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Location : Ajmer in Rajasthan, India.
Significance : Tomb of Muin-ud-Din Chishti
Dedicated to : Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, a venerated Sufi Saint
When To Go : During the Urs Festival

Ajmer-E-Sharief Dargah - Ajmer

Ajmer Sharief - Mecca of South Asia

The dust of your doorstep
is just the right thing to apply,
If Surmah does not show
its beauty in the eye!
- Amir Khusrau

This is the faith at Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan. Amir Khusrau, the great Persian poet beautifully portrays his devotion while playing an enthralling crossword with his words. He quotes that surmah or kohl powder cannot embellish one's eyes, but my Lord, the dust of your doorstep has the efficacy to garnish, even a nescient soul.

Ajmer's closest association is with the Dargah Sharif, the catacomb of the eminent Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, whose disciples included the Mughal emperors and who would claim cliques of all creed from every corner of the country. The favored Sufi capital is in the shadow of the Aravallis in central Rajasthan, around 3 hours drive from Jaipur, the capital city. The unbiased ambiance of the Dargah, which calls devotees from every caste, creed and sect, actually rejuvenates one's spirit and fills one's heart with eternal bliss. Since the 13th century, this shrine, richly adorned with silver and gold ornamentation, has enjoyed a huge following and the Urs, or death anniversary, of the saint is observed with huge fanfare.

The Hallowed Dargah - Major Pilgrimage Destination in Rajasthan

Entering the precincts of the shrine is like entering another world. The clamor of the street falls away under an enormous marble gateway built by emperor Shahjahan. There are hundreds of people within, but a harmony of soft whisperings and prayer muffles the air. As you enter the Dargah, have a look at the two pulchritudinous gateways, Buland Durwaza, which were built by Sultan Ghyasuddin Khilji of Mandoo. Akbar was the first Mogul emperor to visit the Dargah on foot, when Ajmer came under his possession. He built the Akbari Masjid in the Dargah in 1571 A.D. which is a voluminous, red sandstone mosque, situated at the right side of the main entrance. The entrance is decorated with gold and enamel work, as well as Belgian crystal chandeliers , which hung from the apex inside the shrine. Clocks are another regular feature of mosques and Sufi tombs--in part to help the faithful keep track of prayer times.

In the center of the compound lies the actual mazaar, or grave, bustling with the prayers of the devotees. It is this shrine that is the main attraction of Ajmer Dargah. Around it is a golden railing donated by emperor Jahangir and the crown at the apex is made up of solid gold. Inside, the hush deepens, despite a crush of people. The jeweled mazaar, covered with gold cloth, is protected by silver railings and a great dome above. Pilgrims stand outside the outer railing, and the khadims (hereditary shrine keepers) move in the space in between. The heaps of rose petals give off an incredibly strong scent that fills the room, adding to the atmosphere. The walls are paneled with velvet curtains, including one from Mecca.

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The Faith That Brings Fruit

The accretions are not merely material; faith is also a quality in the ambiance. Faith seems to thicken and reshape at this place of worship, the way that agglomerations around sand create pearls in oysters. By looking at the devotion of the crowd, you are forced to wonder about this small, body-sized patch of earth guiding the faith of millions. You will be fascinated about this Persian man, orphaned at 16 and heir to an orchard and a windmill, who chose to become a hermit just by a chance encounter with a dervish. His arrival and popularity in Prithviraj Chauhan's Ajmer in 1190, aged 52, ruffled feathers in the court; but the force of his spiritual presence won over his antagonists. Pilgrims from every pockets of the Indian Subcontinent cluster in the Dargah Sharief, also known as the second Mecca of south-east Asia, to ask for favors. They put forward their grieve and sorrows, with the impeccable credulity that, the saint is still conscious and attentive, and can confer blessings upon people, by acting as a channel for God's grace.

