Gateway to two pilgrim destinations Kishangarh!

The ghats around Pushkar Lake

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ― G.K. Chesterton

Thank God both my partner and I see what we see. I travel to make memories, rejuvenate and feed my inner soul!

Since we had to plan a quick trip for the weekend, most of the places in the ‘to cover’ list which were further away had to be crossed out. By the end, we were only left with Kishangarh (Pushkar and Ajmer). I have always wanted to experience the Pushkar fair. Since it happens every year around November, we were not too sure if we should plan a trip now in February. Nonetheless, we went ahead with our plans. And, we did not regret our decision!

Rajasthan, to me, is all about colours, vibrancy, music, forts, tales and the people! I have covered many parts of the region. Had done a family trip to Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur back in 2012. Had traveled to Udaipur on New Year’s Eve in 2016. Have visited Jaipur multiple times. Been to Bharatpur Sanctuary too. Kishangarh was my seventh destination within Rajasthan.

Kishangarh is a city in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. The city also known as Marble City of India, is famous for a special kind of painting called ‘Bani Thani’. There are many tales about this style of painting which originated from Kishangarh. While there are quite a few things to see in Kishangarh, like the Kishangarh Fort, Nepheline Syenite, National Geological Monument, Nine Planets Temple, we decided to head straight to our stay (which was closer to Pushkar/Ajmer and around one hour away from the airport) as soon as we landed in Kishangarh. Before the Kishangarh airport was built, people had to travel to Pushkar and Ajmer by road which was time-consuming. People either directly traveled to Pushkar or flew to Jaipur and then traveled more than 100 kms to reach Pushkar/Ajmer.

On our way to the resort

We stayed at a beautiful ‘Ananta Spa and Resort’, which was surrounded by hills and hence had a picturesque view in the backdrop. We were quite happy with the place. The rooms were spacious, comfy and clean.

The next morning we set off for Pushkar city which was just 4 kms away from our resort. Pushkar is in the central part of Rajasthan and on the western side of the Aravalli Mountains. The city is known for its annual fair, which is the largest camel, horse and cattle fair in India and maybe the world. Every year traders, tourists, pilgrims and locals flock to the city in the month of October/November. Supposedly the Pushkar fair alone attracts over 200,000 visitors every year.

Just another day for me!

Pushkar is also famous for its temples. The most significant one in the city is the Temple of Lord Brahma. It is one of the very few existing temples dedicated to the Hindu creator, Lord Brahma in India and remains the most prominent among them. The Brahma Temple has many mythological tales about its origin. We heard a few interesting ones from the locals.

Next, we visited the Savitri Mata temple. This temple is located at the top of the Ratnagiri Hill and is dedicated to Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma. One would need to use either the cable car or the steps to reach the temple. You get a beautiful view of the city from the hill. There is an interesting mythological story behind its origin. It goes like – once, Lord Brahma was performing a yagna on the bank of the Pushkar Lake where the presence of his wife (Savitri) was required. But because she was late in arriving, Brahma married another girl (Gayatri) to complete this ritual on time. When Savitri arrived, she was upset to see someone else in her place and in her anger she cursed everyone present there. Later, she went to the Ratnagiri hills to atone for her deeds. The temple was hence constructed in her remembrance.

View from Savitri Mata Mandir

Next on our list was the beautiful Pushkar Lake, one of the most prominent spots of pilgrimage. The beauty of the lake is because of the ghats surrounding it. There is a total of 52 ghats around the lake. Out of the 52 ghats used by pilgrims to take a holy dip, 10 important ghats on the periphery of the lake, have supposedly been declared as ‘Monuments of National Importance’. It was a beautiful experience to witness the serene, calm atmosphere at the lake, with devotees offering prayers, taking holy dips, birds silently making their way in the stunning blue and bright sky.

Pushkar Lake

We then headed back to our resort and decided to relax for the rest of the day but only after we had our share of mouth-watering Rajasthani food. We were quite ambitious and thought we had the appetite to devour a whole Rajasthani thali. But we were wrong! The most common Rajasthani food are ‘Besan Gatte ki Sabji’, ‘Daal Bati Churma’, ‘Laal Maas’, ‘Rajasthani Kadhi’, ‘Ker Sangri’ and our thaali had it all and more!!!

