India, On The Road, Photographic Stories, rajasthan, Road Journals, West India
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Brahma Calls To Pushkar: Travelling with Parents to Man Mahal and other stories: An Ode To Photographic February

Something unlikely happened in February. I wrote a letter for the first time, to send it far away; away across the seven seas wishing someone love, birthday wishes and health. And subtly felt that I should start doing it more often. Through writing at least, making unknown known, to the people who are close but far, sending Postcards to you. As it would be great to support our age old Letter/Postal services to keep working in this digital world. 

As it was also the birth month of my Mother. I kept planning that my parent’s travel, somewhere they had never been to. More so when they are more like Pilgrims than tourists, so wherever they can find a calling connection with the local lord, a deity of a city, a region; they go there happily. And that high of happiness had eluded them for the longest time. Much before the Virus locked our gates.

The orders had come to open the schools. Ma and I had already started planning the opening of our school. We had a lot to do. Cleaning first, giving away the old and getting whatever is needed for the coming session. Getting the right books back for the school and other things. Start calling parents, getting some toys. But before we could get into all of this, I wanted to gift them a short family time; where they can walk on a mountain yet not feel very cold in February. Somewhere around a lake or a river and a temple to sit for hours quietly. May be even looking up to the night sky telling me of all the constellations they see; old family game- finding Shukra i.e Venus, the couple or the married stars- Arundhati and Vashistha i.e Alcor and Mizar, which they remember from the day of their wedding in the 80s or counting the most noticeable ones Satprishis- The great bear; as they always did in my growing up years but slowly as pollution rose, it became impossible to see anything from Delhi, playing games in and outside all went away. But I really couldn’t tell myself if there was such a place nearby. And they help either but only say anywhere where I, their son wishes, to take them.
 
In the night while I was finishing my work, and wondering where to, the sign arrived. Papa was showing us some old images of his and smiled stopped at one where he was taking a dip with Vachaspati Uncle- A Sanskrit teacher who was also the head of their institution then, now no more. An Image of my father in 1985, on a school trip to the only Brahma Pond in Pushkar.




The Calling of the Blue Lotus: And the Legend

Finally the morning arrived and we left for, out of all the places to Pushkar. I wouldn’t have known that for whose flower; the Lotus, I had walked for days to find in the remotest part of Himalayas through highest passes filled with mist and rhododendron forest in Uttarakhand, would call even my parents to the place of him; Brahma himself within six months.

Pushkar, in Sanskrit means the Blue Lotus. As you already know, India is older than the time itself, hence getting into the vibe of most pilgrim place takes your body in one direction, but your soul unto itself. Pushkar is often called the Tirtha-raj, meaning the king of Pilgrim sites. Placed in such a way that the Aravalli Mountains surround it from three sides, hence filling the Brahma Kund, the pond throughout the year.

Aravallis, The grand old range, also considered as the oldest fold mountain system in the world, having its origin in Proterozoic era. Even before many seas had become, Aravallis were already there. They are older even than the Himalayas and at whose end or rather the start, flows the daughter of the sun himself, river Yamuna, where my beloved Delhi sits today. Almost 400 kilometers by road, away. while looking at the lake, i write these lines.

Like Brahma, who has always been depicted as the oldest one amongst the three Prime deities in Hinduism, with a white flowing beard; Pushkar thus suitably feels old, laid back. Slow and all the time, just forever dawning.

According to the stories that Hindu texts and people recall, Lord Brahma, believed to be the creator of the Universe dropped a lotus to the ground leading to the immediate creation of a lake. He then decided to name the place after the flower, and thus the name, Pushkar as he found this to be an ideal place for his Mahayagna- the great fire ritual. But soon he found out about a demon, Vajranabha who was killing people of this town. Brahma killed the demon by chanting a mantra on a lotus flower which then struck the demon and killed him. When Vajranabha died, petals of lotus fell on three places. One of them was Pushkar, where the petal is believed to have given birth to a lake.

