Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah – the Shrine of Moinuddin Chishti

Peace of mind is what most of us look for and peace of mind is what you get when you visit the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah – the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Resting place of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, also known as Gharib Nawaz (Benefactor of the Poor) is one place I had wanted to visit for a long time and visiting it eventually meant year 2012 could not have ended on a better note. And what’s better, I also visited Pushkar, the Land of Brahma and prayed at the Brahma temple, an opportunity not many get in their lifetime.

Reaching Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah

We started off our last trip of 2012 at 6am from Gurgaon and after a 350 km and 7 hour road journey we reached Ajmer-e-Sharif ajmer11-e1356502790115Dargah at around 1pm. The road trip was enjoyable as usual and reaching out in time meant (it is open from 9 am to 5 pm only) we could spend as much time as we wanted at the Dargah itself.

After you enter Ajmer, you can find the Dargah through the road signs or by asking people. The roads closer to Dargah are narrow and there is lot of traffic, but that happens around such places, so don’t worry too much about that.

Things to keep in mind

If you are taking your car, there are few things that you need to know. Close to the Dargah, you’ll find parking space in private properties of shopkeepers and others. They charge you Rs 100 for 2 hours and they expect you to be back in 2 hours. You’ll have to leave your belongings including camera and car keys with them. If you come late, they’ll ask for more money.

From there you can walk up to the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah, though auto-rickshaw people will tell you it is very far off and charge you Rs 150/-(you can bargain and get them down to 100, at least we got one at this rate, though we walked eventually), you should walk as it’s a 10 min walk through the bazar and you can enjoy that too.

ajmer31-e1356502807187Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah Committee members help out

We met this gentleman, well he walked up to us, and gave us a few guidelines and met us in the Dargah. We were told by our friends that he’ll ask for money later on, but when we offered him same in the end, he politely refused. Anyhow, he took us around the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah and well, that was very helpful. The high point of the praying was I could touch and kneel down at “the mazar” and felt elated to no end. And yes, if you want to donate, you can do so at the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah Committee office and also get a receipt of the same.

Qawwali recital should not be missed

I wanted to listen to qawwali and well as luck would have had it, the qawwali guy turned up in time and was going to play at the exact spot we were sitting at. So that meant we had to move and it also meant we were closest to him.

After praying there, we came out and had our lunch right outside in a restaurant. The food they served was really nice and reasonably priced too. In the end, it was a memorable visit and did bring a “lot” of peace of mind.

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Pushkar, Brahma’s Temple and Land of Brahma

Pushkar, the Land of Brahma and the place which has the only Brahma’s Temple in the world – there are a few others, but this one is the “one,” is the king of pilgrimages, as the legend goes. We visited it a few days back after we had prayed at the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah – Shrine of Moinuddin Chishti and came back satisfied and elated.

11km from Ajmer

After visiting the Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah, we moved on to our next destination, stop for the night and most sacred of religious places in India, Pushkar. Though it’s only 11km from Ajmer, we didn’t find the right directions due to lack of proper signages and ended up taking the longer 22km route. We didn’t mind it much eventually for two reasons; one- we did enjoy this route, and two- we came back by the 11km route so didn’t miss anything including enjoying the breath taking view of Ajmer city from a distance.

Pushkar – the bazaar, the foreigners, the food and the books

We went to the temple next morning, and the evening we spent in the town was amazing for many reasons. First important thing, you can walk through the entire place and have one of the most memorable evening strolls you’ll ever have in life.

You’ll find local handicrafts, endless variety of western-eastern mix colorful clothes esp for women and all kinds of food joints. You’ll find a lot of foreigners from all over the world sipping coffee, eating pan cakes and sandwiches and of course dressed in sadhu-dresses and sadhu-haircuts.

The stuff you get there is unique and reasonably priced. Even if you don’t buy anything, make sure you eat in some street restaurant, they serve delicious food that you’ll remember forever. And if you are a book lover, well then you are up for a rare treat. I found books there which I have never seen any where.

Brahma Temple

Brahma Temple, needless to say, is the reason we went there and was undoubtedly the highlight of the visit. They don’t allow you camera, bags, etc. inside and these you can deposit at one of the shops near to temple. The feeling you get in the temple is beyond words and if you are religious or spiritual person, you’ll be amazed.

The temple complex also has other smaller temples like Indra Temple, Kuber Temple, Saptrishi Temple and many others. When we went there there were not many people around and that gave us ample time to spend in the temple.

Pushkar Sarovar, the lake

The Pushkar lake has a legend attached to it and we loved this lake too. However acting on the advice of our friends we decided not to entertain the local priests there, a fact those preists didn’t like. In fact they said you can’t click pictures of the lake without paying money for it, as if we were going to listen to them and pay.

Anyhow, that was not a nice experience but still memorable.

Interesting all along

Overall, Pushkar has immense religious importance and was worth every moment we spent there. And lest I forget, among all the above while roaming around in the bazaar you’ll also be able to enjoy the art/paintings of Kikasso, the Indian Picasso.

