Stories from Pushkar: A Pushy Priest and How I Got My Indian NameFriday, February 25, 2011
This is Part 3 in Lois' Misadventures in India series. If you haven't seen the pink city of Jaipur, click here.
Would you dare visit a city that prohibits booze, meat, eggs, revealing clothes, and even kissing?
If you do visit Pushkar, this holy city requires that you follow its rules. Or you'll risk spoiling what you've come here to admire.
Lotus of the Valley
The locals say that Brahma, one of India's major gods, dropped a lotus flower on earth- and Pushkar floated to the surface. Pushkar is a pond sized version of Varanasi. But it is much calmer, more serene with less touts and louts. Pilgrims flock to this magical lake to bathe their sins away in the rows of sacred ghats or bathing areas.
Pushy Priest on Badri Ghat
Our initiation to Pushkar came a few minutes after we've settled in at our hotel. We chose to stay at the Lakewview hotel with a magnificent view of - what else- the lake. It was very cheap for 150 INR/night, but with a shared bathroom of course. This place was close to the Badri ghat and we couldn't help but take a peek before we went for dinner. As we reached the steps going down towards the water, a voice boomed aboved us:
"Welcome! Welcome to Pushkar!"
It belonged to a scruffy looking guy who came towards us and shoved rose petals into our hands.
'You must give a puja, an offering to throw into the lake." Then he showed us a necklace inside his robe.
"I am a priest and I welcome you to this holy city." Hutch and I look at him warily, wondering if we should go along or bolt.
Then he continues: "After you give offering, I give you this bracelet." It was a thin red string he was already tying around Hutch's wrist. What a great welcome indeed!
And then the clincher: "For the bracelet, you must give donation to the brahmins, the priests for food."
We read about this 'Pushkar passport' from the Traveler's bible and we knew a scam when we saw one.
I told him we had no money. But this pushy priest was ahead of us. He pointed to Hutch's shirt pocket and correctly located where our shared wallet was! He even said: "You are staying in Lakeview so you can just walk there and get some money."
I shoved the rose petals back at him, pulled Hutch's free hand and walked away. The priest looked very disappointed and mumbled some phrases in Hindi. He finally shouted at us: "Enjoy!" and walked towards the other unknowing travelers sitting by the lake. This was the unpleasant start to our otherwise relaxing and blissful stay in Pushkar.
Here's a walk down Pushkar's narrow streets:
How I Got My Indian Name
I told him my name but he couldn't really pronounce it properly. So he said, "I give you Indian name." I couldn't stop giggling this time.
"Now your name is Laxmi."
I wasn't sure I liked it.
Then he said: "Laxmi is a goddess you see." And he showed me a picture. The goddess of money!
For a girl who just quit her job and is living frugally on an escape fund, this was the best news I've heard on this trip.
"I'll take it! And this purple salwar kamiz too!"
We were both pleased with this transaction. He got a good sum for his wares and I got a freebie with my salwar kamiz.
If there was one word to define Pushkar, it would be Shanti. The Hindi name for peace. I found the rest of India anything but shanti. Anywhere else, it's loud, rude, intrusive and simply hectic. But in this little town in the middle of the valley, shanti is indeed observed and valued. Whether it's pot-induced, spiritual or simply a quieting away.
Pushkar is my favorite place in India so far on this trip. We only stayed 2 days there and I have 6 more days in India. But the feel of the place lingers in my mind. If you do travel to India, my wish for you is that you make it out to Pushkar and feel all shanti in this small town.
Do you also play favorites when visiting a new country? Do you fancy one place over others? Share you experiences by leaving a comment below.
Wishing I could stay longer in Incredible India,
Sole Sister Laxmi
This is part 3 of Lois' Misadventures in India. Next stop, a desert safari adventure in Jaisalmer with camels, sand dunes, fabulous sunset and even more fabulous company!