Deep in the midst of the Indian mountains, next to a forgotten lake, with the peaceful sounds of silence, is the small spiritual town of Pushkar. Within the northern state of Rajasthan, in the Ajmer district, this paradise will leave you speechless. The temples, the locals and the hashish – these are all beautiful ingredients that make Pushkar a hippies dream. But what really makes this place what it is? A few years ago I stumbled across this ideal location with a few friends and I honestly have never been anywhere better. Chillems, cookable ketamine, special lassis, were all available and were the icing on the already spectacular cake. This is Pushkar.
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The Word ‘Hippy’
The word hippy has been misused on many occasions, and it can sometimes leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. So I’d like to define what I mean first before I continue. The 60s was the real defining moment for hippy culture, when people used the name to stand for anti-establishment movements. These included civil rights, women’s rights and anti-war protests. It was a name that people wore with pride. Hippies were all about acceptance and a love for all cultures on the planet. This is what eventually led to the hippie trail; a car voyage around the entire world. However, then came the inevitable re-possession of the word by the media and the government, which tried to re-define it. For them, ‘hippy’ meant: lazy, dangerous, drug-obsessed. Nixon’s war on drugs would do anything to demonize those who had any opposing thoughts to the establishment. John Ehrlichman, former domestic policy chief for Nixon, said in a CNN article:
“You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities… We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
This is literal proof of how and why the term hippy went from being about love, free-spirit and togetherness, to becoming associated with negativity. The power of the media is undoubtable.
What Is A Hippy Paradise?
Everyone has their own version of paradise. For some, they want partying and late nights. For others, they want tranquil sounds and early morning wake ups. And some people like hiking up steep mountains and riding bikes down dirt tracks. For me, it’s somewhere in between. A hippy paradise is a place that accepts, loves and welcomes diversity and difference. In addition, this often comes with an acceptance for various recreational substances, rather than an instant and narrow-minded dismissal.
Ultimately, a hippy paradise welcomes everything that the hippy culture did and does stand for. That is why Pushkar is one of those places. Perhaps also it has something to do with the fact that India was actually one of the last stops on the hippie trail – a journey that started in London. At the beginning of airplane travel, when the cost of flights were excessive, groups of young people would buy a VW van and set out to travel the world by car. It was journeys like this that led to the creation of the Lonely Planet travel guides. Open Skies Magazine writes:
“They would traverse Europe, the Middle East and Asia, spending months travelling across 11,000 miles of terrain in order to find whatever it was they sought. Some yearned to escape the drudgery of their dead-end jobs in Luton or Liverpool or London, heading to Varanasi in India”
So why does Pushkar deserve to be described as a hippy paradise? Let’s look deep into this beautiful place, and find out.
Pushkar is in the northern part of India, in the state of Rajasthan. It is about 150km away from Japiur, which is one of the key stops in the golden triangle travel route. It is in fact one of the oldest cities in India, supposedly around 2000 years old. It is one of the five sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindu devotees. Usually the population of Pushkar sits at around 15,000 people but, during its world famous camel fair, it can bump up to 500,000. Although I never experienced it myself, the camel fair was spoken about a lot.
“The Pushkar Camel Fair starts with buying and selling of camels & horses and by day 5 the mood starts to change towards celebration… one can enjoy the Camel Race, tribal dance to gypsy music, moustache competition and my favourite, the tug of war competition. The last day of the fair is pretty calm as all the local farmers and performers gather on the Pushkar Lake for a holy bath which is an ancient ritual which has been continued for around 2000 years.”
The essence of this celebration is community, and that is what is prioritised in Pushkar. It is a place that will trigger a culture shock in you, simply because of the peace and tranquillity. The lake that the entire village surrounds is incredibly holy, and was supposedly made by Lord Brahma – the creator of the universe. He dropped a lotus from his hand and onto the earth and the lake was formed. As you can see, Pushkar is full of history and spirituality. But what’s it like to visit as a tourist?
The reason why I would label this place as a hippy paradise is because it hits the perfect balance between peace, minimalism and fun. The hostels we stayed at were full of hammocks, interesting people from all over the world, and easily accessible drugs. We enjoyed hashish, we cooked some ketamine and we enjoyed special lassis. My favourite hostel was appropriately called ‘Pineapple Express’ and it had some incredibly charming and kind people working there.
Each night they would pass around a bong and hang a bed sheet from a clothing line and project a film onto it. I remember watching Titanic stoned out of my mind. I also remember watching Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas after a special lassi and really tripping out. To be honest, the special lassis they served were very potent and could knock me out for 12 hours sometimes. Still, what better place to be high? Another evening my friend found a bottle of ketamax at the local pharmacy, which was easily bought, and decided to cook it on a spoon. We then sniffed it and was happy to realise that it felt just like usual ketamine.
The Aloo Baba
In Pushkar, there is also a very special man called the Aloo Baba, or some called him the potato man. This was a highly spiritual, wise-looking guy who would sit in his temple home and do nothing but meditate and eat potatoes. We were told, early on, to go and make him a visit. Also – we were told it was custom to bring hashish with us. So we bought some from the hostel and brought it along. Elephant Pushkar writes:
“Aloo Baba is an elderly Indian man with a long grey beard and wise looking eyes. He is quite popular in the town being a local expert on simplicity, control, and healthy living. But what intrigues people the most is the fact that for 45 years, Baba has only eaten potatoes. Few of the curious souls have asked him the reason for this, to which he replied that he wanted to take back the ownership of his own life. Whenever he falls ill, he only uses plants and natural medicines to treat himself and drinks only chai and water.”
He was an incredibly inspiring person to sit and share hash with. He told me many things. One was to stop eating meat, which worked until the monotonous and relentless life of London somehow brought me back to eating meat soon after I returned. But he was and is someone I will never forget. I remember looking into his bedroom and seeing nothing but his bed, some religious books, and a pile of potatoes. That was all his life needed to be.
I could go on and on about why Pushkar deserves to be described as a hippy paradise but, really, you need to go and try it out for yourself. The world has many hidden corners and delightful passages that allow you to experience peace and acceptance, it’s just about finding those places. Pushkar is definitely one of these locations.
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