Ajmer may not be as well known the world over as other palace cities of Rajasthan this city steeped in history and culture and the site of many a battle is worth a definite visit.
Ajmer was found in 7th century AD by Ajay Pal Chauhan and remained with the Chauhans until it was lost by Prithviraj Chauhan to the invading Mohammed Ghauri in 1193 AD. Though it was lost to the Mughal emperor who established the sultanate in Delhi the internal government continued to be handled by the Chauhan dynasty by way of payment of a heavy tribute until 1365 when it was captured by the ruler of Mewar. It changed hands many times after that as the Mewars, Marwars, the Mughals and the Marathas fought for control of Ajmer. The British got control of Ajmer in 1818 and peace reigned thereafter.
There exist a number of tourist attractions in this city located on the banks of an artificial lake called the Ana Sagar which was formed by the damming of the Luni River. It is the main source of water supply to the city. On the banks of the river are the parks of Daulat Bagh and Subash Bagh. They have marble pavilions built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and are the chosen site for residents of the city for a recreational walk. There are other recreational activities available on the lake such as boating and water scooters.
Perhaps the most famous attraction of Ajmer is the Dargah of ‘Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chisti’. Also known as ‘Khwaja Gharib Nawaz’ and ‘Hind al vali’ or protector of the people of Hind (India) and also ‘the Madina of India’. The Dargah is located at the base of a dry and deserted hill and houses the tomb of the Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti a preacher from Persia who came to India in 1192. He is the founder of the Chistia order and the Sufi faith which has great appeal to both Hindus and Muslims. Sufism is an amalgamation of both the Islam and Hinduism and has incorporation of music as a result one hears qawwals exponents of the art of singing known as qwawwali within the walls of the Dargah.
Muslims throng to the shrine during the festivals of Eid and Muharam as well as the festival of Urs which occurs in the seventh month of the lunar calendar and commemorates the death anniversary of the saint. A fair is held during Urs. The Dargah is surrounded by a noisy and bustling bazaar filled with small shops selling ‘phoolon ka chadar’ literally meaning a sheet of flowers used as an offering in the shrine. These stalls also sell skull caps, prayer mats, beads and also trays which can be customized for you to offer in the shrine. One is also constantly propositioned by guides who offer their services for a tour of the Dargah. The norm is to bargain for their services which can be procured for a couple of hundred rupees. The mausoleum has an imposing gate at the entrance which was built by the Nizam of Hyderabad and on entering the Dargah one sees two iron cauldrons into which one must put the offerings , they are called ‘Chotti Degh’ and ‘Badi Degh’ due to the difference in their sizes. These are maintained by the Khadims or the families responsible for the upkeep of the Dargah.
The Mughal ruler Humayun completed the tomb while Emperor Akbar was a regular visitor to the Dargah once a year and Shahjahan constructed a mosque within the Dargah. It is a marble mosque with eleven arches and Persian script inscribed on the walls and exquisite trellis work. The tomb of the Khwaja is in the second courtyard and is surrounded by a silver platform. In the winter months the gates of the Dargah open at 5am and are closed at 9pm while in the summer months the gates open at 4am and are shut at 10pm.
Yet another attraction of Ajmer beyond the Dargah is the Adhai Din ka Jhonpra. Orginally a Sanskrit college built within a temple it was converted into a mosque by conquering mughal ruler Mohamed Ghauri in 1193 by adding a seven arched hall in 2.5 days hence the name Adhai Din meaning two and a half days.
Taragarh fort( Star Fort) is a steep climb away from the Adhai Din ka Jhonpra it was built by Ajay Pal Chauhan and was the center of much military activity until it became a sanatorium under British Rule. The view of the city from the fort is spectacular.
The center of the city is the Railway Station and here there are rail links which connect the city of Ajmer to Delhi, Jaipur and Ahemdabad. On Station road near the General Post office is Akbar’s Palace built in 1570 which served as an abode of his son Prince Salim and is now a Ajmer museum called Magazine with displays of old weapons, miniature paintings and rock inscriptions.
Ajmer is also the setting for one of India’s most prestigious and renowned public school. The Mayo College called the ‘Eaton of India’ established in 1870 and situated on Prithviraj Road.
Yet another attraction of Ajmer is the Nasiyan Temple a Jain temple of the Digambar Sect which was built in 1865. It also known as the ‘Golden Temple’ as it has gold and silver inscriptions of the Jain faith.
Ajmer is often used as a stop over by international travelers en route to the famous town of Pushkar which is located 11km Northwest from Ajmer at the edge of the desert and close to the border of India and Pakistan .Pushkar has many legends associated with its creation one of which is that Lord Brahma was in search of a tranquil spot to perform a yagna when a lotus flower fell from his hand and Lake Pushkar was formed at the edge of the desert. Yet another Legend tells the story of the fight between Lord Brahma and the demon Vajra Nabha who had killed Lord Brahma’s children, the lord then used the lotus flower as a weapon to fell the demon and one of the petals fell in the valley and formed Lake Pushkar. Both the Ramayana and Mahabharata allude to the existence of the lake at the edge of the desert. Kalidas, the poet makes a mention of Pushkar in his Abhigyan Shakuntalam.