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On the last day, we checked out and headed to Ajmer, one of the oldest cities in Rajasthan. Ajmer is famously known for the ‘Ajmer Dargah’, the Mayo College and its lakes. We stopped at the Ana Sagar Lake which is spread over 13 kms and is the biggest in the city. The lake is surrounded by hills which makes it visually attractive.

Ana Sagar Lake - Ajmer

On our way to the airport, we stopped over at the Nareli Jain Temple. It is a complex comprising of 14 temples built recently. It is known for its architecture and intricate stone carvings which gives it both a traditional yet contemporary look.

Nareli Jain Temple

Though Pushkar and Ajmer are mostly destinations for pilgrims, I think it has something for all travelers. I am not a very religious person but what my grandmother once told me made a difference. I remember I used to make faces whenever she asked us to accompany her to the temples. But one day she told me that I need not visit the temples for any religious sentiment but may visit it for its tales, architecture, views etc. That definitely made sense to me!

Mystical Banaras!

Banaras (now known as Varanasi) as a city, although a little congested, is quite mystical. I visited the city in February, 2017 and was quite charmed by its beauty. Here is why…

The city supposedly has 88 ghats (an area with steps which lead to a river bank) all situated next to each other on the banks of the river Ganga.  Each one of them has a history and mythical tales related to it.

My parents and I reached Banaras on a Friday afternoon and then visited the Dashashwamedha Ghat (the main ghat in Banaras) to experience the evening aarti. Though the aarti usually starts at around 6.45 every evening (it also depends on the time of sunset), one should ideally reach there at least half an hour earlier to ensure a comfortable spot to get a closer view of the mesmerizing aarti. You can also opt for a boat ride half an hour before the rituals start to get a glimpse of the neighboring ghats and to witness the aarti (which usually lasts for around 45 minutes) from the boat. The view is exhilarating. We were so charmed by the evening aarti that we decided to attend the morning (before sunrise) aarti too the very next day. And I’m so glad we decided to do so. The ghat got its name ‘Assi’ (as in the number 80 in Hindi) as it is the 80th ghat in Banaras. When we reached at 5 in the morning, we saw a smaller crowd (in comparison to the evening aarti crowd) and we were mighty pleased. We got the best views and could move around easily to click pictures.

What we did next was the highlight of the trip – we decided to go for a boat ride! We settled for a one hour ride starting from Assi Ghat to Dashashwamedha Ghat. On our way there we crossed many other ghats. Our boatman was quite chatty and shared with us a lot of information. We crossed the Chet Singh Ghat which looked like a fort. It looked quite different from the other ghats we crossed. We could see the sunrise from the boat and the view was heavenly!

After the boat ride we got down at the Dashashwamedha Ghat and headed for the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The narrow lanes at the Ghat led us to the temple. The darshan took us around 40 minutes as there were quite a few devotees waiting for their turn. We went back to our hotel to catch up on some sleep after a consuming morning.

Now that we were done with the major sight-seeing (we also visited Sarnath and Banaras Hindu University the next day), it was time for shopping for the much-popular Banarasi sarees and duppattas. While we did a lot of window shopping in the main market areas, our driver took us to this industrial area where there were many wholesalers selling Banarasi duppattas and sarees where there was a lot more variety and cheaper options. You may want to bargain at some of these places. I also checked with the shopkeepers if we can visit the factory, and much to my delight, we were taken to one of them! Artisans sat there patiently working on the sarees.

 

Banaras city
Dhamek Stupa

After the half day indulgence in shopping we left for Delhi!

Suddymoody quick facts:

  • Banarasi sarees are obviously made in Banaras. Banarasi sarees are made with a lot of silk and heaps of skill. But these days you can also find Banarasi embroidery on other fabrics too. It’s about the style of weaving. So don’t be surprised next time if the shopkeeper shows off an Organza Banarasi saari.
  • Depending on the intricacy, one Banarasi saari may take an artisan almost 15 days to a month at least to complete.
  • A Bengali bride generally wears a red/maroon Banarasi saari on the day of the wedding.
  • You will find that a lot of people in Banaras are Bengalis or can speak Bengali. Supposedly the city is also known as a mini-Bengal.
  • Masaan – a Bollywood movie (released in 2015) which received international appreciation too was based and shot in Banaras. The movie captures the city’s essence beautifully.
  • Do try the street food and famous Banarasi paan.
  • Banaras has also been a home to many widows who have been abandoned by their families. They come to the Holy city to attain moksha (or because they have nowhere else to go). Most of them are left to beg for their daily food.