Ajmer situated in the green oasis wrapped in the barren hill
has been a witness to an interesting past. The city was founded
by Raja Ajai Pal Chauhan in the 7th Century A.D. and continued
to be a major center of the Chauhan power till 1193 A.D. when
Prithviraj Chauhan lost it to Mohammed Ghauri. Since then,
Ajmer became home to many dynasties, which came and left leaving
behind indelible marks of their culture and traditions on
the city’s history, converting it to, an amalgam of various
cultures and a blend of Hinduism and Islam.
Today Ajmer is a popular pilgrimage centre for the Hindus
as well as Muslims. Especially famous is the Dargah Sharif
– tomb of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, which is
equally revered by the Hindus and Muslims.
Ajmer is also the base for visiting Pushkar (11 km), the abode
of Lord Brahma, lying to its west with a temple and a picturesque
lake. The Pushkar lake is a sacred spot for Hindus. During
the month of Kartik (Oct./ Nov.), devotees throng in large
numbers here to take a dip in the sacred lake.
What to see around Ajmer
At the foot of a barren hill, is situated India’s most important
pilgrimage centre for people from all faiths. It is the splendid
tomb of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, more popularly
known as Khwaja Saheb or Khwaja Sharif. The shrine is next
only to Mecca or Medina for the Muslims of South Asia. Akbar
used to make a pilgrimage to the Dargah from Agra once a year.The
mausoleum has a gigantic gate, which was built by the Nizam
of Hyderabad.The two massive cauldrons in the courtyard are
of particular interest and on the right side of the courtyard
is the Akbari Masjid built in white marble. There is another
mosque in the courtyard built by Shahjahan.The saint’s tomb
with a splendid marble dome is in the centre of the second
courtyard, which is surrounded by a silver platform.The shrine
attracts thousands of pilgrims during the Urs – commemorating
the death anniversary of the Saint, held from the 1st to 6th
day of the Islamic month of Rajab. A colorful fair that springs
up during this time is the major attraction.
In the corner of the inner court of the Dargah, is a magnificent
building in white marble with a long (30.5 m) and narrow court
having low arcade and delicate carving with trellis – work.
Adhai – din- ka- Jhonpra
A remarkable structure, this is a masterpiece of Indo Islamic
architecture located on the outskirts of the city, just beyond
the Dargah. As the legend goes, its construction took two
and a half days (Adhai-Din) to complete. It was originally
a Sanskrit college, built within a temple. In 1193 A.D., Mohammad
Ghauri conquered Ajmer and converted the building into a mosque
by adding a seven arched wall in front of the pillared hall
in just two-and-a-half days (adhai-din) and hence the name.
The distinct pillars and arched ‘screen’ with its ruined minarets
make it a splendid architectural masterpiece.
A steep one and a half hour climb beyond the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra
leads to the ruins of the Taragarh Fort, perched on a hill.
One can have an excellent view of the city from here. The
fort was the site of the military activity during the Mughal
period, later used as a sanatorium by the British.
Once the royal residence of Emperor Akbar, the museum houses
a rich repository of the Mughal and Rajput armour and exquisite
One of India’s best public schools, located in the south-east
of the city. It was founded in 1875 A.D. only for the princes.
Each prince along with his entire retinue and an English tutor
had his own house within the spacious college grounds covering
81 hectares. Now it is a Public School open to all.
The Circuit House
The former British Residency, overlooking the artificial lake,
Ana Sagar, has now been converted to the Circuit House. The
lake and the cenotaph and the shrine of the Hindu reformer
Swami Dayanand, founder of the Arya Samaj movement in India,
can be viewed from here.
Shopping in Ajmer is an enjoyable experience. One can shop
for antiques, curios, fascinating gold and silver jewellery
in contemporary design, colorful tie and dye sarees and embroidered
jodhpuri ‘Jutis’. Especially during the annual Urs fair, a
range of colourful items and marvelous creations of traditional
folk artisans are for sale.
Kishangarh. The name is derived from the founder, Kishan
Singh, the son of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. Located 27km from
Ajmer and founded in 1597, this rather small and sleepy town
on National Highway 8 is famous for its miniature paintings.
Originally a tiny Rathore fiefdom flanked by the powerful
kingdoms of Marwar, Amber and Mewar (Udaipur), Kishangarh
was a part of first, the Mughal and later the British empires.
In the 18th century, the Bani Thani style of miniature painting
in Kishangarh surged and was probably the Golden Era when
under Nihal Chand, a painter in the court of Raja Sawant Singh.
The Bani Thani style of painting got its name from a romantic
story set in the Kishangarh court during the 18th century.
