DRIVING FROM DELHI MAYHEM TO CHOATIC SPIRITUALITY
Day 02 of Delhi- Dwarka- Delhi sojourn was for travelling from Jaipur to Ajmer and visiting the Dargah of Khwaja Saleem Chishti in the forenoon and Pushkar Temple in the afternoon, as the Temple opens only at 3.30pm.
We left the Guest House at Jaipur at 9.10 am, to cover a distance of 130 kms to Ajmer, after gorging on a breakfast ofAloo Parathas and curd.
The first Toll Plaza came after 20 kms at 9.40 am where we dished out Rs 80. But one didn’t mind paying as the road ahead was absolutely smooth and we were going at 120 kms per hour in our Hyundai i20 without feeling any rattling whatsoever. Fantastic!!! Just 35 kms before Ajmer, there was another Toll Plaza but we were surprised that there were no charges. We only had to produce the previous receipt and no payment!
We approached Kishengarh at about 10.50 am but missed the bypass to Ajmer and entered Kishengarh instead. As the roads are still under construction at many places, the signage are not always perfect. Anyway, that added a little extra time to our drive and time not being a constraint, we did not mind it.
Soon we were back on the highway and saw the big M of McDonalds, the Country Inn, Swad-ri-Dhani (an ethnic village resort) and many more hotels and restaurants before we were greeted by a big hoarding welcoming us to “ Ajmer, the City of Prithvi Raj Chauhan” .
Ajmer is a unique blend of history and civilisation. The name of the city has been derived from “Ajay Meru” a range of Aravali hills which surrounds the area.
It is an interesting place which attracts people from all religions. The Dargah of Saleem Chishti is a major attraction for all, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shahjahan was born here. For Hindus, TeertharajPushkar is the only temple of Lord Brahma, the Creator. For Aryasamajis, Swami Dayanand Saraswati breathed his last here. In addition, there are a number of churches here. There are also Digambar Jain temples in the area with Sidhkut Chaitalaya, constructed in the year 1865, being a prominent one. In nutshell, it is a melting pot of all Indian religions. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, all have something of religious interest here.
Not only religion, Ajmer which was developed as an academic centre by the British way back in the year 1875, continues to be a centre of academic excellence even today.
I also liked the design and architecture of the Clock Tower situated in the centre of the city.
VISIT TO DARGAH OF KHWAJA MOINUDDIN CHISHTI
The Dargah, which has given Ajmer a lot of importance in India as well as in Pakistan, dates back to the 13th century. It houses the grave of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a sufi saint who was stated to be a descendant of Prophet Mohammed and had received this land from King Prithwi Raj Chauhan. It was interesting to know that the Dargah is considered next only to Mecca and Madina by the Muslims. It is strongly believed that whatever one prays here is granted as a boon.
Our contact person at Ajmer had arranged for a Khadim from the Dargah to escort us to the place. Without his pushing, we would probably not have been able to enter the Dargah’s sanctum sanctorum on our own. He asked us to leave our car and come with him in the three-wheeler. The ride in the three-wheeler was a memorable one. It moved on oblivious of any rumble strips, speed-breakers or pot-holes with hordes of people on the narrow access road. Clutching the side rods tight to avoid a fall during the extremely bumpy ride (and that is an understatement), I am surprised how we did not meet any accident or even scratched anyone. However, at the end of the journey, I was left with an aching bicep and a hurting fore-arm … Allah ki meher hai, bhai !!
Once inside, amidst teeming crowds, we purchased a Chadar and a Flower Basket for offering at the Dargah not realising at that moment how tough it is going to be for us to reach the Dargah and do Kadambosi (kissing the feet) of the peer (saint). At many stages, I almost gave up anticipating a stampede or the fear of getting my ribs crushed. But thanks to the Khadim who kept pushing us exhorting us to move on until we did the kadambosi. On coming out,I realised that I had not prayed at all, my only concern at that moment being my safety. Post-kadambosi , the immense feeling of relief on having survived that ordeal was our major reward.
We profusely thanked the Khadim, paid his charges of Rs 500 and returned in the same three-wheeler to our camp having a feeling of great achievement.
PUSHKAR TEMPLE AKA BRAHMA TEMPLE
The afternoon was reserved for the visit to the famous Pushkar Temple. The hilly drive to Pushkar was awesome. The rocky Aravali mountains against a clear blue sky presented a beautiful scenery. The bliss did not last too long and soon we were pestered by the guides and one of them started chasing us on his bike until we said ‘yes’ to his advances. His charges being extremely nominal at Rs. 100, we decided to add to the gross national income of the country and hired his services.
What we particularly noticed here was abundance of baboons (langoors) sitting on the road-sides. We are all used to seeing red-faced rhesus monkeys but black-faced baboons are not commonly seen in Delhi. If it all, they are specially brought to chase away the menace of monkeys there.
Once inside the temple, we were surrounded by the pandas (priests) for the pooja (worship) for the peace of our ancestors. I have not been able to understand one thing till date. If one has not looked after the parents when they were alive, what is the idea of performing various poojas for them and filling the coffers of the pandas. Anyway, that is my personal opinion without any offence to the believers.
Soon, a panda was after us and offered to do some pooja without any charges. He insisted on doing it. As we succumbed to his pressure, he sent me for an errand and started persuading hubby to undertake various types of rituals which he was resisting with patience.
The next moment, he asked us to pay him his charges. When confronted with his own earlier statement that he will not charge anything for the pooja, he said pointing towards the ghat, “Yes I had said it but it was at that place and at that time. I am asking for my dues now at this place.” It was hilarious and we asked him to get lost irrespective of any curses that he might have hurled at us like Rishi Durvasa.
The place was like any other religious place, dirty and filthy with manipulative, greedy and corrupt pandas and guides out to exploit the gullible and the naive. There is just no concern in anybody’s mind to keep the place clean. I wonder what all these charitable trusts which collect wads of money from devotees do with that money?
An interesting site was a number of foreign tourists taking ride on camels. They appeared to be quite thrilled while enjoying the ride. Many of them waved at my hubby. Did they think he too was a firang?
Disillusioned with the religious places of both the faiths, it was time to go back to our local pad now. We had no time to visit Adhai Din ka Jhopda, a mosque which was built from the remains of a Temple in a Sanskrit College, destroyed by Mohammed Ghauri in the year 1193. He had ordered the mosque to be built in two and a half days so that he could perform his namaz there.