New Years in Peaceful Pushkar: Music and Food

Our Dec. 28th arrival in the spiritual town of Pushkar was preceded by a quick stop over in the neighbouring city of Ajmer. We stayed a few hours and spent part of our time with a family we met on the train. Priyonka and her parents were visiting from Pune and together we visited the shrine of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti. Sufism is considered to be the mystical and psycho-spiritual facet of Islam, however many people feel that Sufism is outside the realm of Islam. Many people from different faiths come to pray and make music at the shrine. The building and surrounding area were marvellous.  We squeezed into the small room that housed the grave and threw flower petals upon it before squeezing out again. (Photos Here!)

We ate at a local restaurant with the family before parting ways. Chantal and I walked a bit to Nasiyan Jain Temple, a modest, dark brown building that held a glamorously gold plated model of the Swarna Nagari or City of Gold. This was incredibly unique and I’m very happy visited.  We learned a little about Jainism.  It is a fascinating religion that focuses on nonviolence and equality between all forms of life. At most Indian Railway stations you can leave your luggage for a small fee (around 50 rupees per bag, per day). We grabbed our luggage and hopped on a small bus. The bus cost 20 rupees each and took about thirty minutes to reach Pushkar. We found our temporary home, the Atithi Guesthouse and were very pleased with the rooftop view, tasty food and the very friendly owner, Papu. Instantly we knew our stay would be extended.

Pushkar is a special town with a holy lake at its centre. Pushkar Lake is surrounded by different temples and a main street that wraps around it. The street is lined with dozens of restaurants and cafes as well as many shops selling souvenirs at some of the best prices in India (although we didn’t purchase anything). It only took an afternoon to walk through the whole of the town. Pushkar has a very different feel than other Indian towns and cities. More relaxed and with a hippie vibe, we met many travellers enjoying the change of pace; quite a few from California.  Here we visited some very nice temples and Gurdwaras.

TablaLessonChantal and I both took music lessons while in Pushkar. I took tabla lessons and Chantal, Indian classical voice. To be completely honest, we were very disappointed with the lessons and we cut them short after only a few days. Our teacher, although friendly enough, was very eager to start a fusion music group and to have us put in hard work planning a tour in Canada. Aside from over charging and the general disinterest our teacher had during our lessons, I enjoyed having access to tabla for a coupe days. We also listened to a local fourteen year old practice his saxophone one night in a restaurant overlooking the lake. I gave him some pointers and we did some breathing exercises together.

We spent the rest of our time in Pushkar playing a little billiards, but mostly gin rummy at the various rooftop cafes, drinking chai and sampling the wide range of traditional and continental meals and desserts. We also enjoyed a few bhang lassis, which for the most part are made understandably weak for the overzealous foreigner. I did manage to find the best one at the Radhey Ji rooftop restaurant. Here we also found a delicious chola batura.  In Pushkar, we also enjoyed delicious curries, thali, pizza, and banana based desserts! (Click here to see our Top 10 India Eats)

News Years Eve found Chantal and I relaxed in a restaurant and sitting with a our new friend from Jaipur. Piyush was very friendly and we exchanged great conversation all night over a fun game of rummy (he was a crazy fast learner). As the fireworks began to go off, we backed away from balcony edge; they were only a few feet from the building. After a large piece of firework landed on his beautiful Royal Enfield motorcycle, Piyush dashed downstairs to move it. Its seat and seat cover had been burnt. After parting ways, we walked back to our guest house and felt very pleased with 2015 and even better about the new year.

Our last couple days in Pushkar were spent hanging out in the room; I got a bad case of Delhi Belly (food poisoning. Again). We ran late and missed out train from Ajmer, so we hopped on a bus bound for the blue city of Jodhpur.  Read about our first intercity bus experience here.

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