Pushkar has amongst its environs many temples but the most famous amongst these is the temple dedicated to Lord Brahma and built in the 14 century. It is the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma in the world. It is a site for pilgrimage during Kartik Purnima when it is believed that worship at the temple and a dip in the lake Pushkar will help one achieve salvation. The Brahma Temple is located on a high plinth with marble steps and has and has a silver turtle located near the inner sanctum around the turtle the marble floor is embedded with silver coins on which are inscribed names of donors. Other surviving temples in Pushkar are the Savitri Temple which is situated at a height and from which one can look down at the lake, the Saraswati Temple dedicated to Brahma’s consort ,the Mahadeva temple and the Ramavaikunth temple built in the 1920s and an exponent of rajput,mughal and south Indian architecture with its gopuram. Most of the temples in Pushkar were destroyed by the intolerant ruler Aurangzeb.
Pushkar is perhaps widely known for its fair held in October – November and it is a great attraction for foreign tourists who are accommodated in luxurious tented accommodations the prices of which sky rocket during the fair. There are camel races as well as trading of bulls, cows, camels and other cattle during the fair. The songs and dances native to Rajasthan are preformed at night to entertain the foreign visitors with the ‘ghumar’ being danced by the women attired in their finery consisting of heavy silver jewelry, colorful veils called odhnis and the multi hued lehengas(skirts) . At this time there are markets set up selling clothes, handmade goods, old coins and medals, silver jewelry amongst other products local to the region. These products find favor with the visitors who want to go home with memories of this vibrant and rich culture.
Foy Sagar is a picturesque artificial lake located in Pushkar named after the engineer who constructed it . Located on the banks of the Pushkar lake is the Man Mahal, the former abode of the Raja Man Singh of Amer and now a hotel catering to the needs of tourists. Krishnagarh or Pushkar Palace is a heritage hotel located close by.
Since Pushkar is such a holy location the restaurants catering to the tourists and the local population are strictly vegetarian some of the restaurants in Pushkar are RS restaurant which has delicious cheap thalis , many other restaurants serve continental vegetarian fare as well Krishna Restaurant on Temple road, Om Siva restaurant opposite the State Bank of Jaipur and Bikaner, Raju’s Garden Restaurant, Moondance restaurant and Rainbow restaurant are some of the restaurants in Pushkar which cater to the tastes of foreign visitors.
One can get to Pushkar from Ajmer by taking a bus from Gandhi Bhawan which is located near the Ajmer Railway Station and from where buses going to Pushkar leave every 15 minutes. The tourist office is located at Hotel Khadim near the railway station.
How does one get to Ajmer?
The closest city is Jaipur 132 kms away and is served by most of the domestic airlines.
Rail links: Shatabdi Express between Ajmer and Delhi is one of the fastest ways to get to Ajmer, Gujrat Mail, Jodhpur Mail are other major rail links linking Ajmer to different parts of the country.
Intra–City: Tempos, rickshaws, auto rickshaws and horse drawn tongas are all modes of transport but Ajmer can be easily accessed on foot as most of the attractions are close by save for Pushkar.
Shopping: Vibrant and noisy bazaars sell tie dye sarees called ‘Leheria’ peculiar to this region, embroidered and embellished slippers called ‘jootis,’ multihued veils called ‘odhnis,’ antiques such as old coins and medals, hand crafted silver jewelry , the Lehenga ( skirt and shirt typical of the region) and the turban called safa a 9 metre hand dyed piece of cloth which is wrapped round ones head.
Hotels: Hotel Regency, Hotel Embassy, Hotel Mansigh on the banks of the Ana Sagar, Hotel Bholla is yet another hotel in Ajmer.
Eating: Hotel Bhola is known for its vegetarian thalis, Honeydew restaurant on Station road serves continental fare, Jai Hind restaurant started by sindhi refugees is famous for its breakfast buffet. Mansigh Palace Hotel serves pricey international fare.
Hospitals: J.L.Nehru Hospital
Tourist Reception Centre: RTDC Hotel Khadim, Savitri College Road., Guides may be hired through the Tourist reception center.
Money Changers: These are available at most hotels as well as banks such as the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur on Station Road.
Summer: 45 degrees C (113 F) 25 degrees (77F)
Winter: 18 degrees C (64 F) 4 degrees (39F)
Summer Clothing : Light colored cotton
Winter Clothing: Woolen
Languages spoken: Rajasthani, Hindi, Urdu, Sindhi, English
Best Time to Visit: October - November