Pushkar – ever colorful, ever vibrant
The sun shines all the time. But I’m not aware of it even when I’m bathed in it. Sometimes, the sunshine itself makes me feel its presence. Then I notice it. In the same way, I’m not always aware of the divinity that is present all the time, in all the places, fully bathing me in it. But it made me feel Its presence and take note of It in a pleasant way recently.
I was to travel to Jaipur, Rajasthan the next day and then on to Jodhpur a few days later. I casually mentioned this to a good friend. Immediately he told me in a commanding voice “You must go to Pushkar on the way to Jodhpur. It’s only a minor detour. There is a Brahma temple there, the only one.” His words stuck in my mind like the call of a magnet.
I got a glimpse of how fortunate I was to visit Pushkar when I went there. I exited Highway 8 near Ajmer, traveled the winding road for about 20 minutes and arrived at Pushkar.
Only 145 kms from Jaipur!
Pushkar is a small and clean town. I felt the nearby Thar desert in the air as soon as I got out of the car. It was thrilling to see camels roaming on the streets and fascinating to see a camel-drawn cart, a first for me.
Fun ride, anyone?
Pushkar derives its name from the enchanting lake in the town, surrounded by four mountains. According to the Padma Purana, the Lotus Flower that Brahma threw with his hand fell into this lake. Hence the name Pushkar, Pushpa, flower; kar, hand.
Pushkar is a sacred place. It was here, a local pundit told me, that Brahma performed a yajna, (devotional worship) for promoting the welfare and well being of all creations for all time. Brahma sent Narada to bring his wife, Saraswati, to help perform the yajna. Narada delayed the arrival of Saraswati and brought Gayatri instead. With the help of Gayatri, Brahma concluded the yajna successfully.
Sage Viswamitra built a temple for Brahma here after the yajna was concluded.
The Maha Narayana Upanishad points to the efficacy of this story in a beautiful way.
Gayatri Devi [Source]
Gayatri, I invoke you. Savitri, I invoke you. Saraswati, I invoke you. Vedic rishis, I invoke you. Prosperity, I invoke you. Here is the Gayantri mantra, set to the Gayatri meter and seen by Viswamitra…
Gaayatreem Aavaayahaami, Saavitreem Aavaahayaami, Saraswateem Aavaahayaami, Chanda risheen aavaahayaami, Sriyam aavaahayaami, Gaayatriyaa Gaayatri chandah Viswamito rishih…
Brahma conducting yajna does not mean a human form with four faces performing sacrifices in a fire. Brahma is the Creating aspect of divinity. The act of creation itself is a sacrifice in the fire of time, isn’t it? Whatever is created is consumed by time, isn’t it? My buddhi, discriminating ability, recognizes this truth. The Gayatri mantra is a prayer to strengthen the buddhi to realize that:
An all-encompassing sacrifice is happening at all times, in all places, in every which way.
tasmaat sarva aahutah [purusha suktam].
The allegorical story of Brahma performing the yajna in the company of Gayatri is narrated at Pushkar to convey this timeless truth.
The story of Brahma throwing a lotus flower with his hand in the lake conveys a practical teaching on how to live in the world well. The Pushkar lake is the lake of my mind. The pushpa, the lotus flower, is the lesson taught. Like the lotus flower that rises up from mud and water but is not touched by them, I must, having risen in the world, learn to live not touched by the world and its happenings. The kar is the advice Brahma gives with every single thought,word and act of mine. The Bhagavad Gita says this advise is:
In the beginning the Creator created man and the spirit of sacrifice together inseparable from each other. He then blessed man saying, “May you establish yourself in this spirit of sacrifice always; your spirit of sacrifice will grant all your wishes”
saha yajnaah prajaah srushtvaa purovaacha prajaapatih| anena prasavishyadvam esha vostu ishta kaamadhuk|| [Bhagavad Gita 3.10]
Viswamitra built the temple for Brahma at Pushkar underscoring and establishing the truth taught by the vedas. Adi sankaracharya renovated this temple in the 8th century. Maharaja Jawat Raj renovated it in the 15th century. The temple went through a destruction phase during Aurangzeb regime in the 17th century. It has since been rebuilt maintaining the original (believed to be 2000 years old) architecture.