The Blessed Food

Devotee  at  Ajmer-E-Sharief Dargah
Devotee at Ajmer-E-Sharief Dargah

A spellbinding ritual is the looting of kheer (milk pudding) which is cooked in two cumbrous cauldrons called degs, donated by Akbar and Jahangir to feed the poor. Each day, the khadim cook a gruel of barley and salt for the hungry. At the cost of Rs 800, the simple larder feeds two thousand people, twice a day. The iron degs with a capacity of 120 and 60 maunds respectively, are reached by a set of steps. During the Urs, the khadim put on boots and leap into the hot cauldrons to decant food out from the bottom. Every time the money thrown into the empty vessels amounts to Rs 40,000 or more, a Tabarruk (blessed food) is cooked and distributed to the devotees.

The Urs Festival

The Urs festival begins on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), in May, portraying the six day seclusion, followed by the demise of the great Sufi saint Hazart Khawaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisty. Energized by the hoisting of a white flag with gaiety, on the Dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of Chistis, the tomb, richly adorned with gold and silver ornamentation, is then washed with rose water and sandalwood paste in the early morning. The last day is marked by the opening of the Jannati Darwaza, a gateway to heaven that should be crossed 7 times to obtain eternal salvation. A must see quantum of the fair is the mushaira or poetic recitation. Poets from all pockets of India gather wholeheartedly to recite compositions dedicated to Khwaja. People also gather in religious convocations which include singing of Qawwali songs by devotees. It is this festival that makes this pilgrimge centre a major attraction in India.

Apt Tips

This famous Ajmer Chisti pilgrimage is located at the confluence of three bazaars. There are a number of restaurants around the Dargah where tourists can choose from a variety of dishes most of which are non-vegetarian delicacies. Prefer not to take a car into the bazaar unless you enjoy executing a 74-point turn on a five-foot-wide lane with oncoming traffic beeping apologetically. Besides, this is a pilgrimage: even Akbar walked, all the way from Agra and his ardent son, Jahangir, did the last few miles of the journey on foot. Members of all caste, creed and sect have access to the shrine. It is mandatory to remove the shoes, before entering through the main gate. Within the premises, the head of the devotee should be covered at all times.

The Dargah Destination

Ajmer is well connected to all major cities of Rajasthan. Private and State owned buses ply regularly through this route. You can also book your tickets for a tourist video coach. Besides, during the Urs festival, special buses from RTDC cruise to Ajmer and back from various destinations all over the country. Hire a bicycle or a tonga (horse drawn carriages) to reach the Dargah.

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Top 5 Reasons To Visit Ajmer Dargah

Dargah - Ajmer Sharif

The Hallowed Dargah of Khwaja
Visit the famous Ajmer Sharif Dargah in India, the tomb of Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chisti, a venerated Sufi saint. The sacred shrine is considered, today, a second Mecca for the Muslims of South Asia where the unbiased atmosphere fills one's heart with eternal bliss

The Most Adored Shrine
The famous Pilgrimage of Chishti at Ajmer Sharief has always been the most visited Muslim pilgrimage in India. And why only Muslim, the sacred destination is heavily visited by devotees from all caste, creed and sect. See the stately marble gateway at the entrance built by emperor Shahjahan and the Akbari Masjid built by Emperor Akbar.

Get Some Blessings
Take the blessed food distributed inside the Dargah. There are two huge cauldrones, gifted by the Mughals, which are used to prepare the holy food. Every time the money thrown into the empty vessels amounts to Rs 40,000 or more, a Tabarruk (blessed food) is cooked and distributed to the devotees

Singing Devotion
Attend a Qawwali, and you cannot resist again to come to famous Dargah Sharif. In the evenings, the hall echoes with the resonance of the Holy name of the Khwaja, sung in euphonic tunes until the tone reaches acme and you, to the summit of devotion.

See The Faith And Believe It
Be a part of the religious Islam congregation, the Urs Festival, held during the month of July/August. It instigates with the hoisting of a white flag with great pomp and show, on the Dargah apex. Feel the ethereal ambiance of the holy Dargah, rich with the fragrance of rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense sticks.

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