Dr Sanobar Haider is Assistant Professor, Department of History, MBP Government PG College, Lucknow
‘Wahi Ajmer jaate hain,jinhe Khwaja bulatehain’…so this is how we managed to arrive at the holy shrine during our stay at the famous Chomu Palace in Jaipur. We happened to be a part of a destination wedding of a very dear friend at the beautiful heritage palace hotel, which is an hour away from Jaipur airport, while attending the various vibrant wedding functions and ceremonies, a thought of visiting the Dargah at Ajmer quite unbelievingly turned into reality. So, on November 29, in the morning we started for Ajmer which was around three hours away from Chomu.
The Sufis were saints or mystics of Persia who formed themselves into several orders and spread out to distant lands. The Chishti Order is one such order known for its emphasis on love, tolerance and openness. It began in Chisht, a small town near Herat, Afghanistan, in about 930 AD. The Chishti Order is primarily followed in Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. It was the first of the four main Sufi orders (Chishti, Qadiri, Suhrawardi and Naqshbandi) to be established in this region. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti introduced the Chishti Order in Ajmer (Rajasthan, India) sometime in the middle of the 12th century. He was eighth in the line of succession from the founder of the Chishti Order, Abu IshaqShami. The shrine at Ajmer is revered by people from all faiths and every year thousands of pilgrims visit to perform pilgrimage at the dargah. So with all due faith and veneration we also continued with our journey.
The drive was smooth and at around 11:30 in the morning we reached the parking lot from where the SajjadaNashin’s staff members guided us to the shrine in an auto-rickshaw .Upon reaching the destination, we had to disembark and walk through the narrow bylanes up to the dargah. The gate was lined by innumerable stalls decorated with offerings to be made at the shrine. These small counters were adorned with colorful tasbeehs (rosary),sacred threads, finger rings, semi-precious gems ,stones ,prayer bowls ,flowers and the chadars (sheets). All offerings were available in different varieties to suit the needs and pockets of the pilgrims. Walking past these shops we were greeted by the extremely hospitable Danyal Chishti, the care taker or the SajjadaNashin of the Dargah. After hosting us to some tea, he told us how his family had been a part of the shrine since ages and that the SajjadaNashin was also known as Dargah Nashin, jhadu posh in the service of the great saint. On being asked about the many small graves visible in the compound he informed that these belonged to members of the Saint’s family and a few members of the royal family, including that of Daniyal who was the son of Emperor Akbar.
Sitting in the covered area, I could not but notice the huge green metallic trunks with the name ‘Angara Shah’ written on them. On enquiring I was told that it was the family name of Daniyal, the descendants of the holy saint. We then moved towards the central dome to pay homages to Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, the holy saint who is revered across the world by people from different religions and backgrounds. Jostling amidst the devotees we managed to make offerings, feeling blessed as we came out. We were then guided towards the masjid, which happens to be one of the three mosques on the campus. Devotees and volunteers were cleaning the courtyard while others were offering prayers. Behind the mosque was the enclosed pond where during Muharram the rituals related to Tazia were performed by Mughal Emperor Akbar and is now used for the making of langar, prasad for visitors and pilgrims. Daniyal informed that jau ka daliya ie, porridge was made twice a day to cater to the visitors. While the bada deg was donated by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1567, the chhoti deg was gifted by Emperor Jahangir in 1613 AD. The ingredients used in the dish were decided by a Mughal-era Hakim to make the food nutritious enough for the devotees to eat.
The imposing white marble dome of the shrine was built in 1532. This date is inscribed in golden letters on the northern wall of the dargah. It is an example of Indo-Islamic architecture and the dome features a lotus and a crown of gold, donated by Rampur's Nawab Haider Ali Khan. Materials used to build it include marble, brick and sandstone. The dargah is a square structure and has a patterned ceiling. The sanctum of the dargah has two doors. The canopy made of mother-of-pearl and silver was commissioned by Jahangir and is visible from the cenotaph's four silver posts. The complex has multiple structures and has eight entrance gates. The Nizam Gate, a yellow structure with floral designs, is the main gate and was donated by the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Osman Ali Khan in 1911. An older gate, the Shahjahani Gate, was donated by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It marked the expansion of the shrine complex beyond the Buland Darwaza, built by Sultan Mahmud Khilji. Other gates include the Madar Gate and the Delhi Gate. The Jannati Darwaza is a door made of silver that is used only on rare occasions. It is also referred to as the Bihisti Darwaza.
The complex has some other tombs besides that of Khwaja ji, belonging to members of his family. A huge chandelier, Sahn Chirag, was commissioned by Akbar. The Ahaat-e-Noor is a large courtyard where religious functions are held and qawwalis are sung. Traversing through the complex we saw many devotees ,young and old, paying their homages to the holy saint while many were seen performing ablutions before offering namaz. It was here that I came across a big balance (tarazu) and was informed that here young children were weighed and then the equivalent amount of grain etc. was donated. Thereafter, we reached the pond area where Muharram rituals are performed by the believers. The sojourn ended with the DargahNashin presenting us with the tabarruk (prasad), chadar from the shrine and some sweets. He then treated us to some home- made food which speaks volumes about his hospitality far away from Lucknow the city renowned for its mehmannawazi (hospitality). With this we set out on our road trip back to Chomu, feeling contented, happy and absolutely blessed.