Ajmer, the home of the most famed Muslim shrine of the Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is the principal place of Muslim pilgrimage in India. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a direct descendant ofAli, the son-in-law , the Prophet Mohammad was born in 1142.
Renouncing the world joined a renowned mystic, Khwaja Usman Haruni belonging to the Sufi School and stayed with him for 24 years ultimately to leave for India in 1186 as a missionary. He arrived in Ajmer during the reign of the famed Rajput Prithviraj Chauhan.
At the age of 93, in the year 1236 he told his disciples not to disturb him while he is in his cell. He was found dead after six days and a tomb was erected here in his memory. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti also lovingly called Khwaja Sahib compassion for the poor, irrespective of caste and creed earned him the epithet of Garib Nawaz.
More than three centuries later the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who had no son made a pilgrimage bare foot from Agra to Ajmer to the Saint’s tomb to pray for an heir. Blessed with the birth of a son, Salim (future Emperor Jahangir), Akbar began to make regular pilgrimages to Ajmer to meditate at the tomb of the venerated Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. A mosque was built in honour of the Khwaja. The Mughal Emperors, in move to legitimise
their dynasty, made Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti the patron saint of their lineage and the dargah of Ajmer their dynastic sanctuary.
The shrine is approached through an imposing gateway (about 21 m high) built by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1915. On the right is the red sand stone Akbari Masjid (1571 AD) ^ to the left an assembly hall with silver doors. The second courtyard 1s entered through Buland Darwaza another gate built by Mahmood Khilji in the 15-century.
Next come two huge degs (cauldrons)-the big deg (3 m circumference) gifted by Akbar and the small deg gifted by Jahangir are still in use. Muslims pay for a feast of rice, ghee, sugar, almonds, raisins and spices to be cooked in these degs for mass distribution. On the right is Mehfil Khana, opened only during the Urs and the Langar Khana is to the left.
Straight ahead lies the courtyard having Sandali Masjid and on its left is Auliya Masjid, a place where Khwaja first stayed after arriving in Ajmer. There is another mosque of Bibi Hafiz Jamal, the Khwaja’s daughter, a small enclosure with marble lattice work, close by is that of Chimni Begum, daughter of Shahjahan. Tb the right of Sandali Masjid is the tomb of Nizam Sikka and silver Jannati Darwaza.
Overlooking these is Jami Masjid (1638) built by Shahjahan, 33 m long with 11 arches and a carved balustrade on three sides.
In the inner courtyard is the Dargah chamber. The white marble tomb is square with a domed roof. The ceiling is gold embossed and silver railing and gates enclose the tomb.
The qawwali rendered in vast courtyards on both of its sides heightens the feeling of religious fervour. In the corner of the inner court is Begum Dalaan, built in 1643 by Shahjahan’s daughter. It is a white marble magnificent building with gilded walls and ceilings etched with gold.
The shrine is considered second only to Mecca-Madina and during the Urs (Saint’s death anniversary celebrations), hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come here from all over the subcontinent, between the first and sixth of Rajab, the seventh month of the lunar calendar.
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