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Sacred lake and pilgrimage temple of Brahma

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Ajmer, India.

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The description of pilgrimage places in India's great epic, the Mahabharata, suggests a grand tour of the entire country. The pilgrimage begins in Pushkar, sacred to the god Brahma, and rambles through the subcontinent to end in Prayaga (modern day Allahabad). As shown by the position of Pushkar as the starting point of the pilgrimage, the worship of Brahma was considered highly important at the end of the first millennium BC. In historical times the cult of Brahma has been eclipsed by other deities. Pushkar is now the only pilgrimage shrine dedicated to Brahma in all of India and less pilgrims visit the shrine, relative to the great numbers at such celebrated sites as Varanasi, Tirupati, Chidambaram and Rameshvaram. It has been suggested that this waning of importance may be attributed to the fact that the function of Brahma - creating the world - has been completed, while Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer) still have relevance to the continuing order of the universe.

Mythological literature describes Brahma as having sprung from a lotus originating in the navel of Vishnu. Brahma then becomes the source of creation, the seed from which issues space, time and causation. He is the inventor of theatrical art, and music and dance were revealed by him. He is sometimes depicted with four heads representing the four Vedas and the four Yugas (great epochs of time), other times as Visvakarma, the divine architect of the universe. His wife Saraswati was manifested out of him and from their union were born all the creatures of the world. Saraswati’s name means 'the flowing one'. In the Rig Veda she represents a river deity and is connected with fertility and purification. She is considered the personification of all knowledge - arts, sciences, crafts and skills. She is the goddess of the creative impulse, the source of music, beauty and eloquence. Artists, writers and other individuals involved in creative endeavors have for millennia come on pilgrimage to Pushkar to request the inspiration of Brahma and Saraswati. According to the theory that shrine myths are often metaphorical expressions of the specific power of a pilgrimage place, the lake, hill and area of Pushkar have a spirit or presence that awakens and stimulates the human capacity of creativity.

There are five principal temples in Pushkar, all of relatively recent construction since the earlier buildings were destroyed by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the late 17th century. Numerous bathing areas, known as ghats, surround the lake and pilgrims immerse themselves in the holy waters for a cleansing of both body and soul. During most of the year Pushkar is a quiet town. Each November however, over 200,000 people arrive with 50,000 cattle for several days of pilgrimage, horse dealing, camel racing and colorful festivities.

More about Pushkar from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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