Rites at the Pushkar lake. Legit? [Source]
As much eager as I was to go to the temple, I had to do it in the prescribed way. First, I visited the lake pushkar to pay my respects and worship it for what it is and for what it represents – nothing but divinity itself. Then, I sat on its shore and prayed to my forefathers in gratitude and humility because I owe my life to them and to their sacrifices. The local pundit who conducted and guided me in these worship rituals had the last name Paraasar. I found this intriguing and learned from him that all the pundits at Pushkar have the same last name.This indicates their lineage originating from the rishi Paraasar, the father of Veda Vyasa – a glorious lineage indeed! In spite of their glorious lineage, I knew they were pulling off a money-spinning scam on me from the way they were operating!
Enroute the temple – irresistible colors of life, aka “the bazaar” !
I hurried to the temple from the lake, walking briskly. The road was winding, narrow and crowded. And clean.
Marble steps – up to the temple entrance
A set of well laid broad steps led to the canopied entrance to the temple which was at an elevation. ” Jagat Pita Brahma Mandir Pushkar ” (The Temple of Brahma, the Father of the Universe) was written on the canopy above the entrance.
Welcoming, calming beauty![Source]
The first sight of the temple was exhilarating in a soft way. The temple was peacefully majestic, did not impose or intrude, very much like a lotus flower.
Color pretty [Source]
The temple’s pink/reddish gopurams (spires) with flags fluttering in the wind were at once attractive. Their sindoor (vermilion) color reminded me of the Ramayana story where Rama takes the sindoor from an adjacent rock and applies it on Sita’s forehead. The temple has been built with slabs of stone and joined with molten lead. The temple floor, walls and corridors surrounding the temple are made of marble.
The Brahma temple
There is a mandapam (a pillared hall) that leads to the sanctum sanctorium. The mandapam looked smaller than it was because of the number of pillars it had. The pillars were a pleasing blue, reminding me again of the colors of Rama and Krishna avatars. The pillars were both artistic and aesthetic in their simplicity and appeal.
I entered through the mandapam to the sanctum sanctorium for the darsan (worshipful viewing) of the Brahma vigraham (idol). The vigraham is made of marble but I didn’t notice it but learned so later.The idol was consecrated by Adi Sankara in the 8th century.
Mesmerizing eyes of Love [Source]
I saw Brahma in a seated position. His four heads are gracing the four directions. His eyes are powerful, magnetically so. His hands hold a rosary (akshramala), a book, kusa grass and a pot (kamandalu) of water. The rosary reminds me of the count of time. The book exhorts the knowledge I must pursue. The Kusa grass teaches me that life is nothing but sacrifice. The pot of water represents the causal water from which the universe has emerged. Brahma is accompanied by Gayatri to His left and Saraswati on His right.
A priest at the temple [Source]
The priests at the temple who do the daily pujas also belong to the Paraasar lineage. But they are ascetics (sanyasins) and not house-holders (gruhastas) as normally seen in temples. As I stood mesmerized by Brahma’s beckoning magnetic eyes, the priest came to me and offered prasadam ever so lovingly without saying a word. I took it and moved away reluctantly.
The circumambulating corridors around the temple were broad. They had an expansive and relaxing feel about them. Before I exited the temple, I saw a fantastic wall mural to my left. The painting depicted the yajna that Brahma performed at Pushkar.
A Wall mural
I exited the temple and noticed the well laid series of broad steps waiting to take me down to the street and the world below.
Down and into the world!
As I climbed down, I couldn’t help wonder if I would – could – return to this place in the future!
The efficacy of Pushkar Brahma temple is something that cannot be told in words. It is in the realm of personal experience. The temple is a blessing to all mankind.
I left with a pang and tremendous gratitude for the touch of divinity in this sacred place on earth.