Eternal Pushkar – Rajasthan, India

The glory of Pushkar lies in its astonishing ability to engage the visitor all-year round

Everywhere I turn, I hear music. In temple bells in the narrow lane near Varaha Ghat, where I see my friend turn away from the marigolds at the flower stall by a shrine to soak up the lush perfume of the roses and jasmine. Or at night returning from a late dinner. Strains of trance music are heard over the thunder of the bikes in the medieval bazaar or in the rhythms of the chanting priests by the Brahma Temple by the ghats at the newly launched The Sacred, a yoga, music and meditation festival, where nagara player Nathu Lai Solanki mesmerised us with his metier at Raj Bohra Ghat.

And I hear dance. I never really got the hang of the quickstep but I could dance with abandon with my friends and the priests in the temple forecourt under a spreading peepal tree. A whirling mass of sheer joi de vivre in a sacred space.

I rediscovered math, which I hated in school. I re-learned multiplication when gobbling malpua at Sarweshwar Sweets in Halwai Gali near Gau Ghat. I had a rethink on addition as we watched the guinea pig at the resort sort out her babies from the others in the cage. I rediscovered subtraction while bargaining for a mirrorwork notebook at the craftshop.

I re-learned division while sharing the prasad with my fellow companions at the Krishna shrine.

I rediscovered the equation of death with life. Varanasi, whose business is death, intimidates me. It’s too in-your-face. At Pushkar, you embrace the equation with joyful wonderment as you watch a man go through the time-worn pind daan rituals in the lake, while along the ghats a monkey runs off with a poori from a luckless kid.

It is at Pushkar that I rejigged my concept of time when unspooling the legends of the gods and goddesses who walked this sacred terrain, playing out emotions we mere mortals are all too familiar with. Brahma fuming at the tardiness of his spouse Savitri for delaying his great yagna, an enraged Savitri leaving him when he finds another woman to take her place at the auspicious moment, Lord Shiva mad at him for not being invited.

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