The strategic position of this city has led to its long and turbulent history. Ajmer is connected to Delhi, Agra, Ahmedabad, Abu, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaipur by main highways and holds strategic aceen to Gujarat and Malwa (M.P.). It was a key centre of Chauhan power along with the twin capital of Delhi, but after Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated by Sultan Mohammed Ghori (1193), it had to pass through a chequered ana violent history.
Ajmer has remained throughout a great centre of pilgrimage for both Hindus and Muslims, a feature that gives the city its character and lends it importance. Ajmer is a true amalgam of rich Hindu and Islamic heritage. The sacred lake of Pushkar believed by Hindus to be a old as creation as the temple of Brahma has been a place of pilgrimage from time immemorial. The great Sufi Saint Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti of Persia was buried here and his Dargah is equally sacred for the followers of Islam as well as Hinduism. The Emperor Akbar made an annual visit to the shrine of the saint, sometimes on foot, as any ordinary pilgrim would.
In the heart of the city is the tomb of Saint Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti, popularly known as Dargah Sharif, it has been since long a pilgrimage and spirtual centre where followers of almost every creed and faith, muslims and non-muslims, come throughout the year, especially on the occasion of the annual 'Urs' celebrated from the 1 st to 6th day of Islamic month of Rajqb, The shrine of Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti is considered, today, a second Mecca/Medina for the Muslims of South Asia. The enormous gate of the mausoleum leading to the open court was built by Sultan Altamash (12th century). In the court are two gigantic iron cauldrons donated by the Mughal emperors.
On the right is Akbar's Mosque, a simple structure of dignified proportions, made of white marble.
On top of the inner gate huge drums are kept in the Naubat Ghar or drum house. The inner gate was donated by a Nawab of Hyderabad. Several tombs are located in the inner enclosure.
Shah Jahan's Mosque : In a corner of the inner court is an elegant building. A long (30.5 metres) and norrow court with a low arcade in white marble, is delicately carved with trellis-work, it is the most beautiful of all the buildings within the Dargah precinct.
The Tomb of the Saint is in a square building of white marble with a large dome. It has two entrances. The front porch is covered with lamps and chandeliers donated by devotees.
Beyond the Dargah, among narrow and crowded lanes is a remarkable early Islamic structure. It was originally a Sanskrit college, probably within a temple enclosure. In 1193, Mohammed Ghori took over Ajmer, destroyed the college and from its ruins, along with the remains of many nearby temples, hurriedly put together a mosque within two and a half days (Adhai-Din). Pillars from at least thirty temples must have gone into the making of this elegant monument, a superb example of Indo-lslamic architecture.
Above the Adhai-din-ka-Jhonpra, the road turns into a briddle path, leading to the top of the hill on which the remains of a strongly built fort stand, One is rewarded by a fine view of the city, from the Taragarh fort.
Akbar's royal residence is now the museum which has an excellent collection of Moghal and Rajput armour and some fine sculpture.
In the south-east of the city is one of India's finest public schools, Mayo College. It was founded in 1875, originally only for the sons of Rajput royalty. Each heir to a state built his own house within the spacious college grounds covering 81 hectares which also housed his entire retinue along with his English tutor. The college is now open to all and is run as a public school tradition.
The former British Residency, overlooking Ana Sagar lake has been convertel as the Circuit House. From here the finest view of the lake can be had. One can also see the cenotaph and shrine of the Hindu reformer Swami Dayanand who founded the Arya Samaj movement in north India.
An interesting drive. 11 km to the west, takes one through a mountain pass to the holy lake of Pushkar. One of the mountains on this pass is called Nag Pahar or snake mountain where the Panchkund and cave of Saint Agastya Rishi is located. It is said that Kalidasa, the 4th century Sanskrit poet and playright, placed the action of his masterpiece Abhijnama Shakuntalam in this forest hermitage. The lake has legendary origins. A lotus fell from the hand of Lord Brahma and dropped into this valley. A lake sprang up on the spot, and was dedicated to him, A temple of Brahma is a popular place of pilgrimage.
About 2,00,000 pilgrims gather annually at Pushkar during the autumnal fair. This is also a livestock fair and hundreds of horses, camels, cows and bulls are brought for sale. At the time of the fair Pushkar blossoms into gaiety and colour. There are camel-cart races which everyone enjoys and are a delight to photographers, film makers and tourists.
Built by Raja Man Singh of Amer, the Man Mahal standing on the banks of Pushkar is now the R.T.D.C. Sarovar tourist bungalow. It is the most convenient place for visitors to stay, Pushkar Palace (Kishangarh House) an adjoining old building is now a heritage hotel.
Named after the engineer who built it, Foy Sagar is a picturesque artificial lake, It was the result of famine relief project.
Air: Jaipur 132 km is the nearest airport.
Rail: Regular train services join Ajmer with important cities. Pink City, chetak and Superfast Shatabdi express are the best trains for tourists from Delhi and Jaipur.
Road: A dense network of bus services operates from Ajmer to key destinations around.