Bordering the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, set on shores of one of India’s holiest lakes, Pushkar is unlike anywhere else in India – a town where the holy vs the hedonistic.
It's where Hindu pilgrims, Sadhus, and a devout Brahmin community coexist with spiritualists and bohemian backpackers in search of their own kind of nirvana. Locals bathe in the Pushkar Sarovar every morning and gather for the evening aarti (puja - offerings) each night, all while wild wanderers, dancers, and drummers gather on the steps of the nearby bathing ghats as the sunset melts into the holy waters. Bustling market streets lead onto sacred sites, and a constant soundtrack of chanting, drums, devotional songs, and gongs competes only with the sounds of the local Indian cows that rule the streets and alleyways.
But it's camels that rule the desert, and Pushkar has the most famous of them all, as the home to the annual Pushkar Camel Fair (high on our bucket list!). One of the greatest protagonists of that future story was introduced to us in the form of Ashok Tak, the famed 'Camel Decorator' (that's him pictured below, standing proudly in the doorway of his hole-in-the-wall shop) who has been awarded more times than any other camel decorator. He's a true connoisseur of his art, passionate about preserving traditional Rajasthani camel culture, and also runs the popular Collector's Paradise-Vintage Art Gallery in town, where his most treasured vintage tribal textile pieces are displayed. We spent a delightful hour with him, looking through his scrapbooks and photos of his beautifully dressed camels – he welcomes anyone interested in doing the same.
Street scenes of Pushkar, captured by us in March 2017 just a few days before the annual Holi festival, when the town was coming alive with processions, music, offerings, and celebrations.
All images © Tulasii