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Jodhpur – Blue City, Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada and a lot more

“A poor man earning just 100 rupees a day eats only that food which is cooked in desi ghee.” This was the response the restaurant manager gave us when we inquired after feeling that every food item (and it was very reasonably priced) that we were eating at his restaurant at the Nai Sadak Chowraha in Jodhpur tasted to have been cooked in desi ghee. And this was just one of the memorable take-aways from the last stop of our last trip of 2012.

After praying at Ajmer-e-Sharif and Pushkar and driving for close to 600 km, we finally reached Jodhpur – a historic place, a major tourist attraction, the blue city, the sun city and a lot more.

Remarkable Mehrangarh Fort

Mehrangarh Fort is the biggest attraction in Jodhpur and we were really excited to visit it. The fort is on the top of a rocky hill and the narrow road leading up to it goes through old habitation. The fort is really majestic and could be among the tallest especially when you look at it right after crossing the main entrance.

Inside the fort you will be mesmerized by many things which includes the area at the far end overlooking “the Blue City”. When you stand there with over dozen canons looking over the area. And when you look down and see the blue color all around, well that scene is like no other you would have seen ever in life.

The museum within the fort is the other place you’ll love. It let’s you peek into many aspects of the royal life like all kinds of palanquins, armory, swords, a few guns and many other things. You go there and you’ll find plenty of things you’ll love to watch, feel and buy too.

 

The interesting Jaswant Thada

On way down from the Mehrangarh Fort we made a quick stop over at the Jaswant Thada. Well this is a serene place with a nice lake and a great structure, however, beyond that it doesn’t had much to offer. You can visit this place and cover it in under one hour the most, that includes parking the car, buying the tickets, clicking lots of pictures, and moving out.

Outstanding Umaid Bhawan Palace

The next stop for us was the Umaid Bhawan Palace which is on the other side of the city. It is a heritage hotel now but you can pay a visit to the museum and if you love cars then you’ll fall in love with the vintage car collection there. It was here that I saw a Cadillac and a Rolls Royce from a foot away with only a glass separating us.

Inside the museum we saw a lot of royal heritage and loved every part of it. Since it was almost 5 pm, the closing time, we rushed through many things but still enjoyed it to the fullest.

Kaylana Lake is good too

We decided to conclude our day by spending the evening at the Kaylana Lake. We had seen on Google maps that it was a big lake but while we asked about directions from locals they were all surprised as to why we wanted to go there and we were amused by their responses. This meant that it took us a lot more time than we had anticipated and we won’t have reached there had there been no Google Maps and Navigation applications.

However, the lake was not very impressive but was not a total disappointment either. We clicked some nice pics there and came back to the Nai Sarak for some shopping and eventual dinner at the same local restaurant. This concluded a really memorable day for all of us.

575 km in under 10 hours

The next day proved to be the icing on the cake as we started off at 5.30am from the hotel and had a great drive back to Gurgaon. And in under 10 hours we reached Gurgaon, a record of sorts for all the road trips we have had in 2012. Driving through a deserted road from Jodhpur to Beawar, a spectacular 6 lane highway from Beawar to Jaipur via Ajmer and then an ever traffic ridden Jaipur to Gurgaon highway, it was as good as it gets.

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Bannerghatta National Park…

Staring into the eyes of a tiger standing less than two feet from you can be an experience in itself and when the tiger is loose and you are inside a cage (well almost) the experience is so hard to describe. Enjoying the safari in the Bannerghatta National Park- only one hour drive from Bangaluru (Bangalore), was just one such experience.

Starting from deer to crocodile to bear to tiger and lion, there was lots to intrigue and intimidate anyone and everyone. The cage (bus actually) was the one in which were seated the humans and free (almost) were the wild animals.

 

What topped the entire safari was the attitude of the tigers- from the looks of their demeanor they had we-don’t-give-a-damn attitude. For we humans it was so thrilling, a once in a life time kind of experience, and for them it was an everyday routine affair. They were right- we see tigers very very rarely but they see humans daily.

Anyhow, it was quite a memorable trip and since I was with my family it had all the fun I could have asked for.

Next time you visit Bangaluru (Bangalore), make sure Bannerghatta National Park is part of your itinerary.. And get ready to get thrilled..

 

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary…A place that will make you fall in love with birds

I had visited some three years back and the memories are still refreshing… The best time to visit is December or January, I went in January.. If you love birds, you are up for an experience of a life time.. And if you are not too taken by the birds, wait till you have visited this place..

If you are luckier than most, well we were to some extent, you may end up with unexpected experiences… A tiger from Sariska Tiger Reserve had wandered into this area and was there (these tigers are tracked using radio transmitters) the night before.. We saw his “Pug” mark – the feeling was awesome and in fact more rewarding then our visit to Sariska two years later (in 2012), when we couldn’t even enter the reserve..

Any how, coming back to the birds of Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, you can blame the fog for not-so-clear pictures…

 

Naukuchiatal – A rocking end to a rocking 2010!

I have visited a few places in my life but never before had so much fun at a single place that too in just shy of 48 hours. It was a rocking end to a rocking year. From kayaking to paint ball to para gliding to zorbing, the fun was just never put on hold. And then there was the bonfire and the dance floor to bring the never-ending-fun-days to an end on a high. You had to be there to believe it.

And who knew, in a few years time this place would become even more important part of my life 🙂