Pushkar is a holy town in the state of Rajasthan famous for the Pushkar lake, various ghats and temples spread all around the lake.
The word 'Pushkar' means lotus flower, which is said to be the seat of Brahma, one of the Hindu holy trinity, who is worshipped as the creator of this world. The legend has it that the demon Vajra Nabha killed Brahma's children, he in turn struck him with his weapon, a lotus flower. Vajra Nabha died with the impact, and the petals of the lotus fell at three places. One of them is Pushkar, where it gave birth to a lake. Brahma is supposed to have performed sacrifice at this lake on Kartik Purnima (the full moon day of the Kartik month (generally in the month of November)), hallowing the place.
Though Brahma is considered to be the creator of the world, Pushkar is the only temple of this important deity in the whole world. This is also considered as Adi Teerth or Teertharaj meaning ancient holy place or the most important of holy places respectively. There are not many temples built for Brahma because his influence to the daily life is considered not a big as Vishnu (Preserver), Shiva (Destroyer) and Ganesh (Remover of Obstacles). Being the creator, whatever being created is already there, whereas other deities' need to be appeased so that any wishes or favours can be granted or fulfilled.
Due to its mountainous location, trains to Pushkar are very infrequent and slow. However, the train station in nearby Ajmer provides great connections to most major cities in India. From the Ajmer train station, you can either take a taxi to Pushkar (30 minutes, ₹500-600) or you take a rickshaw or tuk-tuk to the Ajmer Bus Station and take a bus from there to Pushkar (₹20).
Pushkar Lake is a beautiful, sanctified spot in the center of Pushkar. It is said to have been created by Lord Brahma and is therefore a place of pilgrimage for the Hindus. The lake is surrounded by 52 different ghats, or series of steps, which Hindus use to descend to the lake for ritual bathing, especially in the month of karthik.
Note that while there are many temples in Pushkar, the majority do not allow foreigners/non-Hindus to enter. You will have to take off your shoes to enter the temples. If you only have the desire/time to visit 2 temples, the one-of-a-kind Brahma Temple and the Savitri Temple, with a beautiful view of Pushkar Lake, are must-sees.
Bramha Temple - One of the very few temples in the world dedicated to Lord Brahma. Read up on Hinduism to learn why this temple is such a rarity! No matter where you stay in Pushkar, you will hear the daily chanting ceremonies or aartis conducted here: One begins two hours before sunrise, one 40 minutes after sunset, and one 5 hours after sunset. Not allowed inside: camera, bag, shoes.
Savitri Temple - Dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma, this temple is the second-most important temple in Pushkar. It requires a climb of 650 steps to reach it, but the view at the top of Pushkar and the lake is worth the climb. Do it at sunrise!
Rangji Temple - A Vishnu temple built in south Indian style that is very different from other temples in North India. Poojas are perfomed here by Iyengars of Tamilnadu.
Pap Mochini Temple - A beautiful temple on a hill dedicated to Gayatri, one of the 2 consorts of Lord Brahma. A 30 minute walk north of Pushkar.
Sri Panchkund Shiva Temple - The shiva temple is said to have been built by Pancha pandavas. Located on the eastern edge of the town, 2-3 kms from the lake.
Varaha Temple - The oldest temple in Pushkar. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Not well maintained, but impressive due to its age and spiritual importance.
Aptaeshwar Temple - A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva with an underground component
Camel safaris are a popular tourist activity and can last from an hour to several days. The beautiful desert area around the city is inhabited by nomadic tribes and a camel safari can also be a cultural experience to remember. Depending on the desires of the group, the guides can keep the camels going at a comfortable walking pace, can increase the speed to a less comfortable, but faster trot, or even have the camel gallop!
