The Pious city of Ajmer is situated at a distance of 135km in the southwest of the Jaipur, capital city of the state of Rajasthan. Ajmer is one of the most sacred pilgrimages of Muslims in India. The city has been home to numerous empires, and thus it has ineradicable marks of these culture and the traditions of these dynasties. The most interesting feature of Ajmer is that it has a beautiful amalgamation of Islam and Hinduism and people from all religions hold a special affection with the culture of Ajmer.
We visited Ajmer from Indore in July last year for a 2 days trip with the family. The major purpose was to visit the Dargah and also the temples in Ajmer and nearby Pushkar.
The city is mainly famous as it holds the renowned tomb of the Great Sufi saint-Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti also known as ‘Dargah Shareif’ or ‘Ajmer Shareif’. This tomb is a place of religious importance both for the Hindus and the Muslims.
Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti Sahib came to Ajmer city from Persia back in 1192 AD. He was the founder of the Sufi Chishtiya order in India. This shrine holds utmost importance next to Mecca for the South Asian Muslims. Emperor Akbar had a special faith in the shrine and he used to make pilgrimage to Dargah from his palace in Agra every year.
Most people visit Ajmer in the month of April – May during the ‘Urs’ Festival which is held to commemorate Saint Moinuddin Chisti’s death anniversary. Thousands of people from across India and South East Asia visit during the festival as the Jannati Darwaza (the gate to heaven) opens during the 7 days festival.
Ajmer is located at a diastance of about 530kms from Indore through road. Indor is connected via rail and raod routes to Ajmer but there are no direct flights. There are regular trains and buses from Indore to Ajmer & both take about 10 hours' time.
Indore- Ujjain- Nagda- Dhodhar- Mandsaur- Neemuch- Chittorgarh- Bhilwara- Nasirabad- Ajmer
The route has ample eating joints, petrol pumps and rest stations on the way. It becomes particularly scenic as we enter Rajasthan where the Marwari traditions and culture starts becoming apparent.
We took a train from Indore which we boarded at around 6:30pm and we reached Ajmer at 5am the next morning.
There are multiple accommodation options in Ajmer including the luxurious hotels and the budget guest houses and hotels. Since post people come to Ajmer to visit the shrine hence the maximum number of low budget guest houses is located in the Dargah Bazaar or the main market area itself.
We stayed at a guest house just behind the Dargah gate number 4. The facilities were good and we had a very comfortable stay there. The early morning darshan at the Dargah was highly serene experience. We offered a ‘Chadar’ to the shrine and spent some time in the Dargah. It was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life.
One of the major reason why the devotees visit the Dargah during the Urs celebrations is to have the food that is cooked in the enormous cauldrons there called the ‘Degs”. The larger one is about 10 feet in diameter. Built by Emperor Akbar, this Deg gets a lot of offerings from devotees in the form of grains, jewelry, money and others. All this is used to cook a huge meal in the evening.
After the Dargah visit, we had a lot of free time and we decided to visit the nearby attractions in the city.
There are many places to explore in the city including ‘Adhai Din Ka Jhopra’ which is nearby the Dargah. There is also the popular Nasiyan Jain Temple called as “Soniji ki Nasiyan” which is frequented by Jain devotees from all over India. The Taragarh Fort is a major attraction as it is on a hill and provides a brilliant view of the whole city. This fort is now in ruins and previously used to be a site for the military activities in the Mughal period. The fort was later converted into a British sanatorium.
There is also a Palace and museum of Emperor Akbar in Ajmer. This used to be the royal residence of the famous Emperor Akbar. The museum now holds the Rajput and Mughal armors, beautiful sculptures of that period.
The Ana Sagar Lake was calm and peaceful spot where we relaxed in the evening and the park nearby had many families sitting and having snacks.
The second day of our trip was reserved for Pushkar, a town situated in the Ajmer district itself and is located at a distance of about 11kms from the Ajmer city. It is one of the 5 major sacred pilgrimages for Hindus. One of the most popular events in Pushkar is the Pushkar Fair that is held in the Kartik months of October/November. There are a lot of activities including camel trades in the fair during which camels are decorated and there are competitions held.
The site has in recent years also become popular with the foreign tourists and thus there are major street markets set up in the town for foreigners.
One of the major attractions of Pushkar is the Brahma Temple which is the only Temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the country. There is also the Brahma Sarovar which is right opposite the temple and it is mandatory to take a dip in the picturesque lake, before praying in the temple.
The Pushkar Lake has been one of the most sacred spot for Hindu devotees. It is believed that taking a dip in the lake in the month of Kartik (October /November) helps in seeking blessings from Lord Brahma. Thus devotees visit the lake in large numbers at this time.
The trip was a wholesome experience for me. Whether it was the offering of prayers at the magnificent Dargah of Ajmer or taking a holy dip in the Pushkar Lake and then praying in the beautiful Brahma temple, all these practices evoked my interest in religions and traditions. The amalgamation of both the religions made the secular India come alive for me. I left the sacred city feeling blessed and spiritually awake.