An evening at the Pushkar festival

Pushkar fest is one of the largest livestock fares in the world and we couldn’t complete our Rajasthan trip without visiting this colorful cultural mela.

This was our last day at Jaipur and we were planning to explore Amrapali showroom at MI road, before heading to Pushkar via Ajmer. While bidding adieu, the owner of the Vimal heritage, a very sweet and beautiful lady, asked us to check out Chameli bazar instead. According to her, while Amrapali is exhorbitant in pricing, this one on the other hand has many affordable alternatives.

by the beautiful indoor pool area

Chameliwala market

An arch saying ‘Chameliwala market’ and a small lane leading inside, is the entrance to the silver abode. This can be easily missed eventhough it is on the roadside. Since it was early, most of the shops were closed. here mostly wholesale sales takes place and so window shoppers are ignored, unlike at the Johari bazar. An array of tiny shops, displaying gorgeous handcrafted silver jewelry peeped at us through the glass windows. I went inside one of the shops called Rathi Silvers. This one had all kinds of silver pieces from tribal to enamel works, contemporary pieces to traditional jhumkas. I bought a pair of beautiful studs with blue enamel work.

Blue enamel silver studs

The people in Jaipur are ery helpful and homely. An old man, one of the staff at the shop phoned his friend in Kerala and had us talk to him, when he came to know that we are Keralites.

On the way back, we stopped at the lassiwala shop at MI road, but found it no match for the thick creamy gulab flavoured lassi we had at Johari bazaar.

We had arranged for a cab to take us to Ajmer, followed by Pushkar and finally drop us back at Ajmer railway station, from where we would travel to Udaipur.

Ajmer

Since we were passing Ajmer, we decided to stop at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, which is a shrine of the sufi saint  Moinuddin Chisti. It was listed as one of the top must visit places around. The lane leading to the shrine was packed with locals and tourists. No vehicles were allowed there so we had to park at the beginning of the road. Providing parking lot itself is a big business here and every other house has a paid garage for public parking. We need to bargain with the owners or else they will just quote 300-500 Rs for parking.

The Ajmer dargah

We started to the dargah by walk and we were followed by many auto drivers offering to take us till the shrine at “just” Rs 200. The shrine is just around 5min walk and you don’t need to hire a vehicle. I was wearing a dress that didn’t cover my ankle. I was offered a shawl for free at the entrance of the dargah, to cover my legs till the ankle. Also you will be expected to cover your head in certain areas inside.

Unlike the dargah in Bhuland Darwaza, this one was over crowded, noisy and buzzing with street vendors, guides and the homeless. It didnot have the peaceful and serene atmosphere I expected, which was disappointing. It might have been a holy place once, but now it’s more or less a bait to attract tourists. We didn’t spend much time inside at all and left in around 10min.

Pushkar

Pushkar fest : The fest happens every year in November, for a week around the full moon day. People from all parts of Rajasthan gather here to trade livestock as well as to take part in competitions which includes moustache competition, camel race and the voice of Pushkar (Pushkar’s version of American Idol) to name a few. Also this is considered as a very holy time and people come to visit the famous Brahma temple (the only one in the world) and to take a dip in the Pushkar lake to wash away all sins.

Waiting for the next safari

We reached Pushkar by around 4 pm and we left the cab and driver at the public parking ground. As we walked towards the mela ground, we could see the men, women and children clad in traditional Rajasthani attire getting down from buses and carts, heading to the mela. The evening sun was warm and we could see small tents scattered throughout the desert. On either side of the road, temporary stables were erected for horses and camels. From pure white albino horses to black stallions, the variety of breeds brought here are remarkable.

These beauties…

There were huge bulls and different breeds of cows brought for competitions as well as for sale from different parts of north India.

Mr Stubborn

There are many shops around that displays metal accessories with colorful pompoms and threads. But once you approach these, you will realize that these are the fineries for camels.

