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  Ajmer: THE LAND OF COMPOSITE CULTURES

Ajmer situated in the green oasis wrapped in the barren hills has been a witness to an interesting past.  The city was founded by Raja Ajai Pal Chauhan in the 7th Centaury A.D. and continued to be a major centre 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 Chisti, which is equally referred by the Hindus and Muslims.

Ajmer is also the base for visiting Pushkar (11 kms.), 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 (October/November), devotees throng in large numbers here to take a dip in the sacred lake.

Prime Sites In Ajmer The Dargah Shareef :
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 sharine 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 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 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.

Shahjahan's Mosque : 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 carvings with trellis-work. It is the most marvellous of all the sanctums within the sanctuary of the Dargah.

Dhai (2 1/2 )-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., Mohammed 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.

Taragarh Fort: 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.

The Museum: Once the royal residence of Emperor Akbar, the museum houses a rich repository of the Mughal and Rajput armour and exquisite sculptures.

Mayo College: 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 pri nces. 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.

EXCURSIONS

Pushkar Lake (11 km.) : The lake, situated on the edge of the desert and surrounded by hills on the three sides, is separated from Ajmer by `Nag pahar' - the snake mountain. On this mountain the Panchkund and the cave of saint Agastya are located. It is believed that Kalidasa-the 4th century Sanskrit poet and playright, chose the setting for his masterpiece `Abhigyana Shakuntalam' in this forest heritage. 

According to legend, the origin of Pushkar dates back to the time when Lord Brahma was on his way in search of a tranquil land to perform a `Yagna'. A lotus fell from the hand of the Lord into this valley. A lake sprang up on this spot and was dedicated to him. A Brahma temple located here is a popular place of pilgrimage. 

Pushkar Fair: It is one of the most colourful fairs of India.  Lakhs of pilgrims throng the lake during the annual cattle fair. Besides trading of horses, camels, cows and bulls, there are exciting camel-cart races and cultural events. Clothes, household items and leather goods are for sale during the fair. On the full moon of Kartik (November) pilgrims take a holy dip in the lake.

Man Mahal: Along the banks of the Pushkar Lake is the former residence of Raja Man Singhof Ajmer. Man Mahal .  Presently it is converted to RTDC Sarovar Tourist Bungalow ensuring convenient accommodation to travelers. Pushkar Palace (Kishagarh House) adjoining it is a heritage hotel.

Foy Sagar (5 km.): A picturesque artificial lake named after the engineer Foy who created it under a famine relief project.



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