Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pushkar: Pilgrims, Hippies, Holy men and Priests

Sonu and I are so happy to be together again.  We've already fallen into our familiar pattern.  We laugh together as we see camels, cows, sheep, goats, monkeys and an elephant on the road, and overloaded trucks, tractors and buses.  And also when I jump out of the car for photos.  We snack on Lay's chips and cokes, and we talk about family, home, politics, religion and life.

Our timing is off for the annual Camel Festival, but it's a scene to behold every day in Pushkar.  This first stop for us is a pilgrimage site for Hindus, not unlike Haridwar and Rishikesh on the Ganges River;  I visited both of them my last time in India.  Pushkar's holy water is that of a sacred lake, and the city's major temple is one of very few anywhere dedicated to Brahma, a principal Hindu god.

It's a crazy mix of the spiritual and commercial here.  Young backpack-carrying Americans, Europeans and Israelis create a throwback 'hippie' culture, mixing with pilgrims, and turbaned holy men and priests.  Sacred cows wander narrow streets lined with tourist ware shops.  And everyone steps out of their shoes and walks down to lakeside platforms (ghats), particularly at sunset.  There they cast flowers on the water, or light incense or candles.  Or they pay a local priest to say a puja (blessing).  We saw many people just sitting or standing to reflect.  After a long, seven-hour day on the road, so did we  .  .  .

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