Suddenly there is a scream.
A traveler says something; rather shouts standing on a concrete platform on the edge of the lake. Totally animated and full of emotions. He points his hand repeatedly to a stick.
All I can hear is “But why; why did you point that stick to me”. Holding the stick and with a couple of tin boxes placed on the platform is a local vendor. There is a heated argument between the two. Local vendor tries to explain and foreign tourist with dreadlocks is clearly enraged.
Priests, hawkers and and a couple of other local people intervene. They reason out and most importantly they try and separate the two.
It is a very pleasant otherwise on a hot summer evening at Pushkar. I had just swam in the ‘healing lake’ and my friends are still in the water. The water is dark green from the moss but clean otherwise. We are at one of the main ghats – the official bathing area. Lake, small bathing ponds by the side, temples and ghats, all well organized to accommodate pilgrims. This is off season which meant very few tourists and hence place is pretty empty.
My attention shifts back to the dread-locked tourist. He is walking away from the platform where the argument had started. But he still telling something to the people who intervened. Just when I think it is all over and he is going to away away up the steps of the ghat, he picks up something from the pile of construction waste.
My god!. It is a big plank of wood!!
“You, come Now; see I also have a stick. You think you can point stick at me. I will show you how it feels”
He is not the one to let go easily
The locals do not allow him to come close. “ok, ok, peace peace” they want him to cool down and go.
The vendor is explaining in the other corner to someone. He seem confused with magnitude of reaction. He is saying something about purpose of stick in his hand being mis-understood.
I try to put together pieces. Vendor must have warned the tourist about being on edge of the platform or having shoes on but having stick in his hand meant aggression to the traveler. Just one incident saying a lot about childhood, surroundings and the experiences the tourist has lived through in life.
The tourist now going around the ghat for he is not allowed to come on the steps with the shoes on. The big wooden plank is intact in his hand. Is he afraid or is he angry or perhaps both; I wonder.
A few minutes later, I see him farther, towards another side of the temple. His body language shows he is ready to walk to the vendor from the other side. He is still raising the plank and inviting the vendor for a fight. He goes on and on.
There are no locals on that side to stop him. For a moment I worry and wonder if they would get into physical fight. Vendor is also watching him for a while. Then he lifts gathers his two metal boxes and with stick still in his hand he walks. He has to pass the very same path tourist is walking on.
But this time, vendor does not seem interested. He slowly walks and I see tourist turning back and checking on him couple of times still murmuring something. However, as if nothing happened vendor ignores completely walks and walks past the foreign tourist and takes the path to the town. The tension in the air disappeared just like that.
While I tried to grasp what just happened; the lake told me this mythological story about Pushkar:
Once upon a time there was a demon called Vajra Nasha (The Diamond Destroyer). He lived in the vicinity of current day Pushkar. He was a brutal king who troubled the mortals and devas (gods) alike. As it always happens, the rivers dried, forests destroyed, humans and animals suffered a great deal in his kingdom. When grandmothers told story to young ones; they took name of Vajra Nasha to scare them. They told jokingly “he did killing for living”. But one could see there is an element of truth in it. If it is just the sentinel beings or angels suffering, no one might have thought much about him up there. We all have habit of getting used to the brutality of rulers especially when there is no choice. But Vajra Nasha was a direct threat to the gods and godliness.
Hence his name came up when all three supreme gods, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva met together. As we know Vishnu has been making too many trips down here to earth and destroying violent rulers. Even Shiva has been down here recently. Hence this time around, they decided it is for Brahma the creator to deal with Vajra Nasha. Not that Vajra Nasha had any great tricky boons which gave him immortality or something. But he was growing powerful day by day. Much of the area around his kingdom (present day Rajasthan) had become desert; such was fire of his anger and violence.
Vajra Nasha, came to know about the meeting of supreme gods through his sources. He was a bit disappointed as he was hoping Vishnu will come and wanted to take revenge for all the previous tricky defeats and war crimes towards his ancestors. Nevertheless, he boiled even more. Gathered all his rage on the designated day and roaring he waited for Brahma to come with his might. No tricking around this time, he was going to crush Brahma or whoever peeked out of clouds once for all.
But; What did he see at the peak of his rage ? He saw a white swan descending from the sky with a lotus flower in its beak. White swan ? Symbol of peace ? Gods must be crazy. He looked on with disbelief as swan came to him with a message of peace and blessing.
It is said that Vajra Nasha was so at the edge, energy boiling ready to explode that this sudden appearance of swan and lotus transformed him completely. The rage, the anger and the violent ignorant self died in that very moment.
So unique was the moment that a single petal of lotus which fell into the ground created a serene lake. Because the lotus was meant to heal Vijra Nasha of his ignorance, even today they say pilgrims who bathe in the lake get healed.
When the healing lake of Pushkar finished its story, the temple bell was ringing; perhaps evening pooja (worship) is happening. I could not help but to remember how Angulimala was transformed from being brutal murderer to a monk in a single interaction with Buddha. Wind was cool and pleasant. My friends were already out of the lake and were ready. I was somewhere in the half-dream, half-awake world trying to internalize the stories that happened somewhere in mythology and today right in front of my eyes. We all walked together, slowly climbing the steps and through the temple gates back into the world we know.