A relatively small city in Rajasthan, Pushkar draws hundreds of thousands of visitors a year for three main reasons: religion, camels, and hashish.
Pushkar has long attracted pilgrims from Hindu and Sikh religions, who pray by Pushkar Lake (a holy lake that was supposedly consecrated by Brahma, the Hindu creator god), or at one of the 500 plus nearby temples.
The city has also become famous for the annual seven-day camel fair that’s held in the fall. Camels (commonly used in the area for labor) are entered into contests, raced, and traded – and it’s become quite a tourist destination in recent years.
Because it’s a holy city, meat and alcohol are forbidden (although, like most rules in India, this is one that can be bent). Cannabis is also strictly off limits, yet Pushkar is known for having the best hashish in India, and this of course attracts Western crowds.
The evening we arrived, a guide walked us to the edge of Pushkar Lake, and described the religious importance Pushkar holds in the Hindu religion, while also explaining the prayer ceremonies we would witness as the sun began to set. As he talked us through the prayer, we realized others were starting to crowd around, and all of the sudden, we were in the middle of the ceremony, being coached through participating in it. It was something we would have preferred to have watched from a respectful distance, but it began before we had a say…
The next day – our only full day in Pushkar – we were taken to Savitri Mata temple, where opted for a cable car ride to the top of the hill vs an hours walk in the heat. The temple itself was relatively modest, but the view was spectacular.
That evening, we were driven out into the desert via camel cart, where our driver was eager to help direct a photoshoot (with some cool results, actually), and we all sat and watched the sun go down together.