Pushkar is one of the five dhams or sacred places that are highly revered by Hindus and the four other dhams are Puri, Badrinath, Dwarka, and Rameswaram. It is believed that in a war, Lord Brahma had slained Vajra Nabh, the demon, with a lotus flower, whose petals drifted down to earth and were spread in three areas in and around Pushkar where lakes were created. Following the legends, it is said that the Pushkar Lake was bounded by 52 palaces and 500 temples.
The history of Pushkar Festival mentions that all the 330 million gods and goddesses of Hindu religion come to Pushkar Lake on the day of Poornima (full moon night) and sanctify the pious. As a result, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims congregate for a holy bath at the Pushkar Lake to wash out their misdeeds and show respect to the sole Brahma Mandir on the globe. A dip in the lake on this day implies washing away the sins. The water of the lake is believed to have healing properties.
This holy site has been mentioned in the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata as the Adi Tiratha.
In Ramayana, another popular Hindu epic, Pushkar has been cited where it was mentioned that Rishi Vishvamitra carried out a tapasya in this place. In addition, Menaka, an apsara from the heaven, visited Pushkar to take a dip in its holy waters.
Pushkar was cited in Mahabharata, the 2000 year old epic of India as the oldest religious hub in India. According to the Mahabharata, before planning a program for the travel of Maharaja Yudhishthara, “Maharaja after entering the Jungles of Sind and crossing the small rivers on the way should bathe in Pushkara”.
In the Vaman Purana, it was mentioned that Prahlada on his way to visit the holy places, also came down to Pushkarayana.
Alberuni, the famous Islamic scholar of the 11th century depicted Pushkar as a site of tremendous respect fo the followers of Hindu religion.
History of Pushkar Festival not solely lies in the Hindu scriptures, Pushkar itself is one of the five holy cities mentioned in the Hindu scriptures. The most remarkable thing about Pushkar is that the land houses one of the only two temples dedicated to Lord Brahma in India. Apart from that the city also has nearly 400 temples.
Similar to any other religious hub in Rajasthan, Pushkar also features a captivating history. For example, Fa-Hien cited Pushkar in his chronicles in the 4th century A.D.
It is believed that Pushkar is the birthplace of Parasara, the sage. His successors, known as Parasara Brahmanas, are seen in the city and the bordering places. They have been looking after the renowned temple of Jeenmata for the past ten centuries. This may be the place where Pushkarana Brahamanas came from.
Nahadarava, a Pratihara monarch of Mandore, renovated this tirthasthan in the seventh century. He took the initiative of cleaning the area and beautified the lake by creating a mound on the banks of the Luni River. Nahadarava reconstructed ancient forts and constructed ghats and 12 dharamshalas (resting places) on the three corners of the lake.
A cattle fair is held in conjunction with the holy festival. Hundreds of shops sell camels, horses, bulls, cows and much more. This is an ideal example of how the religious faith and commercial interest of the human society come together. In this way Pushkar fair embodies the true spirit of India.
The fair today has taken a gigantic proportion so much so that the otherwise tiny village seems to burst at seams with population during the peak period of the festival. Besides the religious rituals, trading these is one of the most important activities in Pushkar Festival, which has lent it a certain socio-economic importance.