The holy town of Ajmer in the state of Rajasthan hosts annual Urs festival Ajmer, which commemorates the death anniversary of the revered Sufi Saint Moinuddin Chishti. Millions of people from different castes, religions and regions of the world attend this 6 day long festival.
Urs Festival Ajmer
During the festival, the entire town turns into a grand spectacle with flowers and light decorations and bustling bazaars all around. The environment filled with heart-warming Sufi music, prayers and unmatched mysticism is enough to overwhelm the senses of the festival attendees.
Significance of Urs Ajmer Fair
The Arabic word ‘Urs’ translates to ‘wedding’ and it signifies the union of a lover (a Sufi saint) with the ultimate beloved (the God). In other words, it marks the event of a Sufi saint leaving the mortal form and ascending to the heavenly abode. Interestingly, the death anniversary is celebrated as the wedding anniversary during the Urs fair at Ajmer.
About Khwaja Moinnudin Chishti
Born in Afghanistan in the year 1141, Moinnudin Chishti turned to India as guided by Muhammad and established the Chishti Order of Sufism in the Indian subcontinent. Popularly known as Gharib Nawaz (benefactor of the poor), the saint preached feeding the hungry and helping those in distress as the most prominent forms of devotion towards God. Upon death, he was buried in a tomb at Ajmer. The tomb acquired the status of a shrine and is popular worldwide as Ajmer Sharif or Dargah Sharif.
When is Ajmer Urs Festival Celebrated?
Urs of Moinuudin Chishti is held in the first week of Rajab, the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. It is believed that during the last year of his life, Saint Chishti spent the first 6 days of Rajab secluded in a prayer room and died on the sixth day. Hence, the festival is celebrated for six days coinciding with the first 6 days of Rajab every year.
Urs 2015 Dates and Schedule
In 2015, the 803rd installation of the festival will be held from 20/21 April to 25/26 April. Some important events of the Urs festival at Ajmer, 2015 include:
- April 16/17: Flag hoisting ceremony
- April 20: Opening of Jannati Darwaza (the door to heaven)
- April 20/21: Beginning of Urs and
- April 25/26: Chhati Sharif and closing of Jannati Darwaza
During the festival, the shrine’s gates open at 05:00 a.m. and close at 01:00 a.m. daily.
Important Events and Things to Do
- Flag Hoisting: The successor of Chishtis hoist the flag at the main gate called Buland Darwaza of the shrine amidst drum beating and prayers.
- Jannati Darwaza Opens: The gateway to the heaven opens one day before the festival begins. The pilgrims cross the door 7 times as the ritual is believed to open the door to heaven on death.
- Ghusal: During the ceremony carried out each day during the festival, the sacred tomb is washed using sandalwood paste and rosewater. Later the perfumes are smeared and a beautiful embroidered silk cloth is spread to cover the tomb.
- Looting of Pudding (Kheer): One of the highlights is the looting of the milk pudding (called kheer) cooked in two sacred cauldrons called big and small degs. The blessed food is then distributed among the pilgrims.
- Chhati Sharif: On the concluding day, called Chhati Sharif, Shirja, Fariyad (prayers) and Badhaawa (sacred poem) are recited. The festival’s end at 01:30 p.m. is marked by cannon firing.
- Qawwalis: Day and night singing of qawwali (Sufi devotional music) is definitely the main draw of the festival. Whether you attend the festival as a pilgrim or a tourist, the magical environment created by the music is bound to leave you mesmerized and connected to the almighty.
- Offerings: Dargah Sharif is believed to fulfil the wishes of its visitors. It is considered extremely auspicious to offer rose and jasmine flowers and silk sheets in the shrine. Sandalwood paste, incense sticks and other votive offerings can also be made.
- Shopping: All around the town, you can find shops and stalls selling stuffs like clothing, silver ornaments, embroidered furnishings, rosaries, Rajasthani handicrafts, antiques, footwear and attar in huge variety.
How to Reach
Ajmer, the holy town enjoying the rugged backdrop of the Aravalli Hills, is located in the state of Rajasthan, about 132 km. from the state capital Jaipur and about 388 km. from the national capital New Delhi.
- By Road: Jaipur-Ajmer Expressway is the most convenient route providing great support to the public as well as private transport.
- By Rail: Ajmer Junction offers good connectivity by rail with the cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur.
- By Air: The closest airport is at Jaipur, which offers good air connectivity with several domestic and international destinations.
Ajmer’s located in the desert state of Rajasthan has extremely hot days in the summers of April during the festival. It is advised to pack light cotton clothes, along with sunscreen lotions, sunglasses and hats.
Attractions in and Around Ajmer
- Taragarh Fort: The hilltop fort offers splendid views of the entire region.
- Adhai-din-ka-Jhopra: A remarkable monument with a 7-arch wall that was constructed in just 2.5 days.
- Kishangarh Fort: About 34 km. away, the fort showcases wonderful architecture with exquisite carvings.
- Pushkar: Only about 15 km. is the holy town of Pushkar, known worldwide for hosting the only temple of Lord Buddha at the bank of the pristine Pushkar Lake.
- Jaipur: The Pink City of Rajasthan is a popular tourist destination in India, known for its forts, palaces, temples and monuments.
Hotels at Ajmer
Here are some of the popular hotels, along with their respective distance from the shrine and contact information:
- Hotel Omni Palace (about 3 km.): 0145 2428503
- Hotel Moti Mahal (about 1.5 km.): 0145 2430085
- Hotel Shankar Palace (about 2 km.): 0145 5100850
- Mansingh Palace Hotel (about 3.5 km.): 0145 2425702
Eating Out at Urs Ajmer fair
Don’t miss the mouth-watering biryani served at many stalls near the shrine. Also, sweets like jalebis and malpuas are extremely delicious. In addition, there are many popular fast food joints and restaurants across the town where Indian and international cuisines can be enjoyed. The popular options include Mango Masala, Daavat, Bhola, Haveli Heritage and Gangaur Fast Food.