The most important of all Muslim pilgrimage centers in India, the dargah of Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti at Ajmer Sharif is revered by people of all faiths. It is situated 135 km from Jaipur and is renowned for fulfilling the wishes of the followers. Apart from the devout Muslims, people of other religions throng the holy dargah and pray for the fulfillment of their desires. The devotees also offer flowers, velvet cloth, perfume (non-alcoholic) and sandalwood at the shrine.
Hazrat Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti was the founder of Islam in India. He was one of the greatest preachers in the world. The revered prophet undertook to propagate Islam in India by the most peaceful means and with great forbearance. When Khwaja arrived, the Muslim community in India was not as large as it is now. The Khwaja, by his noble teaching, touched the hearts of everyone who came his way.
The dargah is the tomb of the sublime Sufi saint who came to Ajmer from Persia and died in 1236. It was built by emperor Humayun. Later, rulers like Shahjahan, Jahangir and Akbar also constructed mosques here.
Rituals and Ceremonies
Upon arriving at the shrine, one has to make the entry from the Dargah Bazaar. This would lead to the first courtyard. There is a mosque built by Emperor Akbar in this courtyard. There are also present two cauldrons or degs, where donations could be made. All these donations would later go to the needy. Khwaja's tomb is in the second courtyard. Positioned in the center, it is situated in the second court. The tomb is a domed marble chamber, surrounded by silver railings.
Devotees visit Ajmer Sharif to be blessed by the Khwaja. When their prayers are answered, their wishes fulfilled, they come again to offer the promised gilaf (velvet cloth), ittar (perfume), etc. Besides these offerings, they also recite the holy Qur'an, nafal namaz, milad and aayat-e-karima and khatam khawajgan.
A typical day at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah would comprise of the following rituals:
Khidmat is the cleaning of the mazar and offering fresh flowers to it. The ceremony is performed twice a day. In the early morning at 4.00 a.m., the main entrance of the tomb is opened with the call of azan. It is performed for about half an hour before the fajar prayer. Only khadims are allowed to perform the khidmat. The same ritual is performed at 3 p.m., though somewhat differently.
At this auspicious time, all the pilgrims are allowed inside except the ladies. Along with the offering of flowers, the khadims recite fateha and offer sandalwood, which is later distributed among the pilgrims.
Lighting (Roshni) :
As the name suggests, this rite takes place in the evening. The khadim brings candles inside the tomb accompanied by the beating of drums. Then he places the candles in lamps and recites some sacred verses. Finally, the lamps that are placed in the four corners of the tomb are lighted.
The closing ceremony of the tomb is known as karka. It takes place an hour after the isha prayer. The custom is that 20 minutes before closing the door, as the fifth part of the night passes, a person calls to ring five and the clock sounds five times. The devotees present inside the tomb are asked to leave and three khadims clean and sweep the tomb. When the bell rings six times, the qawwals sing a special karka song. The doorways of the tomb are closed after the ceremony
The dargah has a special daily ceremony called the langar in which devotees are served wheat porridge cooked in a special grass. It is said that the same porridge was eaten by the Khwaja himself. Even emperor Akbar used to stand in queue to take the langar along with other commoners. Devotees can go for the langar after commencing the isha prayer.
Sama (Qawwali) :
Qawwali is an integral part of the rituals here. A qawwali is a song in the praise of Allah. They are sung by the qawwals (devotional singer) at the Mehfil-e-Sama in front of the mazar after the fajar namaz, magrib namaz, and isha namaz are over
The Qur'an recital takes place everyday at Jama Masjid and Alamgir Masjid.
Shahjahan's Mosque :
The splendid mosque is present in the corner of the inner court of the dargah. It is a resplendent building in white marble with a long and narrow court. It has a low arcade and delicate carvings with trelliswork. Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra
Just beyond the dargah is located the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra, a wonderful masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architecture. As the name suggests, it was built within two and a half days
Taragarh Fort :
The legendary Taragarh Fort is reached after a one-and-a-half-hour climb beyond the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra. The fort offers a scenic view of the entire city.
The Museum :
The museum was once the royal residence of Akbar. It houses an exquisite store of Mughal and Rajput armor and fine sculptures.
Best Time to Visit
The dargah becomes a hub of activity in the seventh month of the lunar calendar when the Urs is held to mark the death anniversary of the divine saint.
The six-day Urs commemorates the death anniversary of the prophet Moin-ud-din Chisti. It is held in the Islamic month of Rajab, the time when the Khwaja became one with Allah. Muslims from all over India and even abroad throng Ajmer during the festival.
The Urs begins with flag hoisting at the Buland Darwaza. The main entrance to the holy tomb remains open throughout the day and night, and the entire place is decked up with the special shops, lights and festoons.
Apart from its religious significance, a colorful fair is also held as part of the anniversary celebrations. One of the biggest to be held in India, the Ajmer fair is a time to witness sessions of qawwali singing. The highlight of the festival is, however, the assembly of poets—the mushairas—where the best of Urdu poets share a common platform.
Another interesting thing is the distribution of the festival kheer (pudding of rice and milk), cooked in two 16th-century cauldrons.
The Urs culminates with the Qul ceremony, which takes place on the last day. It is an extremely important day. The day commences with prayer in the morning, followed by the gathering of people at the holy tomb. A series of activities like the recital of the Qur'an, Darood, Shijra-e-Chishtia and other verses follows this. Afterwards, people tie small turbans on each other's head and pray for welfare of the entire community.
How to Reach
By Air :
The nearest domestic airport is at Jaipur, 132 km away. International flights operate from the Indira Gandhi International Airport at New Delhi
By Rail :
Ajmer is accessible by trains from Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Abu Road and Jodhpur.
By Road :
Ajmer is connected by road to all the major cities of Rajasthan. Regular bus services also operate from Ahmedabad, Agra and Delhi.