Situated in the green oasis, wrapped in the barren hills, Ajmer has been a witness to an interesting past. Today, Ajmer is a popular pilgrimage center, for the Hindus, as well as Muslims. Especially famous is the Dargah Sharif – tomb of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, which is equally revered by the Hindus and Muslims. It is essentially a perfect base to visit nearby Pushkar. Ajmer also has a legacy of excellent educational institutions, started by the British.
The city was founded by Raja Ajai Pal Chauhan, in the 7th Century A.D. and continued to be a major center of the Chauhan power, till Prithviraj Chauhan, lost it to Mohammed Ghauri. Born in Afghanistan, Moinuddin Chisti visited Ajmer and breathed his last here. The houses of Mewar, Malwa and Jodhpur, each ruled for a time, until Akbar annexed it and made the tomb a place of pilgrimage. Since then, Ajmer became home to many dynasties, which came and left, leaving behind indelible marks of their culture and traditions on the history of the city, converting it to an amalgam of various cultures and a blend of Hinduism and Islam. After the Mughals, Ajmer returned to the House of Jodhpur and later the Marathas, till the British annexed it and brought it under their direct rule.
Ajmer was home to many dynasties, which came and left leaving behind indelible marks of their culture and traditions on the history of the city, converting it, to an amalgam of various cultures and a blend of Hinduism and Islam. It is a popular pilgrimage center for the Hindus as well as Muslims. It is also the base for visiting Pushkar, the adobe of Lord Brahma. A sacred spot for Hindus, during the month of Kartik (Oct/Nov), devotees throng in large numbers here, to take a dip in the sacred Pushkar Lake.
The city serves varied cuisines (Rajasthani, Mughlai, Indian, Continental, Italian, Chinese and Kosher). However, while the efforts are certainly praiseworthy, the flavours don’t come near the authentic ones. So, if you are a food connoisseur, then you would most probably go hungry in Ajmer. Ethnic food-freaks could get a decent dal-batti-choorma at some of the local eateries. Can’t vouch on the purity of ghee though! The only hotel offering decent food is the Mansingh Hotel and even that just passes muster. Being a Muslim-dominated city one would expect some dishy kebabs. However, no such luck. Some small shack-type places do offer tandoori stuff but the authentic khana eludes the palate. Those who like to snack are in for a treat as the shops lining the lane to the Ajmer Sharief Dargah serve a mean snack washed down with a jumbo tumbler of fresh juice. Just a tip: Don’t look while the juice is being made, it makes it easier to drink. Mithai is great in Ajmer, especially the ghevar (khoya delight) and you should definitely carry a box back with you.
Not exactly a shoppers’ paradise yet you get silver jewellery, jootis, trinkets, beads and tie ‘n’ dye in this mosque-city. Try the area around the Dargah for knick-knacks and the main markets around the railway station or in the city centre for the signature Rajasthani bandhni designs.
The Urs is initiated with the hoisting of a white flag on the dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of Chishtis. It is done on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), with the accompaniment of music. On the last day of the sixth month, the ‘Jannati-Darwaza’ (gateway of heaven) is flung open early in the morning. People cross this gate seven times with the belief that they will be assured a place in heaven. On the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and sandalwood paste and anointed with perfumes. This ritual is called ‘ghusal’. The tomb is then covered with an embroidered silk cloth by the Sajjada Nashin.
At night, religious assemblies called ‘mehfils’ are held in the ‘mehfil khana’, a large hall meant for this purpose. These are presided over by the Sajjada Nashin of the dargah.
Qawwalis are sung and the hall is packed to capacity. There are separate places reserved for women who attend the ‘mehfil’. The ‘mehfil’ terminates late in the night with a ‘fatiha’, which is a mass prayer for the eternal peace of the Khwaja in particular and mankind in general. An interesting ritual is the looting of ‘kheer’ (milk- pudding), which is cooked in two large cauldrons called ‘degs’ and distributed to the devotees as ‘tabarruk’ (blessed food).
