One hundred and thirty-two kilometres (82
miles) south-east of Jaipur lies Ajmer in
a beautiful valley surrounded by hills.
Apart from its natural charms, Ajmer is a
city of considerable historical, religious
and architectural interest.
derives its name from Ajayameru (the
invincible hill). It is believed to have
been founded by Ajaipal Chauhan in the 7th
century. During Ajayaraja’s rule in the
12th century, Ajmer emerged as an
important city. He contributed so much to
the development and growth of Ajmer, by
adding new palaces and temples, that he
came to be regarded as the founder of the
city. He built the fortress of Taragarh.
Arnoraj, also called Anaji, constructed
the Anasagar Bund. Prithviraj Chauhan was
the last great Hindu ruler of North India
before the Muslim conquest. The story of
his romantic exploits and chivalrous deeds
is contained in the famous bardic work,
prithviraj Raso by Chandbardai.
Prithviraj’s defeat at the hands of
Muhammed Ghori, the latter sacked Ajmer in
1193. its peace was again disturbed during
Timur’s hurricane invasion of India.
Subsequently, it was seized by Rana Kumbha
of Mewar and retained by him for a bridf
period. From 1470 to 1531, it came under
the domination of the Muslim rulers of
Malwa till it was seized by Maldeo Rathor,
ruler of Marwar. Later,
Akbar the Great annexed it to the
Mughul empire in 1556.
Mughul emperor, Akbar realised the
strategic importance of Ajmer which then
commanded the main routes from the north
and held the key to the conquest of
Rajputana and Gujarat. Accordingly, he
made Ajmer the headquarters for his
operations in the region and constituted
it into a subah comprising a large part of
modern Rajasthan. Akbar visited Ajmer in
1561 and 1568 for military operations.
Later, in 1570, he came to the shrine of
the great Muslim saint, Khwaja Muin-ud-Din
Chishti, in fulfillment of a vow that he
would undertake such a journey if a son
was born to him. From this year till 1582,
the great Emperor visited Ajmer every year
to offer prayers at the Dargah.
connected with a series of remarkable
events. It was at Ajmer that Sir Thomas
Roe, the Ambassador of King James I of
England, presented his credentials to
Jahangir on January 10, 1616. Dara Shikoh,
the eldest son of Shahjahan, was born
there and the War of Succession among the
sons of Shahjahan was won by Aurangzeb in
the battle of Dorai near Ajmer in 1659.
Shahjahan also paid frequent visits to
Ajmer and erected the beautiful marble
pavilions on the embankment of the
lies at the foot of the Taragarh hill
which forms an imposing background. The
crest of the hill rises to a height of
about 243 m. (800 ft.) from its base and
is encircled by the ancient Ajayameru Durg
later called Taragarh fortress. An
impregnable stronghold of the early
Chauhans, it has witnessed many a historic
battle in the past.
At the foot
of the Taragarh hill stands the
Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra, described as one of
the most perfect and the most ancient
specimens of Hindu architecture. “For
gorgeous prodigality of ornament,
beautiful richness of tracery, delicate
sharpness of finish, laborious accuracy of
workmanship, endless variety of detail,
all of which are due to the Hindu masons,
this building may justly vie with the
noblest buildings which the world has yet
The building was originally constructed
for a Sanskrit college, while the temple
was built by Visaldeva Vigrahraj II in
1153. It was converted into a mosque by
Muhammad Ghori who attacked Ajmer in 1192.
The mosque consists of a quadrangle 61 m.
(200 ft.) by 53 m. (175 ft.)
surrounded by cloisters. The liwan or the
main sanctuary on the west consists of
five rows of finely carved columns which
support an elaborately ornamented ceiling.