The camel jewery store

One can also shop for ornate daggers and swords here as well.

Dagger shop

There were two major mela grounds : one, Carnivalesque with many rides like the giant wheel, hot air balloons, giant swings, and the other ground is where the competitions and camel safari takes place.

Loud and colorful

Maha Aarti

We headed towards the ghat ofthe holy lake which is surrounded by temples on almost all sides.

Mandap

Devotees were climbing down the many stairs towards the river bank, where the evening aarthi was taking place.

devotees gathered for the maha aarti

The loud beaming voice of the pandit chating mantras in tune, hundreds of diyas lighted along the steps leading to the water, sweet fragrance of dhoop and agarbattis and the golden rays of setting sun gave us the most picturisque welcome.

The serene Pushkar

There are many shops selling decor items, agarbattis and funky attires along the roads leading to the ghat. We spotted a buepottery store here as well. Since my brother had asked for a blue bottery coffee mug (after we left the blue pottery store in Jaipur), we decided to buy it from here. To our surprise we found many new designs at cheaper rate.

Spotted this naughty one dressed up as Lord Shiva

Back in the ground, the voice of Pushkar had already started. A stage was set on one end of the ground. The competitors sang peppy Bollywood movie songs and the crowd cheered and applauded for the best ones.

My man was very interested in camel ride and felt that the single ride around the ground was too short. While we were enjoying the music, we could see the hot air balloon getting inflated at the other end of the ground. It would go up a few inches and will get pulled down and this would go on every few minutes. Initially we thought they were struggling to get it to rise, but later found out that this is all the hot air balloon fun one can experience for a few ten bucks.

There are quite a number of temporary shacks, setup as eateries, selling local delicacies.

Never say no to Jalebis

We tried the dal batti churma in one eatery close to the mela ground. After dinner we headed back to Ajmer railway station and spent the most boring 3 hours of the entire trip, in the  waiting room of the station. But the next day held the promise of a new city, the city of lakes.

NOTE: We missed all the competitions, as they happen in the mornings mostly.

The festivities are at its peak on the full moon day. So incase you are planning to spend just one day at the fest, plan it for then.

For safaris, camel rides or even shopping, the locals will quote double or triple the actual cost most of the time, as they can easily identify a tourist. So polish your bargaining skills and keep them handy.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Do let me know in the comments below.

Also check out:

Day 1 : The grandeur of The Pink City

Day2 : A walk through the art, architecture and history

Day3 : The Majestic Taj

Relax, shop and enjoy the colors of the city of lake

Relax, shop and enjoy the colors of the city of lake

From Jaipur, I took you to Agra and now I am taking you to Udaipur . We had stopped at the Pushkar fest for a day, but that story is for another day. I found the atmosphere of Udaipur very relaxing and slow paced, like in Hampi. Udaipur’s culture is strongly connected to the beautiful ghats and water bodies of the place .  We stayed for 3 and a half days here and rather than hustling around to visit all tourist attractions, we spent these last days of our 1 week trip, relaxing in the serene atmosphere.

We reached Udaipur early in the morning via train, after attending the Pushkar fest the previous night. The train was mostly occupied by locals who wore traditional Rajasthani attires.  It was great to see this cultural shift from Jaipur.  We were really tired and had missed a good night’s sleep. So we directly headed to Thamla Haveli, where we had booked our stay for the next 3 days. The haveli is an old but well maintained 3 storied building on the banks of Lake Pichola. But we were really disappointed when we saw the room. It was very small and cold,  with no ventilation and no opening for sunlight.  But we being too tired from the continuous travel,  just crashed in the bed and had a good sleep for the next 2 hours. Later we talked to the manager and luckily there was this one room available, with a lake view.  It was love at first sight.

