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Ajmer TraveL Information

“Ajmer-e-Sharief can get up to 10-lakh visitors during Urs,” warned the hotel staff at Pushkar Palace, as we prepared to drive down to Ajmer from Pushkar on the second day of Urs [Urs marks the death anniversary of Sufi saint Khawaja Moinudeen Chisti, known as `Garib Nawaz`; the gathering is considered the second largest assembly of Muslims, after Mecca]. Little wonder then that he sounded out another warning: “Don`t go if you can`t handle crowds.”

Though we were intimidated at the prospect of battling teeming masses in the serpentine lanes leading to the Dargah, we decided to give it a try anyways; we had heard that scores of people throng the pilgrimage centre with entreaties as it is universally held that irrespective of religious leanings, those who pray at the tomb will not appeal in vain.

With that in mind, we branched off National Highway 8 towards the hills that cradle Ajmer. Overnight, a diminutive provincial town had been transformed into a heaving metropolis. Scores of pilgrims were milling around; some unrolling their bedding on the pavement, others cooking community meals on large stoves. The police had barricaded the road 10-km before the Dargah and we hired a horse-cab halfway and subsequently hoofed it.

We approached the Dargah through a busy marketplace hawking handicrafts, attar [local perfume], saris, and religious paraphernalia. Innumerable beggars patrolled the street and we were taken aback that despite approaching the police for respite, they did not utter a word to them! Moving on, qawwals sang praises of the Sufi saint and many people were walking with them, and singing discordantly. Shortly, a gate led us into the first courtyard. On an elevated pyramid, was a massive cauldron gifted by Akbar in1567. I was surprised to see a small mosque in a corner of the courtyard. Beyond, the saint`s tomb dominated the inner courtyard.

Entering the precincts of the Dargah was like entering a surreal world. The clamour of the street faded as we walked through a marble gateway built by Emperor Shahjahan. There were thousands of people within but murmured prayers suffused the area. The numbers were remarkable, as were the different religions from which the pilgrims were drawn, underlining the saint`s belief that all religions are one, merely different manifestations of the same divine reality.

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