Ajmer is a bustling, unplanned and chaotic city. The kind of city an ambitious urban planner would take up as a challenge to show what proper planning could achieve if implemented.Yet we are not going to discuss the flaws, but rather its charms. Yes, despite the chaos, Ajmer has its own special charm.
The Dargah Ajmer Sharif holds everyone’s attention in this historic city, but there are some more gems hidden here
By Nishka Rathi
Yet we are not going to discuss the flaws, but rather its charms. Yes, despite the chaos, Ajmer has its own special charm.
For many travellers the chaos holds a certain charm like the couple I met once when I travelled to Agra they loved Agra’s unplanned hustle. It was very different from their place. Where were they from, I enquired and got ‘Bruges’ as a reply. I was dumbstruck. Bruges in Belgium is distinguished by its canals,cobbled streets and medieval buildings, it was a far cry from the heat and dust of Agra and they had fallen in love with it.
Ajmer holds a special place in the heart of everyone who has ever visited it. Be it for the Dargah, the tranquil lake of Ana Sagar, the history or the high voltage chaos that exists due to its old heritage and new manufacturing centre status – Ajmer will always stand out in your memory.
The Dargah is the reason most of us have heard of Ajmer. After all this is the place almost every filmstar worth his opening collection has visited before the launch of a new movie.
The Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is one of India’s most important Muslim pilgrimage centres. The Khwaja founded India’s prime Sufi order; plus the Dargah is also a superb example of early Muslim architecture. He was also known as Gharib Nawaz, or ‘benefactor of the poor’.
For ardent worshippers and believers the Khwaja’s saintly spirit still resides in the Dargah. As a friend who recently visited the Dargah said: “You feel his blessings and love there.”
Every story behind the Dargah is just as steeped in belief. Like the one about the great Mughal Emperor Akbar; he had every earthly desire, yet his heart desired only one thing – an heir to his throne. Looking for hope he offered prayers for an heir and his prayers were answered.
It’s this belief that has transcended ages and even now brings everyone from the common man to stars to pay homage to the great saint.
Tip: My friend visited during the holy month of Ramzan and said it was quite deserted but during the Urs, which is held in honour of the death anniversary of the saint, this mosque swarms with lakhs of pilgrims from all over the world.
The history of Ajmer seems unending and doesn’t stop at the Dargah. Ajmer was also the capital of Prithviraj Chauhan. He had twin capitals in Ajmer and Delhi during the latter half of the 12th century.
Ajmer is also a significant centre for Jains and possesses an amazing golden Jain temple. The Nasiyan temple is dedicated to Lord Rishabhdev, first of the 24 Tirthankars. It is revered by the Digambar sect of Jains. The construction of this architectural gem started in 1864.
It is also known as ‘Red Temple’ as it is built of red sand stone. The most amazing part of this temple is the Svarna Nagri or City of Gold. Usually, in many Jain temples one sees painted or figurative representations of the ‘five auspicious events’ (Pancha-Kalyanak) in the life of every
Tirthankara: conception, birth, renunciation, enlightenment and salvation (moksha or nirvana). The one here is special as it shows the Kalyanakas of Lord Rishabhdev as models. The whole model is covered with gold leaf and is contained in a specially designed golden hall. Only when you see it do you realise the hidden gems in Ajmer are more spectacular than any you have ever seen.
For history lovers and seekers of ‘something different’ Ajmer has a lot to offer. There is another find, the city fort-cum-museum. It was once the residence of Prince Salīm, the son of emperor Akbar, and presently houses a collection of Mughal and Rajput armour and sculpture.
The building is dilapidated, but a magnificent example of Mughal architecture. India’s long story of bondage under the British started here, as this is the place from where Salim, as emperor Jahangir, read out the ‘firman’ permitting the British East India Company to trade with India.
A city with a heart
Ajmer as a city has lots to offer history seekers and urban travellers in search of a different experience, but living here is another matter. It is a manufacturing centre and so is prone to many of the problems faced by such hubs – there is chaos, congestion and many cheek by jowl houses. It’s a small town with a big heart.
A recent newspaper article stated that Ajmer presents a perfect example of harmonious living of Sunni and Shia sects in the Indian subcontinent. It quoted Muslim clerics saying that the city has never witnessed any violence between members of the two sects and that it is the oldest colony of Shia and Sunni Muslims living for the past 800 years.
Ajmer has many things to offer to people: hope, blessings, a sense of history and a feeling of harmony.