Friday, September 12, 2008

Ajmer: A Flower in the Desert

It's known for the Dargah of Moinuddin Chisti and the Mayo College. One, a place of worship and the other a place of learning but both occupying equal importance in Ajmer's scheme of things. Located in the state of Rajasthan, Ajmer lies 130 km southwest of Jaipur. It is flanked by the Ana Sagar Lake on one side and barren hills of the Aravali range on the other side.

Situated in the heart of Rajasthan desert, Ajmer is a mix of Sufi culture and Hindu religion. A coveted and strategic place for the Rajputs, the Mughals and the Marathas, Ajmer was the seat of administration for the Chauhans till Prithviraj was defeated in 1193 A.D by Mohammad Ghori. It then became a part of the Delhi Sultanate. However, Rana Kumbha of Mewar and Raja Maldeo again established Rajput rule over Ajmer.

Ajmer is often referred to as the City of the Khwaja since it is home to the popular 13th century Sufi saint Hazrat Moinuddin Hasan Chisti. Millions of devotees throng the city to attend his death anniversary every year or what is also known as the annual Urs.

Getting there
Ajmer is well connected by rail and road. State transport buses are available from all over Rajasthan and also Delhi. The nearest airport is Jaipur. However, it is advisable to plan your trip well in advance especially during the Urs.

What to See

The tomb of the great Sufi saint is revered by both Hindus and Muslims and a must see. Built at the foot of a hill through the old town, it attracts most pilgrims during the month of Ramzan (Ramadan). The main entrance to the dargah is through Dargah Bazaar which is a lane crowded with tiny shops selling religious trinkets.

Ana Sagar

This man-made lake lies at the centre of the city and was created by making a dam over River Luni. However, the lake shrinks in size every summer as Ajmer faces an acute shortage of water. Along its bank is the lovely Daulat Bagh built by Emperor Shah Jahan.

Near the outskirts of the city, stands the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra Mosque built in 1153 by Mohammed Ghori. Its name literally translates as the Mosque of Two-and-a-half Days. There are many stories about how the mosque got its name. According to one, it was built in 2 Ѕ days flat, while another suggests that it was named after a festival that lasted for 2 Ѕ days.

Just 11 km away from Ajmer, Pushkar is considered by Hindus to be one of the most sacred places in India and has, perhaps, the only existing temple in Asia, dedicated to Lord Brahma. Life in the city is very much related to the Pushkar Lake. Mythology says that this ancient lake was formed when a lotus flower fell in the valley, from the hands Brahma. 52 bathing ghats surround the lake. These ghats have special powers e.g. Naga Kund for fertility, Roop Tirth for beauty and Kapil Vyapi kund for curing Leprosy.

The famous Pushkar fair or camel fair is held every year on Kartik purnima. Folk dancers and musicians add traditional colour to the city giving it a new lease of life.

If you are planning to visit this holy place, be warned that temperatures can soar in summers and dip in winters. Thus the best time to visit this pilgrim place is between October and March when the weather is pleasant and this flower in the desert is in full bloom.

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