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AJMER

Ajmer is a major religious centre for Muslim pilgrims during the fast of Ramadan, and has some superb examples of early Muslim architecture.  It is famous for the tomb of Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti, a venerated Sufi saint who founded the Chishtiya order, which still exists as the prime Sufi order in India today.

The British selected Ajmer as the site for Mayo College, a prestigious school opened in 1875 exclusively for Indian nobility.  Today it is open to all boys.  Other monuments that stand as reminders of Ajmer’s colonial past are the Edward Memorial Hall, Ajmer Club and Jubilee Clock Tower.

The town of Ajmer has always had great strategic importance due to its secure position, protected by the Aravalli Range, and its location on the major trade route between Delhi and the ports of Gujarat.  Ajaipal Chauhan founded it in the 7th century.  He constructed a hill fort and named the place Ajaimeru, or ‘Invincible Hill’.  The Chauhans ruled Ajmer until the late 12th century, when Prithviraj Chauhan lost it to Mohammed of Ghori.  It became part of the sultanate in Delhi.  After 1326 Ajmer was continually fought over by surrounding states including the sultans of Delhi and Gujarat and the rulers of Mewar ( Udaipur) and Marwar (Jaipur).

Later in its history, Ajmer became a favourite residence of the great Mughals.  One of the first contacts between the Mughals and the British occurred in Ajmer when Sir Thomas Roe met with Emperor Jehangir here in 1616.  The city was subsequently taken by the Scindias and, in 1818, was handed over to the British, becoming one of the few places in Rajasthan controlled directly by the British rather than being part of a princely state.

 

PUSHKAR

Pushkar is a very important pilgrimage centre and devout Hindus should visit it at least once in their lifetime.  The town attracts a large number of sadhus (individuals on a spiritual search) who mainly congregate around the lake and temples.  Pushkar is only 11 kms northwest of Ajmer, but separated from it by Nag Pahar, the Snake Mountain.

Temples

There are over 400 temples in Pushkar many of which were destroyed by the Aurangzeb in the 17th century and subsequently rebuilt.  Most famous of them is the Brahma Temple.   A red spire marks it, and over the entrance gateway is the Hans, or goose symbol, of Brahma.  Inside, the floor and walls are engraved with dedications to the dead.

The hour-long trek up the hill to the Saraswati Temple gives magnificent views of Pushkar.