Also Read: One night when I slept at the Indo-Pakistan Border

Further to protect Pushkar from demons, a yagna-fire ceremony was performed by Brahma on Kartik Poornima i.e Full moon of Kartik in November. But for performing the Yagna, Brahma’s consort, Savitri, was required. However, she was not present there and Brahma married a girl called Gayatri from Gurjar community to complete his yagna. Enraged by the news of Brahma’s wedding, Savitri cursed that people would worship Brahma only in Pushkar. The Pushkar temple still has a Gurjar priests known as Bhopas. It is said to be the only temple where he is worshipped in the world. Even though i recently heard of some temples where he is also worshipped elsewhere.

Parents visiting Brahma Temple

And since then it is believed that Pilgrims come to celebrate it on full moon of Kartik; when the popular Camel fair takes place.

Brahma’s Pond at night
Way to Brahma’s Pond


The Blue Lotus and I



I have known Pushkar for too long now. And I have a history with this place. Even before I met my mentor, a Director whom I assisted for a very short period in Bombay, while I wandered the lanes of Mumbai documenting its social and cultural life. I had already been to Pushkar on an assignment for an Indian Political Magazine.

But while assisting Mr. Swaroop in Mumbai and a few times in Delhi, I remember him remembering Ajmer and Pushkar many a times during our conversation. He came from Pushkar. And had already made two fantastic films, one amongst which remains a cult in itself, ‘Om Dar ba Dar’, so much so that in 1988- it is said that people left Cinema halls citing they couldn’t understand the story; as much that the film was taken away from Cinemas after a week due to no one turning up.

Let me share a song sequence from the film here for you to get to know his world of Pushkar when he was young. It was shot in Ajmer in early 80s.


And as it happened, more than two decades later ‘Om Dar ba Dar’ was re-released by some Cinema enthusiasts in 2013. Today, it enjoys a cult following in the art film world.


11 Years Later


It felt mixed entering Pushkar again today, old and new together with my creators. But the sweetest surprise came when I found myself in the same hotel, RTDC Hotel Sarovar, a heritage hotel where I had stayed in a minaret overlooking the Pushkar Lake eleven years ago for only INR 200/- while documenting the fair.

my room at Hotel Sarovar from the Outside


Ma loved it and probably enjoyed it to the fullest. Parents slowly started loving the fact that there was not a single occupant other than us. There were over 100 rooms and old world alleys built like a Maze to walk around or reach to the top; also because i knew it from the olden times, I could take them everywhere. Kitchen smelt of Dal Chawal, Churma.

Hotel Sarovar Dining room. Pushkar

I could feel her smile, her eyes gleaming. She got up the earliest next morning, much before any trace of sun. Walking back and forth in the long corridors, when asked why not rest, she said I do not want to waste even a single minute here. Peacocks were up too. Many. We all decided to walk to the Sarovar for tea. The brahma Sarovar Lake.

Eleven years ago, It was also the same place when i had left this beautiful hotel room to follow a group of camel owner’s long, arduous journey by road to the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Around a thousand miles South west on the tip of Arabian Sea. Though i started well but lost my way on the second night while I had stopped in a village to rest but slept instead. When i woke up, everybody had left. I had no one to ask for water, or food. Leave that, to even speak with a soul. When out of nowhere like magic was created for me, appeared a full blown wedding in the middle of the night.


: ँ :

When was the last time I travelled with my parents, i do not remember. But it felt they needed it. My Ma required it, and all the more my father, who had given himself and us a scare for life couple of months ago.”

It was only much later while talking with the guard outside, waiting for my parents to arrive, he told me about Maharaja Man Singh-I, and the original name of this hotel Sarovar being ‘Man Mahal’ on his name. Built between 1590-1614 A.D. And how it was built as a royal guest house for the Maharaja on his trips to the sacred town of Pushkar for many generations. I was surprised i had no idea of its history or importance even when i might have slept in the same room where he might have been with his queen, playing or even imagining his newer quests.

I would suggest anyone going to Pushkar to stay there, even though there are other beautiful options along the lake.


