Eternal Pushkar – Rajasthan, India

“THIS IS THE LAND OF SARASWATI, PATRON GODDESS OF THE ARTS AND MUSIC. THIS IS WHERE THE GAYATRI MANTRA WAS FIRST RECITED”

MUSIC TO THE EARS

Rabari tribes-men playing in the Ravanahatha at sunset

This is the land of Saraswati, patron goddess of the arts and music. This is the sacred land where the Gayatri Mantra was first recited, the Aditya Hridya Stotram was written. The newly launched The Sacred certainly refreshed Pushkar’s ancient associations with Hindustani classical music and dance. So delightful were some of the renditions that it was not difficult to get inspired to enroll for music lessons — vocal or instrumental. I overheard some foreigners talking of staying on in the town to take a short course at the Pushkar Music School. Other good options are the Krishna School of Music and Saraswati Dance and Music School.

MARIGOLDS AND0 MARIJUANA

Near the Rangji Temple ghats, I come upon a bunch of backpackers dozing on the steps with their musical instruments nearby, after an all-nighter. You can chill outwith the backpacking crowd that stays on to enjoy the gay abandon of Pushkar’s Holi celebrations when they are not jamming by the lake or listening entranced to bhajans or trance music.

The most vivid celebrations of the festival of colours take place at Varaha Ghat near the Rangji Temple. Artists travel from afar to give performances of the traditional Ras Leela—Braj-style. Everyone — even the Radha and Krishna avatars in their finery and the chillum-smoking sadhus — jumps into the fray, dancing and playing with marigold petals and other vegetal powders, fortified, of course, by lashings of bhangiassi, for which Pushkar is famous. The jamboree doesn’t stop— Shivratri is celebrated a la-Benaras of old at the Atamataheshwar Temple, with prayers and fasting and ritual dips in the lake. This is central to so many festivals here, be it Ganesh Chaturthi or Janmashtami, when artists play out the teenage days of the naughty Krishna and the tricks he would play on the gopis with all his friends.

DEVOTION AND THE DIVINE

“THIS IS THE POWER OF BELIEF, WHICH PERVADES THE AURA OF DEVOTION AND DIVINITY HERE”

Pind daan, performed to propitiate one’s ancestors, is a time-worn ritual, even if the lake dries up and becomes a mere shadow of itself during a drought. This is the power of belief which pervades the aura of devotion and divinity here. Pigeons coo on in the shade of an ancient peepal tree where a sadhu is lost in deep meditation, mindless of the scurrying crowds heading down to the lake.

In the violet evening, as the sun slips into the lake, Varaha Ghat comes alive with the flickering of lamps during the scenic aarti accompanied by the chanting of the priests and mesmerised devotees.

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