Dargah Sharif situated in Ajmer, Rajasthan is the mausoleum of Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (RA); perhaps the most prominent Sufi saint who resided here in the 12th century. Moinuddin Chisti is more popularly known as Garib Nawaz and people from all religions flock to this shrine throughout the year to pay homage and seek his blessings. Dargah Shariff is one of the very rare places, visited by Hindus and Muslims alike. It is believed if you wish something and tie a thread in Dargah Sharif, your wish will come true and then you need to return to untie the thread. This culture of tying thread is a prominent Hindu custom which has been embedded at a Muslim shrine which beautifully underlines the essence of this place which stands for the congregation of diversified culture and communities. There are many beautiful gateways and domes constructed by celebrated emperors at the dargah.
Dargah Sharif held special reverence in the Mughal era with emperor Humanyun to emperor Shah Jahan and later his daughter Jahan Ara all visiting this place and contributing in the development of the shrine. Emperor Akbar walked barefooted from Agra to Ajmer after his wish of having a son came true and Jahangir was born. Akbar is known to have visited the shrine 14 times and has also constructed a beautiful mosque (now known as Akbari Masjid) within the premises. Emperor Jahangir donated gold railings which can be found around the main mazar in the sanctum of the shrine. Later in 1640, emperor Shah Jahan also constructed another mosque which is now known as Shahjahani Jama Masjid.
“Khawja mere Khwaja“- a song from the popular Bollywood movie Jodha Akbar is dedicated to Moinuddin Chisti.
When to visit? Since it is located in Rajasthan where the weather remains hot and humid until September, it is better to travel between October-April.
How to reach? Ajmer is well connected through very railways. The nearest airport is the Jaipur International Airport. From Jaipur, you can reach Ajmer Sharif through a bus or private taxis which takes around 3 hours.
Photography? Not allowed inside the main shrine
Best Time to visit? Urs, an annual festival, which is held for 6 days to mark the bereavement of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (RA).
I went to Dargah Sharif along with 3 other friends during my weak long Rajasthan trip in August. The weather was quite humid as expected but in stark contrast with other places of India in the month of August. We reached Ajmer in the afternoon. Unfortunately, this place is mired with gross mismanagement. Our car was stopped much before the shrine and we had to take an auto rickshaw who charged Rs.10 per head for not even half kilometer which I felt was too high but its expected in tourist places where beguiling visitors seems to be the most prominent source of income. The auto rickshaw dropped us at a gate as only battery operated vehicles and horse drawn carriages (tongas) was allowed beyond that point. From this, we had to walk to the main shrine which was few hundred meters away. The walk from this gate to the main shrine was an experience in itself although it was not a very pleasant one. The road was crowded with mendicants and touts begging for money and following visitors; there were hawkers selling handkerchiefs, sacred threads, etc. Giving any money to the mendicants here is inviting more trouble as you will soon be surrounded by more people the moment you donate one. However on both sides of the streets were shops selling rose baskets and chadars which looked attractive. I generally do quite research before visiting any place so I had a fair idea not to venture into these shops to avoid being piped to pay exorbitant prices. After walking through this lane bustling with hawkers, beggars, and speeding tongas, we reached the gate of the main shrine known as the Nizam gate. On the right of this gate is a footwear deposit counter where the visitors keep their shoes. However, it was disheartening to learn that in spite of being one of the most revered shrines in the country and receiving huge donations, the shrine lacked basic amenities like toilets.
After entering the main shrine, we bought a basket of rose petals and sacred threads. Unlike the market outside, inside the prices are fixed which I assume would be under the supervision of the shrine officials. Inside the atmosphere was calm and divine as we reached at a time when the namaz was being offered. There was a soothing essence of rose flower as tons of rose petals are offered by the devotees here. We washed our feet and hands. Then we entered the main shrine. Inside the main shrine is the mazar (grave) of Khwaja saheb. On entering inside, we handed over the basket of rose petals to a maulvi, who offered it and then shrouded all four of us in a chadar and offered prayers to the saint. Unlike the experience of most devotees, the maulvi didn’t coerce us to pay any money inside the main sanctum and generously accepted what we gave him in return of his services. It was the first time that anyone of us had visited an Islamic shrine as revered as the Dargah Sharif so we were not sure what needs to be done. Perplexed between joining our hands like Hindus do or to do it the Islamic way, we offered our prayers are walked out of the sanctum. There was another maulvi, who gently strikes the head of the devotees with a bunch of peacock feathers as a form of blessing. Outside the sanctum, on the western side, there is a gate, known as the Jannati darwaza on which the name of Moinuddin Chisti and the holy number 786 is inscribed. We tied our threads on the railings of this gate. I generally don’t ask for any personal wish. This place was no different, so I basically don’t need to return to untie the tread although I would definitely like to visit this place again.
There were few other things to see as well. There are two huge cooking pots – one donated by the Mughal emperor Jahangir (known as choti Deg) and the other one twice as large (known as badi deg) presented by emperor Akbar. Huge quantities of food are cooked in these pots which are later distributed among the destitute and other devotees. On the eastern side of the main shrine is the Begumi Dalan constructed by Shah Jahan’s daughter princess Jahan Ara. There are mosques constructed by Akbar, Shah Jahan, and crypts of many famous Sufi saints. Then there is the holy tomb of Bibi Hafiz Jamal, the daughter of Khwajaji, built by emperor Jahangir.
Overall it is a nice place to spend some hours and experience the spiritual bliss associated with this place. If you are visiting Jaipur, then its nice if you can spare half day and have a quick visit to Dargah Sharif. If you are visiting Ajmer and have some time you can visit a few other places as well including the only Brahma temple in the world at Puskar which is about 15 km away.
If you too have been to this holy shrine or are planning to visit anytime soon, please share your experience in the comments section below. Travel & Spread Love.