: ँ :

When the Camels and Cattle come calling: Pushkar Cattle Fair


Pushkar brought smile to me again. And as much living, walking here is other-worldly, it also has its own spirits of evil as it was also the town of Vajranabha- who wandered looking to disrupt; travelling in India for so long, i must tell my Road to Nara family here that be alert at all times when visiting a pilgrimage site in India. These are old old places who have seen all kinds of worship, ancestral rituals, people and spirits in form of birds and creatures. And because wherever there is god worship, which people come for; most also meet evil too. The forces of disruption, anger and greed.

Hence visit it complete. By going to the abode of Savitri, wife of Brahma – a beautiful temple, twenty minute hike away over looking the Pushkar town.


Until next time, whenever Brahma calls again.

: ँ :

Thank you.

If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste


: ँ :

I will take this opportunity to introduce you to About me and importantly;

What have i learnt in a decade of travels from several years on the roadbefore you coarse on youown Road to Nara.


: ँ :

If you wish to contribute to my travels, or towards My School you can please do so here

And when you have something to share, or feel like saying a hello, please write to me at nara@road-to-nara.com

To visit other long-term photographic works, you can visit here.


To follow my walks through the rural Indian Subcontinent, find me at 
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by

Hi, I am Narayan Kaudinya. And i welcome you on this journey, the Road to Nara ! I am an Ethnographer and a practicing Indologist. I did my masters in History and further learnt Sanskrit, Yoga and Nerve-therapy. At 24, pushing most academic sounding, office sitting works away, i felt compelled to know and understand the world and my country, Bharat/India. I travelled, and as it happened i took up teaching in Kashmir and further up in the remote villages of Baltistan in the foothills of Karakoram Ranges. For around three years and many states later there came a time when i felt that it was only while teaching i learnt how to laugh, to see, feel, breathe, love and cry -with children, and mostly resource-less parents in the harshest-freezing border conditions. I write, and work as a documentary photographer and Filmmaker, with numerous published, exhibited and some awarded stories. In my travels and life i have let nature lead me, the divine mother, and as a Yogin, my resolve here is to share my experiences and thoughts as honestly, and through them to blossom in everyone the power and possibility in pursuing your breath, that you seek your true nature with courage and curiosity. Here, on this road i will share my spirit, my love for nature, the elements of life that are us. And in doing so, i'll be happy to see you along.

62 Comments

  1. Taking your parents on a trip is something you will always remember and never regret, Narayan. A lovely, meaningful time spent together! Thank you for posting about this wonderful journey. The photos are beautiful. ❤

    During the last few years of her life, I looked out for my mother, who had Alzheimer's, and we went many places together. One of the things we frequently did together was to drive through the farm country and see the horses and cows. There was a farmers market we liked to visit that had many flavors of ice cream and a petting zoo with goats and chickens. We bought carrots to feed the goats, which was a lot of fun. My mother grew up on a dairy farm, and I think she relived her childhood on these trips.

    All the best for the school year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heartfelt Cheryl, thank you so much for saying it. I adore each minute spent with them. As you said it was truthfully a beautiful time, and to say the least meaningful. As even while travelling that time I was constantly aware of its importance, of them travelling with me, it doesn’t happen normally first of all.

      Like

    • Wow, how it must have made her remember few things. Driving looking through the farm- How you described it, was enough for me to live it through her. I guess you gifted her the life back. Thank you for sharing this with me dear Cheryl.

      Yes, School has opened and some stories are seemingly coming out- to share. Will share one soon.

      Lovely to read this. Thank you again.

      Like

  2. What a wonderful trip and so good that you made this one with your parents. I am an older parent myself and I really appreciate the time my adult children spend with me and my husband. We know, and I think they do too, that we will not be here forever. I enjoyed seeing all of your photos but especially the ones of your Mother and Father.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Heartfelt to read this from you Anne. Yes i remember your kids came around in December and i could feel your happiness through your words. I absolutely adore my parents you know and just feel to be around them as much and whenever i can.
      This journey was one of its kind, memorable and filled with a strange kind of sense of seeing them enjoying together.

