|| Pushkar Mela, the biggest cattle fair in the country,
falls in the month of Kartik. It commences two days before the full moon of the
month and ends a day after it.Men and women congregate from all over Rajasthan
and other nearby places with their horses, camels and cattle to buy and sell.
The venue for this spectacular display of color and vigor is Pushkar, a small
sleepy town in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan. However, for the duration of the
fair, the town is transformed into a glittering display of activity, with a variety
of colorful stalls and vendors. In addition to its commercial importance, the
fair is also a window to the cultural richness of Rajasthan. Days before it begins,
tradesmen, craftsmen, troupes of dancers and singers, all gather here.
| Pushkar, literally meaning 'a lotus that blooms
in mud', is also home to one of the only two temples dedicated to Brahma, the
other being at Khed Brahma in Kerala. It is one of the innumerable temples skirting
the large Pushkar Lake. This lake, with 52 ghats, is the focal point of all devotional
activities and is the main reason for the confluence of a mass of people from
all parts of the country. The fair it self centers around the event of taking
a dip in the Pushkar Lake on the full moon night. Not much is known about the
origin of the fair. Scholars suggest that the cattle fair was an extension of
the religious event of taking a dip in the lake. In fact, Pushkar has been known
as the center of Brahma worship since1250 AD. According to the Padma Purana, once
Brahma was looking for a suitable place on earth to be his abode. Shiva suggested
that he claim the spot where his lotus falls. When Brahma was passing over Pushkar
on his vehicle, the swan, a lotus fell from his hand and struck at three places,
forming 3 lakes called Jayeshtha, Madhya and Kanishtha Pushkar. Brahma descended
beside the largest one, Jayeshtha, and meditated. After his meditation, the gods
requested him to perform a sacrifice to consecrate the spot. Brahma agreed and
preparations for a celestial sacrifice began.
| Jayeshtha Pushkar was chosen as the site for the
great sacrifice. Several gods were invited to witness this event. Because no sacrifice
can be performed without one's wife, Brahma dispatched Sage Narada to his celestial
abode to call Saraswati. Not realizing the urgency of the situation, Saraswati
did not hurry. As the auspicious hour was drawing near and there was no sign of
her, Brahma asked Indra to find someone else who could perform the role of his
spouse. Indra found a milkmaid and purified her by putting her head into a cow's
mouth, from which she derived her name, Gayatri. Brahma accepted her as his spouse
amidst the celestial gathering and the sacrifice began.
| After some time, Saraswati arrived there, accompanied
by Lakshmi, Indrani and the wives of the other gods. Incensed that another woman
had been asked to take her place, she cursed Brahma that he would not be worshipped
anywhere on earth except at Pushkar, and that too only on one particular day in
the year. In a rage, she went to the Ratnagiri hill nearby and settled there.
Today a temple stands there dedicated to her, probably the only one in the world.
Due to its association with Brahma, Pushkar is considered to be the tirtharaja,
the king of all pilgrimage sites. It is believed that Brahma blessed the lake
at Pushkar and anyone who takes a dip in the lake would go to heaven. According
to the Puranas, a pilgrimage to Pushkar destroys all evil and gives the dead access
to the three worlds. One who has bathed at the lake there and worshipped Brahma
achieves salvation. For this reason, thousands of people gather here for this
great annual pilgrimage.