The picture of Rajasthan, a state famous for its forts, cuisine, desert, havelis, camels, traditional and colourful turbans, is rightly painted for foreign tourists to lure them to the state. It is culturally and traditionally a part of North India. In fact, to the naked eye looking at the map, the state does seem to be a part of the North. However, the ground reality is that the princely state is a part of India’s western region along with Gujarat and Maharashtra.
You can always take yourself back in time and visit the state from the national capital of New Delhi, as well as Gujarat via buses and trains. Professionals and students residing in proximity to the state can always drop by to explore the magical state over the weekends. There is one reason apart from leisure tourism which attracts visitors from North India as well as neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan to the state all year round. Yes, those familiar with the subject will know that the place at the centre of all this is Ajmer – a major pilgrimage centre – for many people all over the nation cutting across religious lines.
What to See?
Undoubtedly, the prime attraction of Ajmer is the mausoleum of Khwaja Moin-ud-Deen Chishti, the famous 12th Century Sufi saint who settled down in the region and spread Islam mainly through Sufism (Islamic mysticism). He was born in Chisht in Heart, modern-day Afghanistan. He acquired his learning from leading seminaries of Samarkand and Bukhara in modern day Uzbekistan. He is said to have proceeded to the city after Prophet Muhammad appeared in his dream and asked him to do so. He gained great respect among local inhabitants for his deeds and worked a great deal to promote understandings and dialogue between Hindus and Muslims. He died in March 15, 1236. The saint is credited with the title of Gharib Nawaz. It is for his dargah that most people flock to the city.
Another important place of worship is the Nasiyan Temple, which is noted for an adjacent two-storey hall with its big wooden figures from Jain mythology plated with gold. The hall has a nice eye-catching display of gold, silver and precious stone work. Pushkar temple at a distance of 11 km from the city is an important pilgrimage centre for Hindus. A dip into the temple’s lake is said to ensure salvation for those who seek it. Legend has it that Lord Brahma performed a miracle here.
Some other places which are worth visiting are Taragarh Fort, Ana Sagar Lake, Foy Sagar Lake, Adhai-Din-Ka-Jhonpda, Daulat Khana, Daulat Bagh, Akbar’s Palace, Shah Jahan Masjid and Mayo College.
You can go shopping around the city looking for handicrafts, especially silver jewellery and household items made of marble. Attar or traditional Muslim perfumery made from rose petals is a must buy. It is said that Emperor Jahangir advocated its usage during his time.
What to Eat
The city does not have any cuisine unique to itself, but some of the dishes which are worth a try are the Rajasthani, Mughlai, Indian food available at various restaurants. Those inclined for a more traditional taste can go for dal-batti-choorma and ghewar (an ethnic sweet dish).
You can take a ride in the semi-arid landscape of the region via the state-run buses which transport travelers and tourists to and from the capital Jaipur. Regular private bus services from major Indian cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Surat and others are also an option. Bus types include both A/C Volvo and non-A/C, whose tickets are readily available at ticketgoose.com.
Being a destination quite popular among domestic as well as foreign tourists, Ajmer has a lot of luxurious and extremely comfortable lodgings and hotels. Among such places are Payal Hotel (tariff – Rs. 1,200 onwards), RTDC Khadim Hotel (tariff – Rs. 1,200 onwards), Jannat Hotel (tariff – Rs. 1,600 onwards), Mansingh Palace Hotel (tariff – Rs. 3,400 onwards), Ambassador Hotel (tariff – Rs. 3,000 onwards) and others. The more affordable and cheap options are Wonder View Palace Hotel (tariff – Rs. 1,000 onwards), North Star Hotel (tariff – Rs. 1,000 onwards), Mewar Haveli (tariff – Rs. 1,000 onwards), Hotel Udai Palace (tariff – Rs. 950 onwards) among others.
The most important event in the city is the annual Urs ceremony, marking the death anniversary of Khwaja Moin-ud-deen Chishti. It is held in the 7th month of the Islamic calendar (lunar) every year. Pilgrims comprising both Hindus and Muslims flock to the site for this event. The colourful Pushkar Festival in the nearby Pushkar is another attraction, held in October-November every year. Other important festivals celebrated include Holi in March, Hanuman Jayanti, Dusshera in September-October, Diwali in November and the two Eid(s).
A visit to the city will help you experience the true India with its beautiful mix of cuisine, festivals and most important of all, the unique exemplary communal harmony. A tour of Ajmer is really spiritual? Visit on your own to discover.