      Thank you so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Narayan, I truly enjoyed this blog of Yours, first of all taking your parents on a trip is such a splendid thing to do, how wonderful of you. Second, since I have been in Pushkar almost 6 years on my solo trip in India, all those wonderful moments came back spending hours sitting at the lakeside just doing nothing, well I had a great conversation with an 8 year young indian boy and got my first henna tatoo.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy to see your parents smiling and enjoying trip with you. Thank you for sharing beautiful photos and experiences with us dear Narayan 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh Narayan I so enjoyed this! I sounds like you and your parents had a very special visit to Pushkar.
    Your photos are magnificent. I am quite jealous!
    I was in Pushkar for the Camel Fair several years back and fell in love with it. I went into the Brahma temple and immediately began crying the feeling of devotion was so powerful.
    My sister was with me on that journey, it was her first visit to India, and she too fell in love with Pushkar and has been back every year for several months since (until covid stopped her, but she has recently been back again).
    Thank you for all the memories.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really Alison, you cried in the temple? wow! beautiful if it happened how i think it did.

      Yes, not many days we had but it was so beautiful to see them enjoying, walking together on the ghats and elsewhere. It is even special to know when you know which place and what all feelings i am talking about.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha – what made you jealous of my photographs 🙂

      Always great to know when visitors love this culture, and keep visiting again and again to dive into it. I hope you and Don and sister come back again soon.

      Thank you so much Alison
      Friend, Narayan

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The first impression when I saw the 17 letters title, was a surprise that the author attempted to cram so many different subjects in his essay, certainly not a postcard, he is referring to. But first, the excellent parts; Narayan’s deep love, devotion, and reverence to his parents is endearing, especially when he refers to them as his creators, a term usually associated with God, the creator. The loving description of taking them on the pilgrim’s journey to thank God for his father’s full return to health after his hospital stay, and his mother’s happiness at traveling after the impositions of the pandemic is wonderful to read, as not all-grown-up children are so devoted to their parents.

    The photographs, Narayan’s own are excellent as usual but could do with more captions.
    The introduction to the oldest mountain range, Aravallis, which are older than the Himalayas,
    and the sacred river the Yamuna are both of great importance, but there should be a few words about the serious work being done to clean this most polluted river, as indeed the work done to clean the most polluted city on earth, his beloved Delhi.

    The mysteries references to the constellations, the married stars, Arundhati and Vashistha,
    read like the Egyptian and ancient Greek mythology, the only difference being that is believed now.
    The fresh air of Pushkar must have been intoxicating because Narayan writes: “India is older than the time itself”, why certainly Indian civilization is over 10,000 thousand years old, the Earth is over millions of years old, some difference.

    The camel fair is colorful and no doubt of interest to travelers, as indeed Narayan’s warning about evil lurking about.

    The inclusion of the video is unnecessary, although watching it, one can see why no one wants to see it. Also, it is sad to see even an imaginary school where the young boys behave in such an odd way.
    All in one, with some editing, it Is an important, excellent addition to Narayan’s collection
    of tales from India.

    Joanna

    Like

    • My dearest Joanna, it was an endearing review of this post. And certainly gave me a much needed laugh as well as points for consideration.

      But some points do need my intervention for public convenience:

      Like

      • Dearest Narayan, I am delighted with your reply, and the sense of humor that we both share! You know what I think of your writing and I always write my honest opinion.
        With some editing, you will be able to aim very high in the literary world. Just write, although you have serious time restrictions as you run the school, and do other important things. Yet, I have a feeling that you will succeed because writing is your destiny, and a huge talent flows in your blood. Also, all true writers just have to write, they cannot exist without putting their thoughts on paper or laptop or even dictate into some mobile. Even if you just record your ideas or thoughts to develop later.

        Joanna x

        Like

        • Only time will tell what my writings are all about and where they can take me or rather themselves.
          I cannot be more grateful to you Joanna for saying something like ‘writing is my destiny’, What can i ask more if it were so.

          Thank you so much, and i would rather work harder to get all the stories together soon.

          Like

    • When I say India is older than the times, certainly i am not comparing it with our planet Earth. But only pointing that the time started from it ‘Ujjain’- thousands of years before Greenwich came or recent science infant of the world NASA.

