It is no exaggeration to say that, in some parts of Rajasthan ( one of the many Indian states, and probably the most colourful), the income from cattle is almost equal, if not more, than the income from agriculture. The affection and reverence which Rajasthani have for their cattle is manifest in a large number of sayings, tales and songs. The milk-yielding cow is respected by hindus as a mother and a bestower of bliss and prosperity, while the bull is the “proud genitor like the sun” to “fertilise and increase the race of cows”. The ploughman encourages his bullocks by calling them brothers and a brown buffalo or a cow is also referred to as mother. The goat is the sister, living on anything, “cheapest of the cheap and giver of milk even during famine”. The horse is the revered father and victor of wars, while the dromedaries are “resisters of hunger and thirst”. Such regard for cattle and their importance in the economy have made the “kartik” fair at Pushkar ( and few others), religious in origin, among the biggest cattle fairs in India.
Pushkar is a small town on the hedge of the Thar desert; it has a large number of temples ( about 400), including one of the very few temples in India dedicated to Brahma, the god who created the universe. Pushkar is one of the main places of pilgrimage mentioned in the hindu scriptures. It is as important as Badrinath, Rameswaram or Puri.
According to mythology, the area where Pushkar now stands was once terrorised by a demon, Vijra Nabh, who murdered Brahma’s children. So, the god came and killed the demon with a lotus flower. The petals of the flower fell at three places where lakes ( including the Pushkar lake) were formed. (According to another myth, Brahma was looking for a suitable place to perform a ritual. While contemplating, a lotus flower fell from his hand on the earth and water sprouted from three places, one of them being Pushkar.) Soon after, Brahma decided to perform a ritual ( “yagna”, a fire sacrifice) to which he invited all the gods and sages. Because Savitri, his wife, was late and a feminine presence was essential, he married with all possible speed a young local woman, Gayatri. When Savitri arrived, she became so angry Brahma had married another woman she cursed all the participants and sweared that Brahma would never be worshiped in any other place than Pushkar. Once the sacrifice performed, Savitri retired on a hill near the lake. Since then, a small temple has been built where the faithful come to worship her. On the opposite hill, another temple is dedicated to Gayatri.
The town itself has been founded in the 9° century by a local king who had been cured of a skin disease after bathing in the lake. Because bathing in the holy waters is believed to be propitious ( especially on the full moon day of “kartik” ( in october-november), the day when Brahma performed the ritual), pilgrims come by tens of thousands at this time of the year to wash away their sins. The dip is supposed to ensure entry to heaven after death. ( Special sanctity is attached to a dip at the Varah Ghat as Vishnu himself is said to have appeared here in the form of a boar.)
Within five days preceding the full moon day, the Pushkar cattle fair ( locally called “Pushkar mela”) is held. Thousands of bulls, calves, horses and dromedaries are on sell. This is one of the world largest camel fairs. A large number of bards and minstrels are present too : they sing and recite ballads and traditional tales of valour and chivalry. With its colourful crowds, saffron-clad and ash-smeared “sadhu”, the Pushkar fair is an attractive and lively spectacle enjoyed by thousands of tourists.
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