Carrying my slippers in my hand while walking around the Pushkar Lake, I suddenly stopped and gazed around to see every Ghat. All 52 of them sitting shoulder by shoulder with each other. I felt as if all of them are whispering something, not to you but to each other. There was something strange about this perplexing land which I didn’t know about. Then I again started looking for that whisper. The following blog will be about the events which unfolded during my entanglement with the tales of Pushkar
* The Birth of Pushkar *
The next evening as I was walking through Ghats, I decided to sit down and start thinking about the last day’s event. Suddenly after 5 mins. a man appeared, who looks like a 24-year-old with the innocent voice of a 10-year-old child. With a stick in his hand, he looked like a protector of the lake. His bright orange “tika” was so prominent that it stepped toward me before he did. As I was sitting alone, he sat beside me and started talking to me about my journey.
I raised only one question, that “Why is Pushkar so Religious or Spiritual”. Then he looked at me sharply, his eyes were as bright as his orange “tika” in a manner that they were waiting for me to ask this question. He changed his posture; looked at me directly, and started speaking.
Lord Brahma Ji fought Vajramabha who was a harassing demon, and when he slew the monster, the lotus petals fell down at 3 different places. The 3 places immediately turned into lakes, known as Pushkar lake, Madhya Lake, and Kanishta Lake. When Brahma arrived at the place, he named it Pushkar, naming it after “pushpa”(flower). I was already fascinated just by this 5 min. information, and made me realize how normal is the story behind my name!
Brahma decided to perform Yagya at Pushkar, which will give birth to this whole universe. During the Yagya his wife Savitri wasn’t able to reach on time, thus he married a Gujjar. When Savitri finally arrived she got angry looking at the events and cursed Lord Brahma that he will never be worshiped beyond the land of Pushkar. Thus there is only one Brahma temple in the world, and that is in Pushkar.
As the stories were unfolded I got more and more curious, but sadly after giving me the last piece of information that the place where Brahma Ji did his Yagya is on my right, after 4-5 ghats and known as “Brahma Ghat”. He left!
* Legends of Kalbeli *
Taking a lift from a stranger, he asks you where to drop, and you reply “anywhere-interesting”, will probably never be a good idea. But since I am dumb enough to do these things, I found myself at the entrance of “Kalbeliyon Ki Basti”. The legends who are famous around the world, for their fearsome dance-form.
During my walk towards the Basti, a man started walking towards me from the opposite direction. The classic long-curled mustache, the dark-skin, and the rigid jaw, were all combined to speak out his determined nature. With a big smile he said “HELLO”, I started asking him about Kalbelis. But he ignored them all and wanted me to know about his own heroic stories.
In March 2019, Madan Nath Ji announced that he will cut his mustache if there will be no washroom and electricity in his Basti in the next 15 days! The government was shocked and he was published everywhere in media, now known as Swach Warrior. In the pressure, the washrooms were built for every house in the bast. His head was even more prominent when he told me that he was invited by Home Minister in Delhi and Amitabh Bacchan in Mumbai to meet him and the courage he carries with him.
Before leaving he pointed out the way towards Basti, and left even more supercilious than before.
Basti looked nothing colorful as the famous dance of kalbelis. The living conditions were not what I imagined, and looking at the condition I was scared about the death of dance form. Knocking at Ram Nath Ji House(yes both of them are brothers), the door opened with suspicious-looking eyes. After silent gazing for 2 mins. I was invited into the room by Ram Nath Ji. A bulging stomach, comfortable to put his hands-on he was just looking at me. There was a silence in the room, but inside me, the questions were waiting to amplify.
Ram Nath Ji is the oldest leader in the basti, he has been performing for over 35 years, every weekend!
Along with Gulabo kalbeli, my father used to perform. That was the time when Kalbelia dance started getting famous all around the world. He used to play “pungi”. I learned the art from my father. Our dance is considered as dangerous, people think that we only do this for money. We are not fools, the dance form is our tradition, this is our worship to gods and goddesses. Every weekend we perform at several hotels in Pushkar. This gives us some money for our kids to go to school. We don’t know how to farm or earn money by any other means.
Kid! We are poor, but we have seen more of this world than you or your father!
Finally, I asked him one of my awaited question, that Will you teach your kids this dance form?
No! Not even if we are dying of food shortage!
* Neon Grace of Shaitan Singh *
Who knew that in the chaotic market will be a neon warrior, who only duel with his paintbrush. He eats, sleeps, and breathes with his colors. The world is his canvas, shiva is his inspiration, art is his life, and neon is his Kohinoor. This will be a fitting introduction to the next person I encountered in Pushkar, Shaitan Singh Rawat.
A name that can turn around heads, a smile which can freeze anyone’s tears, and a finesse which can amaze everyone. Who must have thought that inside a little shop of Arts and Craft in Pushkar, there will be someone who has one of the best artworks in neon colour. Inside a small room sits Shaitan Singh who is always in his own world of inspiration even while talking to you.
When I was in school, I had no teacher who taught painting. I always used to disturb my father that I need a painting teacher, but he always used to say, Why do you need one? This question was always punched on my face, one day I replied because I want to become a painter. There was a silent vacuum between me and my father for 5 mins. and then he laughed. He laughed so much that his tears came out. I ran away that day, with a strong will to prove my father wrong. I never asked for any teacher or money, so I worked to get money for my painting equipment. I used to paint day in day out on my terrace, while others used to laugh at me. In my life I have painted almost 1000 pictures of Shiva, he was my inspiration whenever I got lost. I used to practice so much that sometimes I used to forget about eating anything.
Then one day I opened this shop in Pushkar, I especially chose this place because of this small room. This confined space makes me want to push its boundaries even more, and break out for more inspiration. I have taught this to my son, who turns out to be not as good as I thought he will. But he is trying his best. I don’t use a mobile phone like you people. Sometimes when I get bored I do drama, in every dussehra, I am the Ravan.
Thus Rawat Singh Ji pushed the boundaries of his small village to become what he is now. He complained about the less income he generates, but in the end, he was satisfied with his work. His dad sadly passed away, but when I asked him who were you more scared of, your dad or your mom? He pointed on his right, there sitting an old lady with only 10-12 teeth on her mouth, smiling and looking at his son. She was his mother.
He gave me a tip that whenever you will step away from the sheep line, there will be dogs who don’t want you to go away. But you always fight them for your glory, your freedom.
Do meet me at Pushkar Mela, where I give a performance of Tandav.
A place with lots of bubbles, all of them has their own color, different shapes, and unique pattern of movement. Some born in the 21st century, some died in ancient times, and some are still living in the holy pages. These bubbles always roam around in the streets of Pushkar, and every evening they come to Pushkar lake on their Ghats.
Then they whisper out loud!