      Zero, numerical, decimal system, Pythagoras etc travelled towards Egypt and Greece from here not vice-versa hence we cannot even come close to compare these civilisations. I give in to the point about the caption of the photographs as i wish i can subtitle the lyrics of the song of the film- as it will give you a complete picture of this writers mastery over words and metaphor. But i am the happiest for I know my dearest Joanna, and for writing as the best critic/reviewer ever here.

      With Gratitude, Narayan x

      Like

  7. Wow! Love the pictures, Narayan.
    You are blessed to have taken your parents on a meaningful trip. Wishing you many more.
    My mum is 92 now and travel is far from her mind. But I have wonderful memories of our family trips to Goa, North Kanara, and many more parts of India. I look back at the beautiful photographs of our trips together and feel thankful.
    Stay blessed.

    Like

    • Yes Chaya Ji, nothing else or more than a blessing. As i see them ageing, i cannot keep myself away in terms of giving them as much comfort as i possibly can. These travels were memorable and nostalgic.

      Wow, 92. Isn’t that also a blessing. Thank you for telling me this. Yes, images are what we can cherish, go back to the same period and space.

      Thank you so much Chaya Ji

      Like

  8. KK says

    I’m really happy for your parents, who enjoyed this trip to a place like Pushkar. Thank you, Narayan ji for giving details of the trip along with amazing photos.

    Like

  9. Narayan, your parents are lucky to have such a kind and thoughtful child. Your trip sounds amazing. The photos are bright and beautiful. I’m using my phone which is not the best way to enjoy them, though. You sound like a very busy person. A principal or superintendent of a school and a history major. And yet you have time to write. Wow! Thanks for sharing your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marsha, It is me who is blessed to have them.

      Yes, phone is only better to do things fast and scrolling but i am delighted to be reading this warm and very kind comment from you. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Also, its a small school for primary school children which Ma and I look after. It is a lot of work but its fun experimenting, experiencing a lot many things- its kind of a wave in the sea. Always up and doing. History only helps me to write more and probably create other projects of importance.

      Thank you so much that you wrote.

      Narayan x

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was a history consultant at the County Office of Education in CA, and elementary teacher before that before I retired. It was all a joy.

        Like

  10. such rich history and beautiful pictures Nara! love your parents sweet happy faces and your stories. we need them now more than other.

    lets keep this mantra in our head!
    💖🌻
    “Brahma killed the demon by chanting a mantra on a lotus flower which then struck the demon and killed him. When Vajranabha died, petals of lotus fell on three places. One of them was Pushkar, where the petal is believed to have given birth to a lake.

    Like

  11. Such beautiful, serene images. 🙂 They made me smile, especially your parents on the swing. How precious that you were able to do this trip together. My parents are 777 km away and I miss them.

    Like

    • Dear Manja, now when the world is opening- and when someday you might start planning to travel, plan to come to India. Because she is not just any country but the soul of earth; and this even is no exaggeration. I am smiling. But do come some day and whenever you do, you know whom to write.

      Like

    • Parents enjoyed so much and seeing them i did. it was beautiful. Yes, how life plays out is as funny as it starts feeling melancholic sometimes for no reason. I hope you keep them in your prayers and hear them from time to time.

      Thank you again Manja
      Narayan x

      Like

  12. Oh goodness, Narayan, your photography is just excellent. You capture scenes in motion so well, and I simply love the compositions, the dusty atmospheres, the painterly colours. The animal shots are my favourite, that glorious looming cow head, the Indian woman in profile with the sun on her face, the balloons floating above the village. Of course, I enjoyed reading about yours and your parents’ journey too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Awesome! Thanks for putting it out in such a simple way. Same goes for my parents as well, never tourists always devotees. But I could feel and imagine all their sweet subtle emotions, just as in my parents.

    Like

    • Mine too Arv. Pushkar is like thirst. Thanks for coming over friend. I have a lot of reading to do on your mini-anthological blog on Jaipur and other links that I found. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

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