Ajmer, the sacred-secular town was founded in the 7th century by Raja Ajaipal Chauhan and became the famous bastion of the Chauhan Rajputs. The Chauhans dominated the region until the end of the 12th century. After the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan, the most distinguished Chauhan ruler, at the hands of Muhammad Dargah Khwaja Sahib Ghauri in 1193, the glory of Chauhans waned. Subsequently, the town witnessed many upheavals until Akbar annexed it to the Mughal empire in 1556. He made it the headquarters for the operations in Rajputana and Gujarat. Ajmer is associated with many important historical events of national importance. Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of King James I of England, presented his credentials to Jehangir in Ajmer, on 10th Jan. 1616. Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan was born here and the war of succession between the sons of Shah Jahan was won in 1659, by Aurangzeb in the battle of Dorai near Ajmer. From 1818 onwards, it came under the domain of the British, who left behind a legacy of excellent educational institutions.
Dargah Khwaja Sahib: This 13th century Dargah is one of the holiest Muslim shrines in the country. It is the final resting place of the great Sufi saint – Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, the ‘Bestower of Boons’ popularly known as ‘Garib Nawaz’ or the ‘protector of the poor’. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world flock here to seek the blessings and pay homage to the Khwaja, by offering chadars at the grave of the holy soul. The dargah has a massive gate with silver doors, which were built by the Nizam of Hyderabad. The tomb richly adorned with gold and silver lies in a magnificent domed chamber in the center of the second courtyard. Qawwals from all over the world come here to sing in the praise of the saint. On the right side of the courtyard is the Akbari Masjid built in white marble by Akbar. There is another impressive mosque built by Shahjahan. Other attractions in the shrine are the two massive dogs (cauldrons) in which the ritual rice is cooked. The smaller deg has a capacity of about 2240 kg. and the larger er one can hold 4480 kg. of rice. The looting” of deg is a unique ritual, as professional looters’ empty the deg in minutes and even jump in the steaming deg. This ‘loot’ is then sold as tabarruk (sanctified food) by the ‘looters’. The six-day celebrations of the or death anniversary of Khwaja are the most important event of Ajmer. During this time millions of devotees from all sects and religions gather here.
Adhai-Din-ka-Jhonpra or “Two and a half day shed”: The relics of an old mosque lies to the west of dargah. It was originally a Sanskrit college, within a temple enclosure and was destroyed by Mohammad Ghauri in 1193. It is said that he ordered, the mosque to be made ready on this site for his prayer within two and a half days. The archways are adorned with intricate carvings depicting Kufi and Jughra inscriptions from the holy Koran.
Magazine: This innermost portion of the fort constructed by Akbar is the most important relic of Mughal history in the city. The main entrance to the building faces Naya Bazar and is provided with balconies (jharokhas) on both sides. Sir Thomas Roe, the British envoy, presented his credentials to Jahangirover here.
Rajputana Museum: It was set up by the Govt. of India for preservation and study of unique and rare relics collected from the various states of Rajputana.
Nasiyan (Red Temple): The famous Digambar Jain temple was constructed in 1865. The Svarna Nagari Hall, behind the shrine, exhibits gilt wooden representations of scenes from Jain mythology.
Mayo College: This elite public school was established in 1875, for providing education to the children of the royal families in the country. Today, it is one of the premier educational institutions of India and is open to everybody. There is a museum displaying historical objects of interest and biological preservation.
Circuit House: It overlooks the Ana Sagar lake and was formerly the British Residency. Nearby, is the cenotaph and shrine of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj movement, who breathed his last at Ajmer.
Ana Sagar: This beautiful 12th-century artificial lake is named after Anaji Chauhan. Its huge embankment was erected with people’s help, while the ‘Baradari’ or pavilions were constructed by Shah Jahan and the Daulat Bagh Gardens were laid by Jehangir.
Visal Sar: The pristine lake amidst sylvan surroundings was built by King Visaldeva (1152 1163 AD.) and is designed like the sacred Pushkar lake.
Prithviraj Chauhan Smarak: The memorial on the way to Taragarh Fort commemorates Prithviraj Chauhan, the last Hindu emperor of India. A life-size statue of the king is erected amidst well laid -out gardens.
Taragarh Fort or the ‘star fort’ (8 kms.): The 7th-century fort built by Ajaipal Chauhan is perched atop a hill and was earlier known as Ajaya-Meru-Durg. It is nearly 2 -3 kms. in circumference and Road has 9 impregnable gates.
Pushkar (12 kms.)
This picturesque pilgrim center nestling amidst the rugged Aravali hills is considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimages for Hindus and is referred to as “Tirth Raj’ or the king of pilgrim centers’. It is believed that a pilgrimage to the sacred ‘Char Dhams’ (Badrinath at Uttaranchal, Jagannath at Orissa, Rameshwaram at Tamil Nadu and Dwarka at Gujarat) is incomplete without a holy dip in the sacred waters of Pushkar. According to Padam Puran’, Lord Brahma was in search of a suitable place for a Vedic yagna. While contemplating, a lotus petal fell from his hand on the earth and water spurted from three places one of them was Pushkar and Brahma decided to perform his yagna over here. The sleepy town comes to life during the annual Pushkar fair held on Kartik Purnima. It has emerged as a major tourist attraction of the region, as tourists from all parts of the world gather here for this colorful fair.
Jagat Pita Shri Brahma Mandir: There are over 400 sacred shrines in and around Pushkar, but the most important is the temple of Lord Brahma, which is only one of its kind in the country. The 14th-century shrine set on a high plinth enshrines a four-faced image of Lord Brahma, known as ‘Chaumurti’. Nearby is a small image of milkmaid Gayatri. Steps in the corner lead to a small cave dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple walls are also adorned with graceful peacocks, the celestial vehicle of Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom and consort of Lord Brahma.
Warah Temple: This second most important shrine of Pushkar is dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Warah, the wild boar. It is said to be built by Chauhan King Anaji (1123 -1150) but was destroyed by Muhammad Ghauri after his victory over Ajmer. In 1806, Gokul Chand Parikh, a Scindia minister renovated the shrine.
Savitri Temple: The shrine of Lord Brahma’s first wife is set on the hill behind the Brahma temple. It can be reached by a long flight of steps and affords a bird’s eye view of the lake and surrounding areas.
Temple of Rangji or Shri Vaikunthnath Ji: This magnificent shrine built in South Indian style is noted for its towering ‘Gopuram’ (gateway). Other important temples are – Apteshwar Mahadeo Temple, Baiji ka Mandir, and Man Mandir, etc.
Pushkar Lake: The sacred reservoir is said to be created by the falling of lotus petal from the hand of Lord Brahma. The lake is considered to be as old as the creation and one of the sacred Panch Sarovar’ or Five Lakes, the other four are Man Sarovar, Bindu Sarovar, Narayan Sarovar, and Pampa Sarovar. There are 52 bathing ghats around the lake, devotees believe that a dip in the waters of the lake washes away the sins, especially during Kartik Poornima (Oct./Nov.).
Man Mahal: It was built by Raja Man Singh I of Amber, as a royal guest house. The guest house has been converted into a hotel and provides a fine view of the ghats.
Pushkar Palace: The 400-year-old palace of Maharaja of Kishangarh has also been converted into a hotel.