AJMER: The lakeside city of Ajmer is located in central Rajasthan, and is held in great reverence by devotees of all communities who call it “Amer Sharif” (Holy Ajmer). It is here that the mortal remains of the highly respected Sufi saint Khwaja Moin-ud-Din Chisti lie buried. It is largest site of the Muslim fair in India.
More than five lac 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 offering of rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense contribute to the fragrance that floats in the air inside the shrine. 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 ad handed over to the khadims inside the sancturm sanctorum.
The Urs is initiated with the hoisting of a white flag on the dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of Chishti. 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, the Jannati-Darwaza (gateway of heaven) is flung open early in the morning. People aross 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. The ritual is called ghusal. The tomb is then covered with an embroidered silk cloth by the Sajjada Nashin.
At night religious called mehfils are held in the mehfilkhana, a large hall meant for this purpose. These are presided over by the Sajjada Nashin of the dargah. 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 )blessed food).
On the 6th of Rajab, after the usual mehfils and the sound of cracker-bursts accompanied by music: the sajjada Nashin performer 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.
IMPORTANT: Members of all communities have access to the Dargah. It is compulsory to remove the shoes, before entering, at the main gate. Within the Dargah premises, the head of the pilgrim should be covered al all times