It was spacious and beautiful with an ornate window, opening directly to the lake giving a great view of the Gangaur Ghat. The window area had a cozy cushion seating and an awesome view of the lake. The ambiance was accentuated by the tunes of traditional folk music from the opposite ghat. While tourists came from far and wide, to visit the ghat and enjoy boat rides, we could enjoy the beauty of the lake 24*7 for free.
This turned out to be my favourite spot for the days to come.

We had skipped breakfast, so we decided to have lunch in the open rooftop dining area of the building. Almost all the eateries around the ghat are rooftop ones, to take maximum advantage of the lake view. The food was delicious and filling.

The best thing about this hotel was every major attraction is at a walkable distance and we didn’t spend anything on transportation.

The most beautiful aspect of Udaipur (through my eyes), is that it is beaming with art and music in every nook and corner.

Apart from the streets with every shop displaying miniature art and colorful embroidered fabrics, every common house has beautiful doors and windows of the bygones and the street walls are decorated with detailed paintings.

Now let me list down some places we visited over the course of our stay. On many days, we spent most of the evenings in the Ghat or just at the hotel, relaxing and taking in the beautiful view of boats in lake Pichola.

Bagore ki haveli:

This is a must visit place. It is located on the banks lake Pichola in Gangaur Ghat, which is just at a 10min walk from our hotel.

This restored haveli museum holds rooms that displays settings of the rooms of royalties. One room is full of puppets in colorful silk traditional clothes, in a courtroom setting.

Another one displays the entertainment room of kids with the real board games made of wood and ivory. The doors are adorned by stunning colored glass work.

Dharohar Dance Show:

Apart from the museum, what I enjoyed most is the cultural show at Bagore ki haveli, late in the evening. It was amazing, better than any performance we saw at Chokhi Dhani(read here) . The show is from 7pm to 8pm everyday and the ticket is just a nominal 60Rs for Indians.

You should reach the place early to get the ticket, as there is going to be a long queue. We were directed to a courtyard of the haveli, known as the Neem Chowk. There is a big Neem tree in the center of the courtyard and hence the name. This small open terrace was lit with terracotta diyas and had benches and cushion seating on the floor  on all three sides, so that the audience gets a very close view of the performance. You need to take a separate pass for filming or taking photos.

The show started with an introduction given by a beautiful lady, in both Hindi and English. This was followed by drum beats and instrumental folk music. Then one dance followed the next with puppet shows and a folk drama in between. The dancers were clad in very festive traditional ghagras ornate with embroidery and mirror work. The reflection of the diya lights against the golden laces and ornaments added to the ambiance. The traditional folk dances included:

> Gavri Dance, which was more of a dance drama. It depicted a fight between Goddess Amba and Demon Bhiamwal

> Terah Taal Dance, where dancers played a musical instrument tied to their feet and hands.

> Ghumar Dance, where dancers performed in circles.

And the highlight of the show and the show stopper was the Bhavai Dance. The dancer was over 70 years of age and she came in gracefully, carrying a clay pot on her head. On regular intervals, she would move towards a corner where a member of their team would add consequently smaller clay pots on top of the existing one. And as the dance progressed, the number of clay pots reached around 10 and the lady danced beautifully, while balancing all these pots effortlessly and handsfree. Towards the climax, she started dancing on the edge of a metal plate and later on a bed of sharp glass pieces. The audience sat breathlessly and applauded wildly once the performance was over.

This show under a moonlit sky, is the perfect way to imbibe the colorful culture of Rajasthan.

We didnot take the camera pass here, so I don’t have any pics of the performance.

City Palace:

We walked to the palace around 10 in the morning, before it started getting too crowded. It was just 10min walk from the haveli. We hired a guide here and he explained the history of Udaipur and the stories of various royals of the place.

The palace displays all the precious artifacts of the royal family and the palace grounds are great for a walk, after.