The ruler a poet-king called Raja Samant Singh (1699-1764)
had eyes only for Bani Thani, a court singer and poet. Bani
Thani’s eyes were what drew Samant Singh to her, and so did
her singing. Seeing and listening to her sing in his court
each day drew the king deeper into her web. Samant Singh wrote
poetry under the name of Nagari Das, and since Bani Thani
was a poet in her own right too, love was not far behind.
The romance was much talked about, and Samant Singh was fortunate
to have an artist by the name of Nihal Chand in his court
who immortalised their love in a miniature painting to start
with. Eventually Samant Singh gave up his throne to retire
to the forests of Vrindavan with his beloved, and Nihal Chand
painted away in his unique style, immortalising the lovers.
The Bani Thani style essentially deals with Radha and Krishna
with the royal lovers as muses. This school of painting depicts
Radha and Krishna as divine lovers, a form which emphasises
on subtlety and not exaggeration. Radha and Krishna are often
portrayed in courtly surroundings with a massive backdrop
as compared to the figures themselves. The divine pair are
mostly shown with long noses, large wavy eyes and rangy chins,
a style which may have seemed a little offbeat even for those
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was already a big name the world
over, and the people of Kishangarh picked up this name and
began calling Bani Thani the `Mona Lisa of Rajasthan’!
Roopangarh 25 kms away is also . Known for the fort called
Roopangarh fort after Roop Singh Rathore, the fort is situated
on the banks of Lake Gandalan which holds an almost perfect
reflection of the edifice. The fort contains a number of fine
miniature paintings of deities and religious epics, and it
was through these paintings that the region became famous
during early 18th century. The main entrance to the fort is
through a pointed arched gateway painted with elephants and
guards. Parts of the fort have now been converted into a hotel
by the maharaja and maharani of Kishangarh. Tours of the fort
are pretty interesting as is the common folklore attached
to it. The other place of interest near Kishangarh is Phool
Mahal Palace which has also been turned into a hotel by the
present Maharaja Kishan Singh.
Baghera is located 107 kms from Ajmer in the southeast
of Ajmer. It is famous for its ancient archaelogical relics.
Founded by the Chauhana king Someswara, Baghera’s was originally
called Vyageraka as mentioned in a rock inscription in Bijoliya
dating back to 1226 AD.
Like most of Rajasthan that is strewn about with many ancient
monuments and ruins, Baghera too is mainly known for its ancient
monuments, especially the temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
The Varaha Avatar temple, as it is known, depicts Vishnu in
the form of a boar, his third avatar (incarnation). The temple
is now located within a fairly new building near the Varaha
Sagar, a sacred tank. Towards the west of the Varaha Sagar
is a ruined 10th century temple as well as a decorated gateway
leading into the house of the chief of Baghera.
A little distance away from Baghera are Jain images hewn in
rock. They seem to loom straight out of the ground. In ancient
times the Jains had built a temple here of which these rock
statues are the only things that have survived.
110 Kms from Ajmer Who hasn't heard of the famous Makrana
marbles? Famous the world over, that is really the only real
thing to see in Makrana - the marble quarries. Marble has
been mined in Makrana for centuries, and it was from here
that the marble used for building the amazing Taj Mahal and
Victoria Memorial in Calcutta was quarried.
Numerous marble workshops dot the town, and guess what, you
can have a marble trinket made to order while you wait. You
could lose your marbles over the intricately designed marble
jewellery. Traditional artisans still work in tiny rooms,
carving deftly, surely and intricately marble pieces to be
sold all over India. Close to Makrana is the huge Sambhar
Salt Lake, which complements the marble quarries beautifully.
Founded sometime in the 3rd century AD, the town of Sambhar
was the capital of the Chauhana dynasty and was later made
famous by Prithviraj Chauhan. Legend has it that the site
for Sambhar was discovered by a king called Vasudeva on one
of his hunting expeditions. Saratha, the original old city,
lies at a distance of about 18km from the main town of Sambhar.
Saratha’s name comes from the goddess Sakambhari and was initially
located near a temple dedicated to the goddess. Devyani tank
here is an important pilgrimage spot for Hindus.
How To Get There
Air: Jaipur (132 km) is the nearest
Rail: Regular train services
connect Ajmer with important cities. Pink City, Chetak and
Shatabdi Express, are the best trains for tourists from Delhi
Road: A dense network of bus
services operates from Ajmer to key destinations around.
Standard Hotels: Hotel Mansingh Palace, Hotel Regency,
RTDC Hotel Khadim, Hotel Ajaymeru
Budget Hotels: Shobraj Hotel,
Hindu Hotel, Hotel Anand, Hotel Malwa, Hotel Payal, Hotel
Prithviraj, Hotel Surya.