Pushkar Camel Safari Tours, Vinayak Nagar-c, Near Petrol Pump, ☎ +91 98 28 178063, . The top-rated camel safari operator in Pushkar. Highly recommended.₹350 for 1 hour, ₹550 for a 2-hour sunrise or sunset safari, ₹725 for a 3.5 hour safari, ₹1,000 for a 6-hour safari, ₹2,100 for an overnight safari. edit
Pushkar Yoga Garden, Vamdev Road (Next to Sikh Gurudawara and Green Park Resort), ☎ +91 98 28 279835 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Runs 4 classes per day, each 90 minutes in length. Courses deal with all aspects of yoga from stretching, workout, and philosophy. Highly recommended. Students can stay with the family that runs the center and take classes every day.90 minute class: ₹400. edit
Pushkar Camel Fair (November, during the full moon) - A 14-day fair visited by 400,000 people per year. Features over 11,000 camels, horses, and cattle. Many companies offer packages that include luxury tented accommodation. It is held during a holy time in the Hindu calendar and pilgrims will come not just for the fair, but to bathe in Pushkar Lake.
Pushkar is known to be the best place to shop in Northern India. The prices are great, although the quality is subpar. You will find shops selling jewelry, clothes, cushion covers, showpieces, books, bags, handicrafts, shoes, etc.. If it is convenient for you and you need to buy gifts, plan to do your shopping in Pushkar.
Akash, (Near Brahma Temple, Northwest of the lake), ☎ +91 145 277 2498, . Features a chill-out café. Managed by two brothers.₹500. edit
Aroma, (Near Brahma Temple), ☎ +91-145-2772729 (email@example.com), . Rooms are completely spotless, owners are very friendly, helpful and honest. Has a restaurant and grassy rooftop to chill out or practice yoga.₹750. edit
Everest, (Near Main Gau Ghat, a few blocks northwest of the lake), ☎ +91 145 2773417 / 5105103 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 15 double rooms.₹700. (26.49087,74.55264)edit
Foothills Camp Resort, (4 Kms from Brahma Temple Towards Foy Sagar Road), (email@example.com), . Jungle camp in the mountains. Includes archery range, shooting range, bonfire facilities, telescopes. Tents are luxurious. Recommended.₹2,500-₹3,500. edit
Pushkar Royal Safari Camp, (In the desert, 1km from Pushkar), ☎ 09828178063,+91-145-2309944, . checkin: 12PM; checkout: 12PM. Luxury tents. Nightly cultural performances including music and dance. Camel safaris available.₹2,500. edit
Sewara Pushkar Resort, Motisar Road, (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Pushkar’s foremost luxury resort, sprawling over 15 acres. 40 cottages, an expansive orchard and an animal farm. Very secluded and far from everything else. Wifi at reception only.₹3,600. edit
Pushkar Bagh, Motisar Link Road, Village Ghanehera (North of the lake, not in walking distance), ☎ +91 94140 30669 (email@example.com), . Excellent views but the mattresses are very thin.₹4,500. edit
Scams are widespread in Pushkar, particularly around the lake. Most frequently, a "holy man" will sit with you and go through a blessing. They will then ask how much you would like to donate to their "charity". They ask for a donation per family member. They will push for 2,000-3,000 rupees per family member you would like to pray for, then 1,000 rupees. Often they will not accept less than 1,000 rupees.Remember most of these so called Holy Men are nothing of the sort, be firm but polite and decline their invitation to pray for your family.
When you visit the Brahma temple, you will be given some flower petals in newspaper wrap when you remove and store your shoes and bag. This is the start of the scam that will follow. You will be told that you can offer some of the petals to the priest in the temple and the rest to the lake. At the temple the priest will give you some white sweet/sugar confection in return for the petals. The bank of the lake is a fair walk from the temple. You will notice that mysteriously individual you have seen at the temple will appear at the lake. So you belong to this group of syndicate who get some commission if any money collected from you. At the lake, a pundit ('holy man')will approach you and usher you to the lake. If you go along, he will perform some kind of blessing ceremony for you (mark you head with some powder) and your family. He will then ask you for a hefty sum of donation.
Despite Pushkar's reputation as a holy town, you are best to avoid the people at the lake. Tour guides often work together with the scammers to intimidate you and frequently follow you around the town after you visit the lake to get more money.
To stay safe, avoid hiring a tour guide without prior recommendation from someone you trust. Never accept any blessings at the lake.