On the 6th of Rajab, after the usual ‘mehfil’ and the sound of cracker-bursts accompanied by music; the Sajjada Nashin performs the ghusal of the tomb. Fatiha and Salamti are read. A poetic recitation called ‘mushaira’ is arranged in which poets of all communities arrive to recite compositions dedicated to the Khwaja. The Qul (end-all) on the 6th of Rajab marks the end of the Urs.
Is in eastern Rajasthan and 135 km from Jaipur in the southwest direction. It is easily accessible from major cities like Bikaner (233 km) and Kota (201 km).
How to Reach
The nearest airport is Jaipur, 135 km/ 2½ hrs away. Indian Airlines and Jet Air offer links with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Udaipur. Sahara connects to Goa, while Alliance flies to both Jodhpur and Ahmedabad.
Ajmer has excellent rail links, being located on the Delhi-Jaipur-Marwar-Ahmedabad-Mumbai line. Connected to Delhi by the Shatabdi Express that operates services all week long except Sundays. Railway Station: In the city centre, near the Dargah.
Jaipur to Ajmer by road (Europcar, Hertz and Avis have outlets in Jaipur, alternately hire a private taxi) takes about 2½ hrs. Ajmer is well linked by road to Rajasthan as well as other major cities in the country with an excellent network of state and private-run buses. Bus Stand: Near Hotel Khadim (RTDC). Rajasthan State Transport Corporation (RSTC) operates buses from Ajmer to many places in Rajasthan like Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bundi, Bharatpur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer. The bus service to Pushkar is very frequent.
Summers are blistering with temperatures rising as high as 42°-48°C and dipping at night to 25°-27°C. Winters are chilly with the temperature ranging between 15°C and 4°C. Being in the desert, you can expect pleasant early mornings and cool evenings with very hot in-betweens!
Dargah Khwaja Sahib
Revered by all the sects, the landmark of Ajmer, the Dargah Khwaja Sahib, is one of the holiest Muslim shrines in the country. Millions of pilgrims within the country and abroad come here to pay homage at the shrine. The Dargah is the final resting place of the great Sufi saint – Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti – the Bestowed of Boons. Built in the early 13th century, it attracts millions from all the sects and religions, during the six-day celebration of the Urs or death anniversary of Khwaja. Large drums and brass cauldrons brought by Akbar, after the siege of Chittaurgarh as war trophies form the objects of antiquarian interest. The tomb is richly adorned with gold and silver.
Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra
Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra or the two and a half day shed, is a relic of an old mosque consisting of a quadrangle cloistered on all the four sides, having on the inside, a front screen wall of seven pointed arches. It is believed that Shahabuddin Mohammad Ghori ordered that the mosque be made ready for his prayer within two and a half days. It is one of the finest and the largest specimen of the early Muslim mosque that now exists.
An alluring artificial lake, it was built in the 12th century and named after Anaji Chauhan. The huge embankment erected with the peoples help, is a fine example of the corporate life in Ajmer at that time.
Established in 1875 for the ruling elite, it was named after Lord Mayo, the then Governor General of India. Today, one of the premier educational institution of India, it has a museum, displaying historical objects of interest and biological preservation
The Tara-Sobhita-Garh fort, which is star adorned, overhangs the city like a star. Earlier known as Ajaya-Meru-Durg, it covers an area of 2 to 3 km on the top of the hill. It has some important gates, which made the access to the fort very difficult.
ABDULLAH KHANS TOMB – This white tomb, of the later Mughal period, stands majestically, in the center of the city near the railway station. Abdullah Khan was the father of Husein Ali Khan. AJAIPAL OR AJIPALJI – A scenic spot 6 kms south of Foy Sagar, King Ajaypal, believed to be the founder of Ajmer, became a sanyasi and retired to this place after a long reign. ANDED KI MATA – The temple of Anded ki Mata in the beautiful surroundings, is the site of a fair, held every year on Rakshabandhan in August. Close to Anded ki Mata,