Pushkar is one of the oldest cities in India and it is one of 5 sacred site for pilgrimages for Hindus. The city sits on the shore of Pushkar lake, a holy lake. There are 52 ghats surrounding the lakes for people to bathe in the holy water.
Pushkar is a holy place for Hindus based on a scripture about Brahma. Brahms saw a demon trying to kill his kids and harassing people. Brahma killed the demon with his weapon, a lotus flower. In the process three petals from the flower fell to earth making three lakes. Brahma names the town of the three lakes Pushkar and decided to do a fire sacrifice in the largest lake. For protection he rises hills around the lake and successfully performed his sacrifice.
Pushkar also had a famous temple dedicated to Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. The temple was built in the 14th century and is the only temple to Brahma per scripture. However, in reality there are six others in the world. The temple has a small but multilevel marigold-orange colored spire over the brahma statue. There was a bell in front of this for good luck. No pictures were allowed.
Pushkar also is the location of a camel and livestock fair. It is the world’s largest camel fair and a tourist attraction. We were not in Pushkar for the fair, but on our tour we were scheduled for an evening camel safari into the desert.
This is where we have a confession: we were naive. We spent time helping the elephants and never thought about the other animals in the tourist industry. We arrived for our safari, and could immediately see that these were not well-cared for animals. With neither of us wanting to ruin the experience for the other, we silently got onto the camels. We took a few token photos on the camels and then we rode the camels for about 15 minutes. The camels had scars on their faces and necks, one had a limp and they were pulled on (by a nose rod) multiple times. Our hearts were breaking and it was a horrible 15 minutes.
We were asked if we wanted to take a break and we be happily agreed. Once off of the camels, we both told each other of our actually feelings- we could not get back on the camels. After some discussion, we asked our guide if we could walk back with the camels. He told us yes, but the way back was a longer trip. We said we didn’t mind at all and walked back into town with or camels. The walk back was 30 minutes, but it felt faster and easier then the ride out. The one camel did not limp as much without us on his back and they did not need to pull on the camels’ nose rod either. We arrived back in the city sweaty and dirty, but happier.
We couldn’t save the camels or even change their situation but we did give them a rest from carrying humans. We became aware of how much our time with the elephants at Elephant Nature Park changed our views and hearts. We had ridden on camels before in Morocco, and didn’t have a problem with the situation. We now can confidently say that animal tourism has changed for us. We will be volunteering, visiting sanctuaries or reserves and seeing animals in the wild. For this change of heart and beliefs we must say thanks to the Elephants in Elephant Nature Park.