The blue lotus flower
A little pearl of an ancient city spotted in between hills around a sacred lake, Pushkar is said to be one of the most ancient cities in India. The exact date of its founding is not known, but there is a legend in Hindu belief explaining how it was created:
Lord Brahma, in Hindu religion the personified for of the cosmic function of creation, is said to having selected this area as suitable for Mahayagna – which seems to be some form of hindu penitence rituals he performed during 60.000 years in order to contemplate Radha Krishna for a brief instant. To find the appropriate place, the hindu gods released a swan carrying a lotus flower in its beak. The place where the swan would drop the lotus flower, loard Brahma would perfom a big yagna, a vedic ritual of offerings accompanied by canting of mantras. This place was denominated Pushkar, meaning ‘blue lotus flower’ in Sanskrit.
The waters of Lake Pushkar are holy to hindus, going back to the Padma Purana scripture, a religous text forming part of hindu epics. It tells, that Brahma saw the demon trying to kill his children and harassing people. He immediately slew the demon with his weapon, the lotus-flower. In this process, the lotus petals fell on the ground at three places, where springs emerged creating three lakes – one of it the Pushkar lake. The three lakes were assigned their presiding deities as the Hindu Trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, respectively. When Brahma came down to the earth, he named the place where the lotus fell as ‘Pushkar’ (this is however in some contradiction to the previous founding legend).
Brahma then decided to perform a yagna at the place, at the main Pushkar Lake. However, his wife Savitri could not be present at the designated time to perform the essential part of the yagna. Brahma, therefore, married a girl named Gayatri and completed the yagna with his new consort sitting beside him. However, when Savitri finally arrived at the venue, she found Gayatri sitting next to Brahma in her rightful place. Agitated, she cursed Brahma that he would be worshipped only in Pushkar. This part of the legend explains why Pushkar hosts one of the few Brahma temples worldwide.
As a logical consequence of its religous significance, street life in Pushkar and especially around the lake in the heart of the city is very much marked by the sacred, with people performing their bathing rituals at one of the 52 bathing ghats, praying or offering flowers for good luck to the gods. In contrast to what Christians are mostly used to, religious acts in India don’t imply any kind of devoutional silence and discretion around the sacred places. Especially the main bathing ghats are packed with faith vendors, seeking donations in return for good luck flowers. Tourists are again a very prominent, as uninformed, target and we hardly also fell into the trap when we first wanted to go down to walk by the lake. Before even walking down the stairs, three gesticulating guys came towards us, thrusting flowers in our hands and telling us: “First time go do down to lake, then have to put flowers in water, offer to gods, get good luck, give donation, then get wristlet – your passport of good luck. Afterwards no problem anywhere, in all temples enter, not asking for donation, all okay because know you dropped flowers. One time, free enter all temples.”
Of course it was again some stupid rip-off hassling, but as one tries to be respectful of Indians’ culture and religious beliefs, it’s not always easy to know if refusing the flowers would be an offense to them. To their own disadvantage, the guys were being so insistent again than they kind of revealed themselves. It was however quite hard to get rid of them and when they started pulling our hands towards the water I became so angry that I ended up yelling at them – which again led to the very shocked face expression telling their surprise about a woman daring to raise her voice against them: “Why like that?” And of course, the passport of good luck wouldn’t exempt you from any donation requirements when entering one of the over 500 temples inside the city.
Once managing to evade the good luck hassle, Pushkar is still able to charm you with its particular magic of the beautiful lake panorama, bathing people in colourful sarees in the middle of the cows lying lazily on beside the stairs leading to the holy waters. Sitting down on one of the beautiful terraces of rooftop restaurants with lake view, enjoying some tea or fruit juice and just observing the scenes is one of the most entertaining and at the same time relaxing activities on offer.