Significant Feature :
Urs Of Sufi Saint Khwaja Moin-Ud-Din Chisti.
The First Six Days of Rajab.
The lakeside city of Ajmer is located in central Rajasthan, and is held in great reverence by devotees of all communities who call it 'Ajmer Sharif' (Holy
Ajmer). It is here that the mortal remains of the highly respected Sufi saint
Khwaja Moin-ud-din Chishti lie buried. The Khwaja came from Persia and established the Chishtia order of 'fakirs' in India. He is popularly known as 'Gharib
Nawaz' (protector of the poor) because he dedicated his entire life to the service of mankind.
His spartan life spanned almost a hundred years and he embraced death in solitude while he had withdrawn to his cell for six days, asking not to be disturbed. The
Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is the place where the Saint's mortal remains lie buried and is the site of the largest Muslim fair in India.
More than five lakh devotees belonging to different communities gather from all parts of the subcontinent to pay homage to the
Khwaja on his Urs (death anniversary) during the first six days of 'Rajab' (seventh month of the Islamic calendar.)
The pilgrims who come to seek the blessings of the Khwaja make rich offerings called 'nazrana' at the holy spot where the saint has been entombed. The offerings of rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense contribute to the fragrance that floats in the air inside the shrine. Cash offerings are also made. Also offered by devotees are the 'chadar', 'ghilaph' and 'neema', which are votive offerings for the tomb.
These are brought by devotees on their heads and handed over to the 'khadims' inside the sanctum sanctorum. Outside the sanctum sanctorum of the
Dargah, professional singers called 'qawwals' sit in groups and sing the praises of the saint in a characteristic high pitched voice. People gather around them and listen attentively, sometimes clapping to the rhythm of their instruments.
Cash is also offered in appreciation of noteworthy stanzas to the qawwals. On the steps leading to the main gate, 'fakirs' can be seen begging for alms in the name of the Khwaja. Their cries generally do not go in vain, as the devotees feel happy to help the needy, in the tradition of
Khwaja Gharib Nawaj. The Urs is initiated with the hoisting of a white flag on the
dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of
It is done on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), with the accompaniment of music. On the last day of the sixth month, the 'Jannati-Darwaza'
(gateway of heaven) is flung open early in the morning. People cross this gate seven times with the belief that they will be assured a place in heaven. On the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and sandalwood paste and anointed with perfumes. This ritual is called 'ghusal'. The tomb is then covered with an embroidered silk cloth by the Sajjada Nashin.
Qawwalis are sung and the hall is packed to capacity. There are separate places reserved for women who attend the 'mehfil'. The 'mehfil' terminates late in the night with a 'fatiha', which is a mass prayer for the eternal peace of the Khwaja in particular and mankind in general.
An interesting ritual is the looting of 'kheer' (milk- pudding), which is cooked in two large cauldrons called 'degs' and distributed to the devotees as 'tabarruk'
On the 6th of Rajab, after the usual 'mehfil' and the sound of cracker-bursts accompanied by music; the
Sajjada Nashin performs the ghusal of the tomb. Fatiha and Salamti are read.
A poetic recitation called 'mushaira' is arranged in which poets of all communities arrive to recite compositions dedicated to the
Khwaja. The Qul (end-all) on the 6th of Rajab marks the end of the Urs.
HOW TO GET THERE
Ajmer is 132 kms south-west of Jaipur and 198 kms east of Jodhpur. It is connected by road to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur and Kota. Ajmer is a railway junction on the Delhi -Ahmedabad section of the Western Railway. During the Urs, special buses ply from cities all over India carrying people to Ajmer and back.