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Pushkar, Pushkar

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India, Asia: games: Local women play tug-of-war during the Pushkar Camel Fair, a religious event with the
Pushkar , Rajasthan
India's insider take:

The annual Pushkar Camel Fair, which runs for about eight days in November each year, is the number-one reason most people visit Pushkar, three hours west of Jaipur by car. Attending this legendary event of barely organized mayhem is well worth the effort at least once in a lifetime. The occasion draws thousands of camels, a seemingly equal number of men ready to race or trade them, desert wives desperate to shop, and pilgrims eager to cleanse themselves in the sacred waters of Pushkar Lake. The holy lake has more than 52 bathing ghats (steps), and the surrounding town is supposedly one of the oldest in India. Outside of camel season, Pushkar draws mostly backpackers and religious devotees, including scores of wandering mendicant sadhus, who might offer you a blessing by the lake (a "Pushkar passport", the red string bracelet you are given, will ward off too much hassle from other holy men by the ghats), a puff on their opium pipe, or a nugget of the marijuana derivative bhang. (Be on alert for "special lassies" spiked with the stuff.)

Pushkar's compact size renders it walkable from end to end, and most of the crowds usually congregate along the busy main strip, the Sadar Bazaar, where you can buy all manner of cheap bric-a-brac, including jewelry, ceremonial trinkets, and fashions aimed at the transient hippie contingent. At the western end of the bazaar is the Brahma Temple, one of very few in the world devoted to Hinduism's highest-ranking divinity. Work up the energy for a hike up the hill to the Savitri Temple, which offers amazing views of the town, then kick back with a chai to watch the sunset behind Pushkar's romantic domed skyline from the Sunset Café on the east side of the lake.—Vanessa Able

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