# Pilgrims, Tourists and Pushy Brahmin Priests
We are now in the small, touristy but very beautiful town of Pushkar, working our way west towards Jaislamer where we hope to do an overnight camel trek on New Year’s eve.
Pushkar is one of the most holy sites for Hindus: the story goes that Brahma dropped a flower from the sky and where it fell the lake at the centre of Pushkar formed. There are bathing ghats all around the lake around which the town is built where pilgrims come in their thousands to do a puja in the water, dropping flowers and spices and splashing water on themselves to wash away their sins and bring happiness to their families. The ashes of Mahatma Ghandi were sprinkled on one of the ghats, making it more famous.
We were immediately set upon by Brahmin priests trying to drop flowers in our hands and lure us into performing a very expensive puja. Beautiful as the pilgrims’ devotion was, we decided against performing any rites without doing them in real sincerity, but it took energy denying the priests which we had been warned about in advance. I personally have little time for these Brahmin priests who inherit the highest status in the Indian caste system, which though officially now no longer exists still persists throughout Indian society, defining the work, marriage and status of Hindus who make up 90% of the population. The caste system has so far been resistant to reform, probably because of its inter-relationship with the hindu religion.
The atmosphere in Puhkar is much more relaxed than the other cities we have so far visited, a nice bit of relief from the madding crowds. It also doesn’t have many auto-rickshaws, reducing the noise and air pollution. Surrounded by mountains, it is particularly beautiful at dawn and sunset, as hopefully our photos convey.
Today we hired a small step-through motorbike for half the day and took it 10km out of town to a Shiva temple tucked away in the hills. It was nice to get away a bit and have the freedom to go where we liked. We hadn’t seen much of rural India until today. The children all called out hello and ran out behind the bike, women waved and there were camels and donkeys everywhere and neat little clean swept villages that looked like they are doing pretty well which is nice to see. It is a very hot and dry area here, it must get very little rain and for that reason the roads and landscape were almost deserted.
We almost lost faith in the temple’s existence but kept going after turning around a few times and being shooed back in the right direction by the locals. The final part of the road was no more than a sandy, hilly track, navigable only by motorbike or serious four wheel drive. But we were rewarded in the end as we rounded a turn and found the temple. It was at least a thousand years old, small but beautiful in typical gaudy Indian colours and covered in pretty aggressive monkeys. There was a Bohdi tree that is supposed to be a thousand years old, a rock that if you squinted looked a bit like an elephant and is worshipped as a symbol of Ganesh and a filthy bathing pond. I’m not sure if we took any photos sorry… we feel a bit awkward whipping out the lens at some of these places.
After drinking a very refreshing chai (even in the middle of nowhere there was a chai wallah), sharing a packet of biscuits with a dog and the monkeys and chewing the fat with the locals we headed back, Dana having to jump off the under-powered bike on some of the hills.
This afternoon we have just relaxed in the breeze on the great rooftop restaurant (take note architects!), watching the children fly kites and reading our novels.
Lots of love,