Friday, January 30, 2009

The Sufi Capital Wrapped In The Barren Hills Of The Aravallis

I packed my bags to the Ajmer city, nestled in the base of Aravali mountain ranges. The historic city was established by the great king of the Chauhan dynasty, Ajaipal Chauhan in the 7th century. On arriving Ajmer, I was surprised to see the true secular nature of India that is enlivened in the life and history of this great city. This renowned pilgrim centre showcases a perfect blend of Hindu culture with Sufi traditions.

Ajmer was flanked by majestic mountains on all sides. I booked a room in Hotel Mansingh Palace. The most lively attractions of the city are the religious songs and Quawwalis, which can be heard at every street, especially at the holy Dargahs. I visited the Dargh of Ajmer Sharif at night, the most famous pilgrim center in the city, dedicated to the great Sufi saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti. Religious convocations, called 'mehfils' were organized in the mehfil khana, a voluminous hall meant for this purpose. A few local people told me that the dargah hosts Urs Fair annually in the month of November/December. The fair is dedicated to Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti and is organized on the death anniversary of the great Sufi Saint. Qawwalis (musical extravaganza) and Mushairaas (evening of poetic verses) are the main attractions of the fair.

On my second day in Ajmer, I visited the Nasiyan Jain temple located on the Prithvi Raj Marg. Dedicated to the first Jain Tirthankara Rishabdeoji, it is also known as the Red Temple. The small museum inside the temple was simply outstanding in terms of the rarest collection of the items and objects related to Jain beliefs and mythology. As Ajmer's speciality deals with religion, so one can find the market more inclined towards religious artifacts, including metalware in the form of pitchers and urns. Same kind of items were available in 'Sapnon Ka Bazaar' (Market of Dreams). I also made a visit to the Sarveshwar Kala Mandir and bought a few samples of Rajasthani miniature paintings (on silk paper/cotton with a single squirrel hair brush, brass and wood). I spent the whole day in visiting places like Adhai-Din Ka Jhonpra (an old mosque built in 2.5 days only), the picturesque Ana Sagar Lake, etc.
Another best part was a ride in a rickshaw to the famous Halwai-ki-Gali, where I had my favourite Biryani (rice preparation), kachories and samosas with spicy, flavoured 'kadhi' (cooked yoghurt), and sweet-syrupy 'jalebies' and 'malpuas'.
Ajmer is a well known shopper's paradise. I personally bought various Antiques, Ornaments, Gold and silver jewelry in contemporary designs, Bandhini (colorful tie-and-dye Saris), Embroidered Jodhpuri Jutis (footwear), Ittra (a special form of local perfume), Kishangarh miniature paintings, and wood crafted products. I also came to know that Ajaymeru Udyog Crafts Mela and Pushkar Fair are the grans occasions when one can buy typical Rajasthani items of home decor items, silver souvenirs, bangles, hand embroidered cloth bags, leather belts, woodcrafts, etc. The entire city was bestowed with the natural beauty and religious values.