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.
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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.
And since then it is believed that Pilgrims come to celebrate it on full moon of Kartik; when the popular Camel fair takes place.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste
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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 road, before you coarse on your own Road to Nara.
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