Day Trip to Ajmer and Pushkar/ Part 1: Khwaja Gharib Nawaz Dargah

Trip to Ajmer was undoubtedly the highlight of my second trip to Rajasthan. In fact, our rather hasty Jodhpur-Jaisalmer trip was planned under this motivation of visiting Ajmer Sharif. I don't know how much one should believe in the power of supernatural but I do believe that no trip to any holy shrine is ever possible unless the residing divine themselves give you the 'pull'. So I reckon Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti might have wanted us to pay him a visit.

The distance from Jodhpur to Ajmer is roughly 200 kilometers and takes about four hours by bus. Tickets are available online. The RSRTC buses are quite comfortable and clean and extremely punctual. We had no plans to stay overnight in Ajmer so we were in a hurry right from the moment we reached Ajmer. Confusion began to creep up regarding the timing of Dargah as every single auto driver was trying to convince us to be our tour guide. However, we ended up hiring a car for for our Ajmer-Pushkar day trip. First stop, Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, or popularly known as the famous Ajmer Sharif Dargah.

I first came to know about Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti from my father. He had gone on a month long trip to Rajasthan when I was very little and I would often hear him mentioning the name of the Persian Sufi mystic with utmost reverence. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti belonged from the Chishtiya order of Sunni mysticism. He was born in ancient Persia but ended up settling in India following a Mongol military uprising in the central Asian region during the early thirteenth century. He was a prominent figure among the Sufi preachers who believed in worshipping the God through art of music and poetry. He was also famous for his compassionate and tolerant attitude towards other religions; a virtue that is very rare nowadays. Sufism believes in compassionate co-existence of all religions and it emphasizes on understanding the mystery of life and beyond through philosophical approach rather than religious atrocities. I once read somewhere that the scholars often surmise that history of Islam would have been very different had it taken the path of Sufism. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti died in 1236 and his tomb became a holy pilgrimage site eventually. Many Muslim as well as Hindu rulers remained its patron throughout the history including Mughal king Akbar. Even today the tomb is believed to hold miraculous power. If you pray to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti with pure intent he will grant your wishes.

However, visiting Ajmer Sharif itself is a huge task which has nothing to do with its geographical location but with its demography. The whole area is one big pandemonium thanks to the crazy street vendors selling offering items, beggars who won't stop stalking you, and a whole lot of shady people who might mug you if you are not careful with your belongings. Not to mention the people living or running business in the area most definitely do not believe in the motto of 'cleanliness is next to godliness' etc. And everyone was trying to mooch off us in some way or other. In the end I was terrified of looking at anyone around me in order to avoid being asked for alms.

Things to remember while visiting Ajmer:

Try to keep Ajmer at the beginning of your itinerary as it takes the most effort. Ajmer is completely different from the rest of Rajasthan. It's almost like an island where you won't find much of usual Rajsathan, except the communal harmony. Try to keep that in mind while visiting.

Photography is strictly prohibited inside the dargah premises. Pilgrims of both genders must keep their head fully covered. 

Ajmer Sharif is a holy shrine of utmost religious as well as historical importance so try not to do anything atrocious to hurt anyone's religious sentiment.

Be very very careful of your belongings. The entire place is always reeling under utter chaos especially near the dargah gate and the chances of getting mugged is very high if not careful.

It's one of those religious places where the commercial aspect dominates the spiritual one. The vendors will quote ridiculously high price for offerings. Haggle hard. The self-appointed guides inside the dargah will ask for money too. Be careful before donating anything. Only donate to the khadims (?) sitting right outside the shrine room; they will give you printed receipt.

Stay the EFF away from the beggars. ANY beggar. They will follow you around everywhere and won't stop nagging even after you give them some money. In fact, they will ask for more money and more beggars will join the crowd thinking you are a soft target. Shoo them away without showing any mercy. They are all professional beggars. Some beggars dip themselves in dirt and roll across the street which would induce repulsion in any normal human being. There's no wonder I did not see any foreigner in Ajmer, while Pushkar was full of them. This is that part of India they don't wish to explore, apparently.

Do not even think about eating at any of the restaurants in the vicinity as just looking at those food will give you hepatitis and diarrhea. 

To sum up..

In the end one might wonder if it was worth all the trouble. And my answer would be, HELL YES. It was worth all the trouble indeed. Despite the mortifying part, for me visiting Ajmer Sharif is the experience of a lifetime and I am lucky to be a pilgrim to the final resting place of the great saint; whose philosophy of life is something we need to follow so badly more than ever.

(to be continued)