A time of forts and faith

My head cranes back, higher and higher it goes until it can go no further. Below the lights of the city glow bright, illuminating the painted concrete walls of this desert city. As always in India horns blare and the city bustles well into the night. Dogs bark. People bellow.

But with daylight gone the air around bristles with a faint chill. Clouds are moving fast on that bristling wind and the sun wanes with each passing minute; the sky growing darker and darker.

I watch it all as my neck starts to ache at the pain up so high. Above, built on its plinth of rock and sand, stands Mehrangarh Fort.
It towers above the sprawling city of Jodhpur below like a guard who’s forgotten to leave a post no longer required. Now, instead of soldiers storming the walls, bright city lights create armies of shadows that creep up the red-warm stones by night; by day the tourists storm the gates.

Jodhpur is a boiling pot of tourists and locals. Here the main market square is where all congregate: tourists for their tat, locals for their daily needs. Nationality no matter, holes in the wall are crowded by all for the luxurious saffron-infused lassi that emerges one after the other. Devoured instantly. Some go back for more.

As is the norm in Rajasthan the women swirl through the market dressed in wisps of silk, chiffon, cotton. The brighter the better, nothing black or dour allowed. Reds. Yellows. Golds. Greens. Whites. Rose. They whip through the market square in all their splendour. For them, it is just another day.
All the while the fort stands guard over this modern day city and all its people. A people still fervently proud of who they are, where they came from and their princes and princesses from the castle in the clouds above them. Above their blue city.
This is Jodhpur. This is Rajasthan. This is India.
It is hard to think what that means, ’this is India’, when in Rajasthan alone one place is so different from the next. In Jodhpur, it is a history of lords and ladies, palaces and forts, battles, honour, victory. And yet 6 hours of well-worn Tarmac further East lies Pushkar.

A small town and a far cry from the hum of Jodhpur city. Instead of sprawling scrub land and concrete blocks a ring of barren mountain hills surround the town. In place of a hill walled fort, a lake. In place of princes, one god. Brahma.

Pushkar is a highly spiritual place. Created long ago by Lord Brahma – the Creator – when he dropped a lotus flower to earth from his hand. Next to Pushkar lake he convened a gathering of some 900,000 celestial beings; the entire Hindu pantheon. It is today one of India’s most sacred sites.
Around the holy lake rules are strict and followed without question. Steps line the lake and lead to many ghats. Pilgrims come to bathe and wash, locals line the steps to pay respect and just past the day. Some sing, some pray, some say nothing at all.
Performing Puja next to the lake is a special experience. Scattering scented powder and red and white flowers into the waters, watching them carried off by the slowly swirling waters. Humming a mantra and repeating words of respect, reverence to Brahma. A mark on the forehead, a coil of cotton on the wrist, tells all of the offer given.

It is a magical place… although overrun with tourists, who almost outnumber the locals. But in a quiet corner of town, at the end of the day, as locals depart the ghats and as the light bathes lake and shore in a soft light…
… Well, you’ll have to come and experience it!

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