November 02, 2014

DARGAH OF MOINUDDIN CHISTI, AJMER

THE TOMB OF GHARIB NAWAZ

The Nizam Gate
The dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is the most famous landmark of Ajmer attracting lakhs of devotees across the Sub-continent each year. Known as Gharib Nawaz or the 'Benefactor of the Poor', Moinuddin was the founder of the Chisti order of Sufism in India and is considered as the first amongst the four great Sufi saints of southern Asia. Born in the mid twelfth century in Herat, he attained enlightenment at a young age and traveled far and wide across the Muslim world studying religious literature before settling in India following the instructions of Prophet Mohammed who is believed to have appeared in his dream and ordered him to do so. He came to India at around the same time when the Muslim rule was established in the country during the 1190s. He is known to have performed several miracles during his lifetime and preached harmony between people practicing all faiths. He died in AD 1236 and was buried in Ajmer as per his wishes.

The fame of the Sufi saint spread far and wide after his death as his disciples including Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Khaki, Fariduddin Ganjshakar and Nizamuddin Auliya spread his message of love and sympathy to different parts of northern India. It was Emperor Akbar's visit to the tomb of Chisti that firmly established the town as one of the most famous religious centers in India. History tells us that the great Mughal ruler was a regular visitor to the dargah and would walk the last leg of his journey barefoot. In fact, he made several donations for the maintenance of the tomb and even constructed a palace that was used (Link) by him while on pilgrimage. Ever since, people numbering in lakhs including heads of state, politicians and film stars have thronged to seek the blessings of Chisti and it is believed that he grants the wishes of the devotees who come here.

Shops along the Dargah Bazaar
As you walk towards the tomb, looking at the crowds, one may feel that the entire town has descended on this street. In fact, all along the Dargah Bazaar, you can feel the devotion in the atmosphere; the very fact that people come here in such large numbers is enough to overwhelm you emotionally. And as to make your way past the sea of humanity, you will see hordes of beggars with all sorts of deformities asking for alms, hoping to appeal to the conscience of the pilgrims. Near the dargah, there are shops selling carpets (chaddars), flowers and other items that are offered to Khwaja. Since cameras and bags are not allowed inside the shrine, you can keep your footwear and other belongings in any of these shops and in return, you are expected to buy something from there.

The dargah is more than just a place of worship. It consists of several structures that were constructed by emperors and kings on the fulfillment of their wishes. Emperor Akbar the Great built the elegant Akbari Mosque and presented the Badi Deg (Cauldron) in AD 1567 after his forces captured Chittorgarh from the Sissodia Rajputs. His successor Jahangir presented the Chhoti Deg in the early seventeenth century. Shah Jahan who was the most prolific builder amongst the Mughals added two more monuments - the Shah Jahani Gate and the Shah Jahani Mosque which is commonly known as the Jama Masjid. His daughter Princess Jahan Ara is believed to have built the Begami Dalam. The Nizams of Hyderabad who were amongst the richest royal families in India during the 19th century too made several grants to the dargah. The main doorway to the shrine - the Nizam Gate was constructed by Nizam Mir Osman Ali in AD 1915. His father Nizam Asaf Jha VI erected the Mehfil Khana where the qawals perform during the time of the Urs. The Buland Darwaza was built by Sultan Ghiyasuddin Khilji; the Nawab Mohammed Ali of Arcot constructed the Arcot Dalam whereas the Victoria Tank was erected to commemorate the Queen's coronation as the Empress of India.

The central shrine which houses the Tomb of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti is small and crowned by a beautiful white dome. Entering the shrine though is quite a task primarily due to the massive crowds; the petite entrance leading to the tomb does not help. Next to it is the tomb of Bibi Hafiz Jamal - the daughter of the Sufi saint. Besides, there are a host of other tombs in the entire courtyard belonging to the descendants of Chisti, his staunchest followers, some lesser members of the Mughal household, governors of the region as well as army generals. It is believed that Nizam Bhisti - the water bearer who is believed to have saved the life of Emperor Humayun after a defeat at the hands of Sher Shah Suri is also buried in this complex. Other places of interest include the Ibadat Khana (Prayer Hall), the Auliya Masjid and the Peer Baba's Gaddi.

Chhadars offered to Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti

USEFUL LINKS

(1) Dargah Sharif - History of Dargah Sharif, Ajmer, India (Link)

(2) Hazrat Khwaja Garib Nawaz - Monuments (Link)



MORE POSTS RELATED TO AJMER

(1) Terracotta Wall Frames (Link)

(2) Akbar's Palace or the Magazine or the ASI Museum (Link)

(3) Adhai Din ka Jhopra or Jama Altamash (Link)

(4) Anasagar Lake (Link)