About the Dargah Ajmer-e-Sharief
Founded by Raja Ajai Pal Chauhan, Ajmer finds its name
on the international map mainly because of the highly esteemed Dargah
of Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti. Though it is basically a Muslim shrine,
yet follower of all religions have tremendous faith in its
genuineness. Hence, it is not surprising to find people from all over
India as well as abroad flocking to the Dargah to pay their obeisance
to the saint.
The history of the Dargah has it that the 12th century Persian saint, Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisti settled down in Ajmer after Prithviraj Chauhan lost it to Mohammad of Ghori. He preached there and won numerous followers, so much so that even after his death, his glory never faded. Later, great Mughal Emperor Humayun constructed the tomb in his honour in 16th century at the place where his last remains lay buried. His son, Akbar, and grandson, Shah Jahan also added a mosque each to the Dargah complex. The Nizam of Hyderabad at that point of time also contributed his bit in making this Dargah.
It is said that Akbar was a devout follower of the saint. He prayed at the Dargah for a son and his wish was fulfilled. Thereafter, he payed regular visits to the Dargah every year from Agra. From then onwards, the Dargah attained the status of wish fulfillment shrine.
Followers of the saint, specially Muslims, believe that seven visits to the Dargah of Ajmer Sharief is equivalent to one visit to Mecca, which is the most auspicious of Muslim pilgrim destination. The importance of Ajmer is also enhanced by the fact that it lies close to town of Pushkar, a famous Hindu pilgrim destination. Together, these two places present the religious diversity and unity of the Indians on the whole.
The Dargah is situated at the base of a desolate hill
in the city of Ajmer and is entered after crossing through the Dargah
Bazaar. A massive gate with silver doors leads to the first courtyard.
The actual tomb, built of marble, is located in the second courtyard
and is close to the magnificent mosque built by Shah Jahan. The dome
of the tomb is plated with gold. The tomb is surrounded by silver
platform and a bit of marble screens.
There are two huge cauldrons in the Dargah as well which were donated by Mughal Emperor Akbar and Shah Jahan. Also known as degs, these big and small cauldrons can carry 4480 and 2240 kgs of rice respectively. The two cauldrons are used extensively during the Urs festival.
The Urs Festival
The Urs festival marks the death anniversary of the
Khwaja. It is believed that the pious saint spent the last six days of
his life praying, and only then his soul left for the blissful journey
to heaven. It is for this that the devotees celebrate the Urs festival
every year during the first six days of Rajjab, the 7th month of the
Islamic calendar. Devotees throng in large number from all over to bow
their heads before the saint during this period and feel glad to
receive sweetened rice from the degs.
A major attraction during the Urs festival is the rendering of Qawwali songs by the professional qawwals. The magical Sufiana Kalam almost leave the listeners in a state of hypnotism. The entire atmosphere created is one of high respect and faith.
During the Urs festival and even during other time of the year, devotees need to cover their head before entering the Dargah as a mark of respect to the saint. It is also important for devotees to make floral and sweet offerings at the Dargah and light incense sticks.
The Dargah Sharief of Ajmer has its own distinct place in the hearts of the people and ensures that the name of Khwaja lives till the eternity.