The ten domes in the roof are borne by 124
columns. The facade, consisting of a
magnificent screen of seven arches is,
however, its most notable feature and
constitutes a work of great elegance and
beauty. Added by Shams-ud-Din IItutmish
(1211-36), it extends over a width of 61
m. (200 ft.) with its central parapet
about 17 m. (56 ft.) high. Two short
minarets with inscriptions rise above this
arch at the corners. These have been
acclaimed for the taste with which the
Kufic and Tughra inscriptions are
interwoven with the more purely
architectural decorations. “Nothing”.,
according to Fergusson, “in Cairo or in
Persia is so exquisite in detail, and
nothing in Spain and Syria can approach
them for beauty of surface decoration.”
one version, Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra
(two-and-a-half-day’s hut), is so known
because Muhammad Ghori ordered that it
should be ready for him to pray in
two-and-a-half days. It is, however, more
likely that it received this name in the
later half of the 18th century, because of
the fakirs who used to assemble here to
celebrate the Urs of Panjab Shah which
lasted for two-and-a-half days.
At the site of the mosque, six tablets of
polished basalt, containing fragments of
two important Sanskrit dramas, Harkeli
Natak and Lalit Vigrahraj Natak in
Devanagri characters, were discovered
during an excavation in 1875-76. The first
was composed by King Vigrahraj II and the
second by his court poet, Somadev, in the
12th century. These tablets are exhibited
in the Ajmer museum.
the Dargah Khwaja Sahib, the most sacred
of all the Muslim shrines in India. It
comprises the mausoleum of Khwaja
Muin-ud-Din Chishti, two mosques, an
assembly hall (Mahfil Khana) and an
imposing gateway (Buland Darwaza).
main entrance is the red sandstone mosque
built by Akbar. The 23 meters (75 ft.)
high Buland Darwaza stands inside the main
gateway of the Dargah. On either side of
this gate are two giant cauldrons (degs)
with a capacity of 2612.6 Kg. (70 mds.)
and 1045.0 Kg. (28 mds.), respectively,
fitted into masonry. During the annual Urs
festival, a dainty preparation of rice is
cooked in them for distribution among
those whom custom entitles to it.
Muin-ud-Din Chishti is regarded as the
prince among the Muslim saints of India.
Born in 1143, near Ghor in Afghanistan,
the Khwaja reached Ajmer about 1190 where
he settled down for the rest of his life.
His fame spread far and wide and rich and
poor alike were imbued with reverence for
his renunciation, humanism and simplicity.
He died in 1236 at the age of 97, and his
body was laid to rest at the foot of
In 1464, a
tomb was built over his remains by the son
of Sultan Mahmud Khilji of Mandu. It was
in Akbar’s reign, however, that the Dargah
came into prominence. He endowed the
Dargah and built the Akbari mosque.
Jahangir also built a small mosque, now
called Sandal Khana, while Shahjahan was
responsible for the big dome over the
mausoleum and the splendid Jama Masjid in
celebration of Urs at the Dargeh of Khwaja
Muin-ud-Din Chishti takes place every year
from the 1st to the 6th of the Muslim
month of Rajab when pilgrims from all
parts of the country, and even outside,
gather in large numbers to offer worship
at the shrine.
(1571-72), commonly known as the Magazine,
is situated in the heart of the city. The
massive square structure with octagonal
bastions at each corner, was built by
Akbar for his stay during his frequent
visits to Ajmer. The imposing gateway, 26
m. (84 ft.) long and 13 m. (43 ft.) wide,
is flanked by balconies on either side. It
was here that Sir Thomas Roe, the
ambassador of King James I of England,
presented his credentials to Emperor
Jahangir on January 10, 1616.
central building inside the Fort now
houses the Museum which has a fine
collection of sculptures from various
ancient sites in Rajasthan, inscriptions,
coins and paintings.
in Ajmer afford the same delight to a
visitor as the entrancing beauty of
Anasagar, an artificial lake formed by
raising a huge embankment between two
hills. It was constructed by the Chauhan
king Arnoraj or Anaji, grandfather of
Prithviraj, between 1135 and 1150. Anaji
is said to have killed a large number of
his enemies at this spot and in order to
wash the site of the terrible bloodshed,
he has filled it with water by damming up
a river. The result was the birth of
Anasagar. Jahangir was so fascinated with
the beauty of the spot that he laid out a
garden, Dualat Bagh, below the embankment.
Shahjahan further beautified the place by
constructing the 378 m. (1,240 ft.) long
marble parapet on the
embankment and five elegant pavilions of
polished white marble.