This small hamlet across the hill from Ajmer, is host to one of the biggest fair’s in the country. The famous Pushkar camel fair draws visitors not only from Rajasthan but from all over the world.
The first thing that strikes you is the overwhelmingly large number of people who descend to Pushkar for the fair. The fair started off as a animal trading fair and has now become a tourist fair as much as the animal (camel) fair. During the fair, the population of the town swells from 14,000 to around 200,000 (I thought it was much more)
The other thing that strikes you is the business (economics) of religion. Frankly, it was quite disgusting to see the way local “Brahmins” have devised ways of fleecing people. As soon as you enter the town, the usual story is sold to you. We are local Brahmins, we will tell you the history of Pushkar and the lake and blah blah blah for no charge (some charge around INR 100 which is USD 2). Fair enough. If you resist, they hound you and try to take you to the lake with the story that its religion/rituals/some nonsense to first go to the lake (which is now only an empty crater in the ground) and pray and then explore the city. If you somehow agree, they will take you to one of the ghats (bathing banks) of the lake. There the “pundit” will make you sit down and tell you to remember everyone who you’ve ever loved (parents, grandparents, friends, family, loved ones, people who have passed away, etc) and take their names as the “pundit” directs. Now comes the extremely rude and disgusting shock. The pundit asks you to repeat “Now I will present Rs. 501 for long and happy lives of people alive, and peace for the soul of the dead”.
Imagine being in a meditative state and seriously remembering everyone you’ve ever loved, and this “pundit” tells you that their souls will not rest in peace till you give him money. Pretty much enough for me lose all faith (I hardly had any to begin with). In that meditative state, it’s almost an attack on your conscience, and most people cough up the money. What’s even more disgusting is, that if you give them 50 or 100 Rs, “hell hath no fury like the wrath of a pundit unleashed”. I really didn’t imagine that kind of language from a pundit.
On a different note… who wants to start the temple business with me. I figured its one of the things that can fool all the people all the time. Either fool, or emotionally blackmail people into coughing up money. Your dead grandparents soul is going to find peace thanks to this 500Rs.
No thank you sir, I don’t think my grandparents would care if I give the money to the “pundit” or spend it on beer.
Now that I’ve done cribbing about religion, I think it would be quite an interesting study – The Economics of Religion. I’m pretty sure there are some good findings waiting.
The nicer thing that you come across in Pushkar is the riot of colors across the city. Women in bright colored clothes and jewelry, and men in their typical plain color clothes with a huge and brightly colored turban. And people from all over the world with their cameras trying to capture myriad array of colors, events, and life in general.
The colors of Pushkar… a few snapshots