Where Brahma once dropped a lotus blossom, a lake appeared, and the sacred water is now surrounded by hundreds of temples and no less than 52 bathing ghats.
Pushkar is a pilgrimage town and both Indians and tourists alike flock to this town, mainly just to see this holy pond and, presumably, say a few prayers. All the foreign tourists we passed donned a bright red bindi on their forehead and a Pushkar Passport on their wrist (a piece of string). There are those who bathe in the water, but I didn’t see many doing so.
An hour after we got into town, I got suckered into doing a puja (sometimes its spelt pooja– whatevs) and walked away feeling disgusted with myself.
There was nothing sacred about the ritual I went through, and the greasy haired guy who did it for me didn’t even bother taking off his rayban knockoffs and had a phone conversation while pouring the ‘holy’ water over the rose petals in my hand.
I ripped off the string as we left the Ghu Ghat and washed off the bindi off my forehead as soon as I could, muttering to Xiker that I felt cheapened.
How sacred is this ritual, anyway?
Well, don’t get me wrong… A puja is a Hindu ritual–there are lots of different kinds of pujas, at that–and I don’t doubt that they hold it sacred, but what about when us foreigners do it?
I should get around to asking someone this question, but how do the Hindus feel when we try and imitate their rituals?
And this whole thing just screams SCAM to me. It’s not new, getting foreigners to do pujas and consecrating them with bindis– Xiker got one on our very first day, back in Mumbai. But this is a money maker on a much larger scale.
It’s clever, the way these certain perps earn money off of us foreign tourists, though. Push us through the process, and then guilt us into donating even though ‘donations are voluntary!” There was even a separate donation box, one was large and permanently affixed to the ground, and the other was a small box manned by a guy with a cigarette in his mouth. Guess which box they asked us to put our money in?
Don’t they feel bad about it, the way these guys are devaluating the ritual?
They stand around town and drag (yes, drag) us to the lake, yank our shoes off, usher us to the water, shove these plates of coconuts on a bed of rose petals and colored powder, mutter a few things and tell us to repeat what they say, then bada bing, “Puja finish.”
Is it still genuine if we mean it, deep down inside, or is it all just a farce?
Well, food for thought I guess.
Here’s Pushkar in all its, ahem, sacred glory.