About 135 kms South-west of Jaipur
lies Ajmer, the most sacred of all
Muslim places of pilgrimage in India.The strategic position
of this city has been the key to its long, and rather
turbulent history. Ajmer is connected
to Delhi, Agra, Ahmedabad, Abu, Jodhpur, Udaipur and
Jaipur, by main highways. It was a key centre of Chauhan
power, along with the twin capital of Delhi. However,
with Prithviraj Chauhan's defeat at the hands of Sultan
Mohammed Ghori (1193), Ajmer was rendered vulnerable
to many an invasion and gory battles.
Ajmer has been, for time immemorial,
a great centre of pilgrimage, for both
Hindus and Muslims, a feature that gives the city its
character. The city is a genuine amalgam of rich Hindu
and Islamic heritage. The sacred lake
of Pushkar believed by Hindus, to be as old
as the temple of Brahma, has been a place of pilgrimage,
for ages. The great Sufi saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din-Chisti
of Persia, was buried here, and his Dargah
is equally sacred for the followers of Islam,
as well as Hinduism.
November-February is the best time to visit
Ajmer was founded by Ajayadeva, an 11th-century
local Rajput ruler. It was shortly annexed by Delhi
Sultanate in 1193, but returned to the local rulers,
upon payment of tribute. Ajmer was also sacked by Mohammed
Ghori in one of the many raids carried out by him on
India. Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, the patron
Saint of Ajmer, came here from Persia at the end of
the 12th century. Ajmer became the part of the mighty
Mughal Empire during the medieval period and was an
important military center. Military campaigns against
local Rajput rulers were initiated from Ajmer. Akbar
built a fort here. The first contact between the Mughals
and the British also happened in Ajmer, when Jahangir
met Sir Thomas Roe in 1616. Shahjahan built marble pavilions
around the Ana Sagar Lake in the 17th century. The Scindia
rulers of Gwalior took over Ajmer, which was later taken
over by the British in 1818. The British founded the
famous Mayo College, a prestigious school here, in 1875.
This artificial lake was created in the 12th century
by damming the River Luni. On its bank is a pleasant
park, the Dault Bagh, containing a series of marble
pavilions erected in 1637 by Shah Jahan. It's popular
for an evening stroll. The lake tends to dry up if the
monsoon is poor, so the city's water supply is taken
from Foy Sagar, three km further up the valley. There
are fine views from the hill beside the Dault Bagh.
The final resting place for 'Gharib-Nawaz'-
people of all religions visit the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin
Chishti. The Khwaja left for heavenly abode in 1256
AD after a six day prayer in seclusion. These six days
are celebrated every year as the annual Urs, which is
attended by pilgrims irrespective of their faith.
shrine is considered to be a place of wish fulfillment
for those who pray with devout and pure hearts. It is
said that Emperor Akbar sought blessings for his son
at the Dargah.
entry to the Dargah is through the Buland Darwaza that
leads to the inner courtyard. The high gateway has beautifully
carved silver doors. In the courtyard are kept two huge
cauldrons with capacity of 2240 Kg and 4480 Kg. On special
occasions, Kheer cooked in these cauldrons is distributed
among the pilgrims. The grave of the Sufi Saint is surrounded
by a silver railing and is partially covered with a
marble screen. The daughter of Shah Jahan had built
a prayer room in the Dargah for the women devotees.
The premises of the Dargah also has the tomb of Bhishti,
tomb of Saint's daughter-Bili Hafiz Jama, tomb of Shah
Jahan's daughter Chimni Begum
Beyond the Dargah, on the very outskirts of
town, are the ruins of the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra mosque.
According to legend, its construction, in 1153, took
2 1/2 days, as its name indicates. Other say it was
named after a festival lasting 2 1/2 days. It was originally
built as a Sanskrit College, but in 1198 Mohammed of
Ghori seized Ajmer and converted the building into a
mosque by adding a seven-arched wall in front of the
pillared hall. Three km and a steep 1 1/2-hour climb
beyond the mosque, the Taragarh, or Star Fort, commands
a superb view over the city.
Back in the city, not far from the GPO, this
imposing building was constructed by Akbar in 1570 and
today houses the Ajmer Museum, which is really not worth
the bother. It's open daily except Friday from 10 am
to 4.30 pm.
The Red Temple on Prithviraj Marg is a Jain
temple built last century and is definitely worth checking
out. Its double-storey hall contains a fascinating series
of large, gilt wooden figures from Jain mythology which
depict the Jain concept of the ancient world. A sign
in the temple warns that 'Smoking and Chewing of beetles
27km from Ajmer, the small town of Kishangarh was founded
by Kishan Singh in the early 17th century. Kishangarh
is famous for its unique style of miniature painting,
first produced in the 18th century.
Pushkar is a mellow, serene and bewitching little town
which attracts those in search of some respite from
the tumult of India. In fact, many travellers who come
here linger on for days, weeks, even years longer than
they anticipated. Pushkar is right on the edge of the
desert and is only 11km from Ajmer but separated from
it by Nag Pahar, the Snake Mountain.
Temperature is very high during summers and very low
during winters. Ajmer has a typical desert type of extreme
climate. The best season to visit this place is between
October to March.
to Get There
Air: Jaipur (132 km) is the nearest airport.
Rail: Regular train services connect
Ajmer with important cities. Pink City, Chetak and Shatabdi
Express, are the best trains for tourists from Delhi
Road: A dense network of bus services
operates from Ajmer to key destinations around.
Languages : Hindi and Urdu
Where To Stay
Ajmer is a city of few hotels. Most of the
available accommodation is cheap, but there are very
few quality hotels. It is difficult to get good accommodation
at the time of the Urs festival, when this small city
is flooded by a large number of pilgrims.