Soon after arriving in Pushkar I had this wierd but wonderful feeling of gliding through the place. Take that as you will but I guarantee you I wasn’t high!! Actually in Pushkar, narcotics, alcohol, drugs, meat and eggs are banned within the deeply sacred city walls. A really refreshing sight. It’s holiness comes in the name “Push” meaning flower and “Kar” hand – the short story goes, from Heaven, Brahma dropped from his hand a petal from a lotus flower. The petal fell to Earth and killed a demon raging havoc on the land, then filled with water forming the holy lake. Brahman was called down to Earth by the people to praise him but to get him to come they found him a human bride so that he would take part in the ceremony. Brahma’s divine wife in heaven said as punishment for taking another bride he could only ever be directly worshipped in the town of Pushkar. Hence, Pushkar is the only place in the world there is a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma.
This place is a backpackers dream with gorgeous veggie food and any textile or trinket a tourist could want. Many travellers there are serious longstanding hippies dating back from the 60s and 70s and those who never left since it first became fashionable to travel in India. They looked like part of the furniture with dreadlocks down to their knees to match. In between these western hippies were the orange robed holy men or “sadhus”. Pushkar is the first destination the Hindu holy men come to after descending down from secluded meditation in the Himalayan hills. “Namaste namaste” followed you everywhere you went followed by a genuine hearty happy smile as we were in the city of Brahma. Not a smile to then try and sell you something! Even the shop sellers were so chilled – if you have a look then walk on by no worries, no bother, no hassle, bliss.
Our first stop was the temple to Lord Brahma. To enter, everything had to be removed bar trousers and shirt – no leather, no shoes, no wallet, no sunglasses, no camera etc. It wasn’t so ornate but a beautiful place. The Brahma Idol had many heads facing every direction symbolising his omniscience (all-knowing) omnipresence (everywhere in all things) and omnibenevolence (all-loving). In Hinduism, it is believed that essentially, everything is God so you can worship anything – this is why Hinduism has 330 million Gods and counting! You walk around the Brahma idol clockwise so that Gods presence is with you from every angle. At the back of the temple precinct was a tree covered with red ties and threads where pilgrims ask for a blessing. The idea is that once the blessing is received the pilgrim returns to untie the thread to say thank you – completing the action full circle.
On the second morning I trekked up the small mountain to watch the sunrise and see the temple to Brahma’s wife. After, I returned to the lake for a blessing. The ceremony was performed by a Brahman priest in Tommy Hillfiger jacket and jeans (I was cynical at first but his vibe was one purely of peace and he never asked for money, I chose to give it) another lesson from India for the cynic in me – inward grace isn’t necessarily correspondent to outward symbols of renunciation. More often it’s the orange robed sadhus who are the fakes wanting money for “miracles”, photo ops and an expensive “blessing”.
We were walked barefoot down to the holy water. The Brahman dropped droplets into our hands to wash our hands, heart, eyes and forehead. I was not allowed to touch the sacred water. We had a silver tray complete with red powder (good blood) yellow powder (peaceful soul) a coconut (good luck) rice (enough food) sugar (peaceful sweet life) and flowers (good karma for friends and family). Along with some Om chanting and Sanskrit verses, we offered everything but the flowers and coconut into the lake as an offering to Brahma.
The flowers covering our hands were thrown into the pond behind us to symbolise moving away from past karma and making a new karmic beginning for all our friends and family who we prayed for. He lifted his palm showing the thumb as our grandparents, index finger (parents) middle finger (me) fourth finger (my children) little finger (grandchildren) leaving the palm, representing all other loved ones whether friends or family.
It was at that moment and the minutes after for private meditation that I really felt so emotional for my past, present and future – the course of events leading me to this moment. This kind of experience is what Ive been seeking, what I felt my soul was aching for and why I came to India.
The priest ended by blessing us with the red third eye dot for good health and blood as well as rice stuck to our dot so we always have enough food and a safe ongoing journey. A string was tied to our wrists known in hippie circles as the “pushkar passport” as a sign you’ve been blessed here. When it naturally comes off the idea is that it’s fulfilled its karmic purpose so time for the threads to return to nature, i.e., in a stream, buried or offered to the ocean.
The priest asked me to return here with my life partner and children – I’ll remember this moment and I feel that I should be grateful not just for that experience today but the life I’ll have after this moment. This is just the start. I believe the full journey will take me full circle.