlooked by ornate wooden merchant havelis with wooden brackets. As you trudge through the sand-covered streets India will assault you with its camel-drovers, flies, musicans, holy cows and smell of woodsmoke. If there is a smell to India it is woodsmoke.
At the end of the Badi Basti is the Brahma Mandir. One of the few temples in India dedicated to the creator deity and a mandatory stop on the pilgrimige trail. Before you enter you have to remove your boots and leave them with the chowdikar (old man) and then you enter risking burning your feet on the hot marble. The main sanctuary is open to the air and surrounded on all sides by shrines. An orange tower soars above the temple and a bright blue statue of Brahma stands underneath. It was very moving to watch the devotion of the pilgrims as they rang the holy bell and then kissed the floor.
Afterwards we decided to circumnavigate Lake Pushkar and set off into the narrow lanes. Every couple of yards was a holy cow. These were very sweet and would nudge you for food and if they got in your way you simply tapped them on the head and they move off. The Hindu credo states the sanctity of animal life and the cow is revered above all others. Theologians suspect that this was brought into the Hindu ethos thousands of years ago so that the peasants wouldn't eat their cattle in times of famine. But it extends to all animal life. There used to be crocodiles in Lake Pushkar but the brahmins would not remove them and took puja armed with one eye on the calm water.
We eventually emerged onto a ghat with a spectacular view of the lake (see photo)and its reflection of ivory cupolas, domes and palaces. This was set off by the soaring green Aravalli mountains and a cloudless sky. Nearby we saw a westerner smoking a chillum under a tree. Pushkar is spliff-heaven though not as drug orientated as Manali in the Himalayas. As we traversed the lake we found a breakwater brige surrounded by green meadows. Workers were cutting plants and we couldn't resist asking what they were harvesting - fresh jasmine was the answer.
That evening we found a restaurant on the roof of a hotel called the Moondance cafe. Our table had a sensational view of the rooftops and domes of Pushkar. They were taking final worship at the ghats as we watched and the sound of sitar music wafted up to us. Joining us was a spindly Israeli who had just come back from trekking in the desert. He had mistakenly worn shorts and his legs were burnt to cinders by the sun. He had a wonderful time but suspected the drover of cleaning his cooking pots with camel dung. But we settled back to watch langurs scamper over the rooftops and the sunset wash Pushkar with purple light...