Ajmer city has always been a place that tourist look forward to checking on their travel itinerary when in Rajasthan. The city is located virtually in the centre of the state and is very easily accessible by air, road and railways. The name of the city is derived from Ajay Meru which translates into the invincible hill, founded by then king Ajaypal Chauhan in the 7th century. With the passage of time, it has seen many battles being fought for it, and was considered especially pious for the Mughal rulers. A cocktail of traditional & contemporary cultures, these are 12 best places to visit in Ajmer at least once in your life.
If it is faith you wish to experience; this shrine shall overwhelm you! Visitors have been becoming followers of this Dargah ever since it was built by Mughal Emperor Humayun in honour of the Persian saint Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chisht. In a dream, the saint was told by Muhammad to visit India, where he stayed up until his death his death in 1236 AD. The saint was known for his teachings on secularism, peace and love towards all beings – the reason why the shire is open to people of all faiths. You know you are in another world as soon as you pass through gigantic silver doors that welcome you into the shrine, that lead to the central courtyard. Distinct Mughal architecture is visible in the intricate designs across the shrine. The Dargha is known to fulfil whatever a visitor asks for, which is why even King Akbar visited it annually. The shrine has an ambiance of tranquil and serenity in spite of it being visited by over 150,000 people a year. Make sure you don’t go without eating the offerings that are made for the saint.
The Grand Gate as it is translated is a massive gate that is made out of wood, red sandstone, and marble that stands 60 feet tall. This gate is yet again a reminder of the magnificent talent of craftsmen and their finesse. It is a tribute to the all beautiful Islamic architecture and makes for a worthy entrance to the Dargha Sharif.
Adhai Din Ka Jhonpda
Literally translating to a shed/hut built in 2 and a half days, what was originally a Sanskrit college was converted into a mosque in 1199 CE, making it by far one of India’s oldest and longest standing. The monument was originally built to worship the Hindu goddess of knowledge, Saraswati, and was made using materials of other Jain and Hindu temples which go back as far as the 11th century. It is said that Sultan Muhammad Ghori while passing through Ajmer was astound by the beauty of the original temple. So much so that he ordered hi general Qutb-ud-Din-Aibak to destroy it immediately and construct a mosque. The catch was the deadline of 60 hours (2.5 days). Since it was too tight on time, the slaves constructed a screen wall so the Sultan could offer prayers. A mix of Jain-Hindu and Muslim architecture; the celling, pillar, the central arcade ooze breath-taking carvings and inscriptions – no wonder therefore called as one of the noblest buildings of the world!
Ana Sagar Lake
Arnoraja, the grandfather of the renowned ruler, Prithviraj Chauhan built this lake in 1135 AD which is why it is named after him. The lake was improvised in design by Mughal legends like Shahjahan and Jehangir. The lake, the biggest in the city, is built across 5 sq. kms and was to serve as catchment for 4.75 million cubic meters of rain water. The lake is renowned for its picturesque beauty. There is a legend that when Saint Chishti’s followers were refused water from the lake, he asked for a glass from the very same lake, resulting in the lake drying up instantly. Only when the locals begged to be forgiven did the lake fill up!
Lake Foy Sagar
If visiting lakes are your thing, another noteworthy one is the Lake Foy Sagar that is named after Mr. Foy,a Britisher who decided to engineer one after the famine in 1892. The lake can hold 15 million cubic feet of water and being flat in its appearance, offers stunning moments of natural beauty during sunrise and sunsets. The Aravali mountain range in the backdrop makes this one a must visit.
Akbari Fort and Museum
The Akbari fort is named after one of the world’s greatest kings, Emperor Akbar, who appointed its construction in 1570. The construction served two purposes; to ration and rest the Mughal armies that passed and a palace for the emperor during his annual visit to the Dargha Sharif in Ajmer. If you wish to be a part of history, do visit – as it is here that Emperor Jahangir read out the ruling that permitted the East India Company to begin trade with India. This eventually led to the city being handed over to the British.
Being the first place in Rajputana (land owned and controlled by the erstwhile Rajput rulers) to be directly controlled by the East India Company, the Mayo College was built in 1875 and named after the Earl of Mayo. The college was established as a centre of teaching excellence for the princes of India’s states. The college which is till date regarded as one of the finest institutions in the world has the legacy of having John Kipling as its principal. The building is built on the principals of Indo-Saracenic architecture, and holds the distinction of having a postal stamp dedicated to its beauty. The museum inside exhibits a collection of antiques and an armoury – one of the best in any school in the world.
Dedicated as a memorial to one of the greatest Indian kings Prithviraj Chauhan, the memorial has a statue made in black stone and sees the slain king riding a horse with a bow and arrow in his hand. It is said that the statue is in its own splendour when the setting sun turns the sky red – making for a rare photograph. Also catch the music show that happens while you are there.
A mere 14 kms from the city of Ajmer is Pushkar, a city that is a favourite of foreigners visiting India and a pilgrimage for fervent Hindus. The city is famous for the 400 temples within it, giving an unparalleled insight into the Hindu religion. It holds the distinction of having the only temple dedicated to Lord Brahma (the creator) in the world. The city truly comes alive during the five day Pushkar fair that sees a sharp rise over the approximate 7000 visitors that visit it each day. It takes pride in being one of the largest cattle fairs in India, especially for approximately 50,000 camels that change owners each year. A unique experience here will be that of watching a camel nose piercing and camel painting that continues during trade. During evenings there are folk music competitions and other entertainment avenues that will keep you enthralled. While here, don’t miss a visit to the Pushkar lake for anything!
This temple is dedicated to goddess Savitri, the wife of Lord Brahma in 1687. The idol of the goddess is said to date back to the 7th century. The temple is located atop Ratnagiri hills, right behind the Brahma temple. It is believed that on her way to Pushkar, the goddess wished to rest, and chose this location owing to its scenic view of the Pushkar lake and the villages around it.
Soniji Ki Nasiyan
Also known as the Ajmer Jain temple, is dedicated to Lord Adinath (the first lord) that was made in the late 19th century. The temple comprises of extraordinary architecture that and is made using rare red stone and marble and engravings teachers and teachings of the Jain faith. The main complex within the temple is called the Swarna Nagri (the city of gold) since it offers a stunning view of a gold model of the city of Ayodhya. The temple holds the distinction of being one of the richest in the world, and is famous for its library – considered to be an ocean of knowledge on the Jain religion.
Translating to the Star Fort, the Taragarh Fort was completed in 1354 on a steep hillside. It’s massive structure got Rudyard Kipling to call it “”more the work of Goblin’s than of men”. The fort was known for the tunnels underneath it, which allowed one to access the entire hillside. In the 16th century it had mounted over it, one of the largest cannons in the world. This Chauhan dynasty stronghold also had water reservoirs that supplied water to its occupants during war. It also houses a Rani Mahal (a palace for queens), which in its heydays had shiny murals and stained glass windows. It is believed that the fort is looked over by Miran Saheb – the governor who laid his life to protect the fort in 1210.
While Ajmer is a small city, its magic leaves travellers enchanted with its beauty and mystique. It is a must visit in the truest of senses.