According to legend, PUSHKAR, 15km northwest of Ajmer, came into existence when Lord Brahma, the Creator, dropped a lotus flower (pushpa) to earth from his hand (kar). At the three spots where the petals landed, water magically appeared in the midst of the desert to form three small blue lakes, and it was on the banks of the largest of these that Brahma subsequently convened a gathering of some 900,000 celestial beings – the entire Hindu pantheon. Surrounded by whitewashed temples and bathing ghats, the lake is today revered as one of India’s most sacred sites: Pushkaraj Maharaj, literally “Pushkar King of Kings”. During the auspicious full-moon phase of October/November (the anniversary of the gods’ mass meeting, or yagya), its waters are believed to cleanse the soul of all impurities, drawing pilgrims from all over the country. Alongside this annual religious festival, Rajasthani villagers also buy and sell livestock at what has become the largest camel market (unt mela) in the world, when more than 150,000 dealers, tourists and traders fill the dunes to the west of the lake.
There are more than five hundred temples in and around Pushkar, although some, like the splendid Vishnu Temple, are out of bounds to non-Hindus. Pushkar’s most important shrine, the Brahma Temple, houses a four-headed image of Brahma in its main sanctuary, and is one of the few temples in India devoted to him. Raised on a stepped platform in the centre of a courtyard, the inevitably crowded chamber is surrounded on three sides by smaller subsidiary shrines topped with flat roofs providing views across the desert to Savitri Temple on the summit of a nearby hill. The one-hour climb to the top of that hill is rewarded by matchless vistas over the town, surrounded on all sides by desert, and is best done before dawn, to reach the summit for sunrise, though it’s also a great spot to watch the sun set. The temple itself is modern, but the image of Savitri is supposed to date back to the seventh century. Gayitri Temple (Pap Mochini Mandir), set on a hill east of the town, also offers great views, especially at sunrise.Read More
Brahma, Savitri and Gayitri
Brahma, Savitri and Gayitri
Although Brahma, the Creator, is one of the trinity of top Hindu gods, along with Vishnu (the Preserver) and Shiva (the Destroyer), his importance has dwindled since Vedic times and he has nothing like the following of the other two. The story behind his temple here in Pushkar serves to explain why this is so, and also reveals the significance of the temples here named after Brahma’s wives, Savitri and Gayitri.
The story goes that Lord Brahma was to marry Savitri, a river goddess, at a sacrificial ritual called a yagna, which had to be performed at a specific, astrologically auspicious moment. But Savitri, busy dressing for the ceremony, failed to show up on time. Without a wife, the Creator could not perform the yagna at the right moment, so he had to find another consort quickly. The only unmarried woman available was a shepherdess of the untouchable Gujar caste named Gayitri, whom the gods hastily purified by passing her through the mouth of a cow (gaya means “cow”, and tri, “passed through”). When Savitri finally arrived, she was furious that Brahma had married someone else and cursed him, saying that henceforth he would be worshipped only at Pushkar. She also proclaimed that the Gujar caste would gain liberation after death only if their ashes were scattered on Pushkar lake – a belief which has persisted to this day. After casting her curses, disgruntled Savitri flew off to the highest hill above the town. To placate her, it was agreed that she should have her temple on that hilltop, while Gayitri occupied the lower hill on the opposite, eastern side of the lake, and that Savitri would always be worshipped before Gayitri, which is exactly how pilgrims do it, visiting Savitri’s temple first, and Gayitri’s temple afterwards.