I recently visited Ajmer. This time I deliberately avoided the Dargah. I am not quite fond of overcrowded places where everyone is trying to sell me something without which my pilgrimage will remain incomplete. Interestingly, the more I spend on these goodies, the more flashy package I will be able to offer to the Gods, and the bigger rewards I will get inside the Dargah from my prayers. Doesn’t sound very convincing. So I decided to explore the other lesser crowded places and countryside of Ajmer beyond the dargah. I hiked in Aravali mountains, visited farms and spent time with village families around Ajmer. And here is how you can do it too –
Visit a rose farm: The Aravali mountain range around Ajmer has numerous rose farms. Vast expanse of red, pink and yellow coloured roses fill the farms around Ajmer. Gulkand, used in the Indian pan is made in many houses and is the family business for generations. While you are in Ajmer, contact Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti (a local NGO working for women’s and children’s rights), who can guide you to the rose farms.
Day trip to Pushkar market: It takes an hour to reach Pushkar which is located on the hills around Ajmer. I would never visit during the annual Pushkar camel fair during which the whole country descends here. But a visit to the street market during any one of the other days is worth it, especially for the ladies. I spent few hours strolling on the streets in Pushkar where shops sold colourful handicrafts. It was a good day for the shop owners as many women, both local and foreign, were in the market looking for their favourite piece of art with full force. The shops sold hand bags, traditional clothes with glass work on them, puppets, make-up kits and many other things that could keep someone busy for the whole day.
Walk along the Ana sagar: It is a huge artificially built lake in Ajmer. It is surrounded by the city on one side and Aravalli hills of Pushkar on the other. I strolled along the banks of the lake with faint sounds of Sufi chants in the background.
Adhai din ka jhopda: It is a dilapidated mosque not too far from the Dargah of Ajmer. Not many tourists visit this place. There are many stories around this structure. According to one story, Qutubuddin Aibak who commissioned this mosque built it over a school of Sanskrit that was housed inside a Vaishnav temple. Another story says that the seven arches were built in two and half days and hence the name of this structure.
Taragarh fort: If you want the birds eye view of entire Ajmer city and surrounding mountains, visit the Taragarh fort. There is a hiking trail that starts from behind the Dargah of Ajmer and takes around 90 min to complete. There is also a road through which you can drive right upto the mountain top.
Back in the 11th century AD, Ajmer was ruled by Chauhan king, Ajayraj. He combined his name with the name of mount Meru (the mythical mountain of Gods in Hinduism) and called the city Ajaymeru. The city got renamed as Ajmer, but locals still use the old name.
Featured Image: Nagarjun Kandukuru, Flickr CC
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