Ravanahatha player of Gangaur Ghat :

The lake front opposite to Thamla Haveli, is called Gangaur Ghat. In the evenings, the Ghat is a popular spot for tourists as well as the young crowd, as it provides a picturesque view of the lake, colored by orange waves. We sat on the steps leading to the lake, feeding pigeons and listening to the alluring folk music from the Ravanahatha.

Ravanahatha is an ancient stringed instrument and you can find men in traditional Rajasthani attire, playing this in popular tourist spots. He was playing the same tune over and over again, and it blended in with the whole serene setting. The man was also selling CDs of his songs. You will also find locals selling handmade beaded jewelry and other curios here.

Sunset point at Karni Mata Temple:

Another great spot for getting a panoramic view of the city, is to visit the Karni Mata Temple at Machla Hills. There is a rope way leading to the hill and since the temple is at its highest point, we could enjoy the beauty of lake Pichola and the city soaked in the evening light.

The construction work was going on in the temple. So we didn’t go in. We just spent the evening there till the moon came up and changed shades of the city.

Shopping:

All the lanes near Gangaur Ghat has rows of small shops selling miniature paintings, hand painted jewelry, colorful clothes and home decor items. But two major shopping places nearby are ‘Hathi Pol’ and ‘Bada Bazaar’. These are located at a walkable distance from our stay and you will find traditional rajasthani clothes, leheriya and bandhini fabrics, Juttis, bags etc.

One of the wholesale shops here, Leheriya Bandhej, sells lehengas, traditional bandhani dupattas, and chanderi kurti materials at steal away prices.  Another store next to this is Apsara (if I remember correctly) which has much more options.They only sell these in sets of three and hence makes great gifting option.

On our way back from hathipol, I came across an old shop called Ashok Delights, displaying a variety of colorful window hangings. I just walked in to take a look at them and found them very old and dusty. But to my surprise, the shop turned out to be a treasure trove of wooden curios, some even antique. The owner of the shop was very friendly and interactive.

From small tricky puzzle boxes to intricately painted miniature hanging gods to even cute wooden carved earrings and wooden flats called methiyadi; this shop reminded me of the wizard shops in diagon alley from Harry potter. You could spend a whole day exploring the items that are loosely stacked till the roof of this old family owned shop.

The next great find was a small shop displaying handpainted meenakari earrings and miniature paintings. The owner of the shop is a famous miniature artist and he takes painting classes to interested tourists. He will give you a sketch of the miniature painting of your choice, on a silk cloth and will teach you how to do the painting using natural plant based colors and tiny handmade brushes.

We also bought camel leather bound diaries made of handmade paper. These comes in many colors and embossed patterns.

Cafes and eateries:

Unlike Jaipur, every lane in Udaipur has atleast one cafe or eatery. It’s all mostly small family run businesses and mostly serves pizzas, sandwiches and beverages.

We opted Cafe Satori for dinner. This is a small cozy cafe run by a lady and her son. We ordered coffee and pizza. The food took quite a while to be served, and we spent the time reading books available here. The cafes around the ghat are not cheap but the food tastes homemade. The owner lady was interactive and friendly. After dinner we all sat together and chit-chatted for sometime.

I had my eyes on Cafe Edelweiss right from the time I read rave reviews on this German eatery, in Zomato. So the next day’s breakfast had to be here. This is also a bakery and had some chocolate brownies and pastries on display. We tried tea and pancakes from here. The crowd is mostly foreigners and the food was alright.

For a light dinner we opted for  smoothies from Cafe Greenwood.  Owned by a young couple, the place is small but nice.

Our best and most affordable find was Lotus cafe. Hidden in a quaint corner, this is an eatery with no frills. The service is great and the food is very tasty. And the best part is that this is the most pocket friendly restaurant, we came across here.

We left Udaipur with colorful memories and I hope I could share some of them with you. Do comment below if you liked the post and follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more content.

You might also be interested in:

Day 1 : The grandeur of The Pink City
Day2 : A walk through the art, architecture and history
Day3 : The Majestic Taj