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Pushkar, India

Pushkar is by far the smallest city we've stayed in yet; only 15,000 people. Legend has it that Lord Brahma released a swan with a lotus in its beak, and would perform a sacrifice where it fell to earth. Where it fell, Pushkar was created. This is a very holy place to the Hindu people, and some of Gandhi's ashes were sprinkled here. It is a very small town situated in a basin, surrounded by ranges on either side. To the North stretches the desert, from which some small mountains pop out like volcanos. At the top of some of those peaks are temples (there are supposed to be 1000 temples in the small region)

We arrived into Pushkar at 2am, thankful that the bus didn't break down and we didn't have to push the car (bahahaha. Damn, I'm funny). As always, there were touts at the bus stops trying to convince us to stay at their hotel, despite us already having booked ahead. One tout even told us that our hotel was over 15mins walk away. When we decided that we'd make the hike to the hotel rather than go to his, he admitted our was just around the corner, and told us the direction to go in. In India, though there is little malice or real danger, you never trust anyone! Because our room was not available until the next morning, they set us up in a tent on the rooftop!

Our hotel is very cute, with plants popping out of every corner, and even with a lawn on part of the roof. It's so nice to be able to sit on grass again! most of the grass around here (and there is very little of it) is like straw. They even have basil plants and mint growing, which makes me think of NZ summe - mojitos and pasta salad.

We headed into the city markets the next day, and were handed a flower each as we walked in, to be gifted at the lake in respect. We headed down to the lake, took off our shoes, and were given a plate with rice and dyes, to which we should add our flower, and take it down to the priests. Once down there, they took us each aside individually took us through a prayer and blessing for us and our families. We had been warned that they would expect a donation for this, but it still takes you by surprise. We each offered a small but decent sum, but they still asked for more. They wanted NZ$10 per family member from us each. They didn't get that much, but still, I feel like I gave too much. In return we got a red mark on our forehead (which we later dubbed our 'stamp of stupidity') and a red and yellow string bracelet, which proves that we have already paid our pittance.

While these people are legitimate, and there is honest belief behind it, it's a little bitter sweet. They say you can donate as you feel is right, but then they say that we have not offered enough. It feels like an abuse of spirituality, trying to squeeze as much money out of us as possible. When we later walked to Shiva temple, people were at the bottom of the hill trying to pursuade us that we had to buy these sweets to give at the temple, as at the top they would charge us 50Rs per piece. We rightly didn't believe them. Again, it sometimes feels that people are using religion (and our efforts to respect it) to scam us out of money.

After spending some time in the market place (where I was attacked, or 'kissed' as I was told by people in the street, by a holy cow who insisted on headbutting me) we climbed a small hill to a temple and watched the sunset. The caretaker of the temple was up there as we arrived, and we spent some time talking to him through his broken English and our nonexistant Hindi. He noticed the bracelets we had been given and said they were our 'passports' to the temples around here. On the way down we were befriended by some kids playing on the hillside. They all fly kites here - there is a kite festival which starts tomorrow. Sadly, we are leaving tomorrow morning to head to Jaipur.

Yesterday we walked up a big hill to a temple at the top (sensing a theme here?!). It was an hour's walk or so, and I got pretty lightheaded in the heat. But we took it slow, and sat to watch the monkeys playing half way up. Got some good pictures. Can't wait to post them. The view from the top was incredible. Because Pushkar is so small, we had a view of the city, the farmlands, and the desert. We sat up there for an hour or so, lapping up the solitude, before making our way back down to the city madness.

We love this place so much we've decided to spend another day here, just relaxing. We've been all go since we arrived in India, so it's nice to take a day to do nothing much. I plan on reading my book, writing my travel journal, and taking a cooking class in the afternoon. Might wander down to the fruit market and pick up some papaya, fresh guava, and maybe a melon for lunch. Making you all jealous yet?

Much love to my gorgeous flatmates who are moving flat for me the next few days. Love you guys!



permalink written by  Capto on January 11, 2010 from Pushkar, India
from the travel blog: Two months in Limbo
tagged PushkarMonkeysTempleBlessing

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