Ajmer - aura of sanctity
135 km W of Jaipur
Go there for :
Dargah Sharif, Monuments
42°-48°C (Sum/daytime); 15°-4°C (Win)
When to Go:
Oct - Mar
STD Code :
+ 91 - 145
The sprawling sands at this once quiet city in Rajasthan, has
registered many footsteps ever since the peer (saint) Khwaja Moinuddin
Chishti first stepped here and laid the cornerstone of Sufism in India. So
revered is this place that both Hindu and Muslims pilgrims make a beeline
with dreamy and sometimes tearful eyes, and lift their hands up in unison
wishing and thanking the lord.
Tale of the City
A 7th century discovery of Raja Ajay Pal Chauhan, Ajmer became a a
major center of the Chauhan power till Prithviraj Chauhan lost it to
Mohammed Ghauri. Ever since, Ajmer has been the home of many dynasties that
rose and fell, and the city passed on to another, and in the process left
behind imprints of different culture and traditions, making it an amalgam of
Hinduism and Sufism - and an exemplary one at that.
Dargah Ajmer Sharif:
Started by Akbar and completed by
Humayun, it embodies Sufi tradition founded in India by Khwaja Moinuddin
Chishti who reached Ajmer in 1190 AD. Intricate metal carvings, confluence
of rich colors, heaped rose petals, satin drapes laced with dazzling
zardozi, melodious Sufi chants and more than eager khadims (attendants) is
what the tomb (dargah) has turned to due to its phenomenal popularity as a
pilgrimage site amongst the adherents of Islam. Its massive gateway donated
by Nizam of Hyderabad, a mosque in signature white by Shah Jehan, Akbar's
Masjid, dome of the saint are grandeurs that await the eyes. Tradition has
it that if your wish comes true, you must return to the dargah to offer your
thanks. And if you are lucky to bump into a Qawwali (Sufi singing)
gathering, your trip will take on a euphoric plane altogether.
Now this one is not exactly a tourist destination, but
writing about Ajmer, Mayo College just cannot be skipped over. A British
establishment of the 19th century, it was to educate the princes on the
lines of an English Public School. A co-education now, studying in a
palatial building that exudes an aura of a different age must be an
experience of a kind. With special permits, we can get a student tour you
Now here is an Indo-Islamic architectural
marvel completed in 2 ½ days (Adhai-din). It was originally a Sanskrit
college, which was converted into a mosque by Qutubuddin Aibak. Forty
columns support the roof but no two are alike. Be it to admire its
magnifience of a different kind, even in its dilapidated state or the
intricate Islamic calligraphy - this one is something you should not miss.
Check out the Taragarh Fort, built by Ajaipal Chauhan, perched on a hilltop
just 3 km away.
Akbar's Palace and Museum:
Akbar's pilgrimages to the Dargah got
this palatial resthouse built. Today the interiors have been befittingly
turned into a reservoir of Mughal and Rajasthani articles on display. Note
that it here that emperor Jehangir read out the firman for trade between
India and British East India Company, thereby paving the way for India's
colonization by the British.
Nasiyan (Red) Temple (or Soni Ji Ki Nasiyan):
red-dyed Digambar Jain temple has interesting gold plated wooden figures
from Jain mythology. The glass mosaic, precious stones, gold and silver work
make it a feast to the eyes. It is open daily (8:30 am-4:30 pm).
During Id, Muharram, Urs (the death anniversary of the
Khwaja), Ramadan Ajmer turns into a pulsating beehive of pilgrims. It is
recommended to check out the timings and avoid visiting during these
festivals. But you can tune in to the Pushkar Mela during November a few
miles away from Ajmer.
Ajmer is famous for atar (perfume) squeezed out of rose petals. And
this dates back to the age of Emperor Jehangir who patronized its use. As
for the other knick-knacks, you can stuff your bags with some exquisite
jootis or mojaris (sandals), silver and gold jewelery, tie-n-dye fabrics,
block printed textiles (Rajasthani bandhni) especially , embroidered
And if you have landed there during Urs (the death anniversary of the
Khwaja), you can have some good buys as the local artisans congregate near
the Dargah to sell their wares.
The Shopping arcades are Puraa Bazaar (upmarket items), Kaisarganj Purani
Mandi, Madar Gate and Nala Bazaar.
Ajmer doesn't seemingly have any particular taste of cuisines
endemic to itself. Its kitchens are a confluence of Rajasthani, Mughlai,
Indian food, while the restaurants have a splash of Continental, Italian,
Chinese and Kosher to tango the menu. Try the ethnic Rajasthani
dal-batti-choorma and ghewar (a sweet khoya delight).
Head for Sheesh Mahal (a swanky eatery at Mansingh Hotel), Bhola (at Agra
Gate), Honey Dew (Station Road), Jai Hind (Station Road), Tandoor Restaurant
(Jaipur Road) for some scrumptious delicacies.
(11 km): A renowned Hindu pilgrimage destination,
an interesting legend and the famed Fair makes it what it is - famous.
Brahma, one of the Gods of the Hindu triology, was cursed by his consort
Savitri that he would not be worshiped by those on earth, except at Pushkar.
And hence the Brahma temples here. Come November and the annual cattle fair
(Pushkar mela) makes it a swarming joint. Don't come back without a holy dip
at the beautiful Pushkar lake. Another legend to it is that the 14th century
Sanskrit poet and playwright chose this setting for his masterpiece
Abhigyanam Shakuntalam. Banking it is the majestic Man Mahal, palace of Raja
Man Singh of Amer, presently an RTDC tourist bungalow. The Pushkar palace
Kishangarh House, is today a luxurious heritage resort.
Chhatra Sagar, Nimaj
(100 km): Go there for some eye-warming sight
of exotic birds around a more exotic lake (about 100 year old). And imagine
the excitement if you can actually lodge right at the bank of that panoramic
lake. October to March is the best period to head for this exotica.
Hop next to: Jaipur
(135 km), Jodhpur