Ajmer Sharif 

Ajmer is famous for the tomb of Hazrat Mu'inuddin Chishti, the founder of the Chishti Sufi order, one of the most important Sufi organizations in India and Pakistan.  Sufi teachers were important missionaries of Islam, through their piety, charisma, blessings, and service.  Muinuddin lived in Ajmer from 1190 until his death in 1232, and the reverence in which he was held after his death can be seen in the patronage his tomb attracted.  The "crown" on the tomb's summit is made of solid gold, and the open space in the foreground is a mosque built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan.  The pilgrims in the foreground are taking an opportunity for private prayer. 

This was taken in Jan. 2003.


This shows one of the tomb's entrances, which are opened at set hours by the khadims or hereditary caretakers.  The image (and language) is of a royal court (darbar) which the faithful can enter to ask for favors.  The central assumption is that the saint is still conscious and attentive, and can confer blessings upon people, by acting as a channel for God's grace.

The entrance is decorated with gold and enamel work, as well as Belgian crystal chandeliers (lights and lamps have traditionally appeared at Sufi tombs, perhaps to convey the image of the saint as illuminating people).  Clocks are another regular feature of mosques and Sufi tombs--in part to help the faithful keep track of prayer times.

 This was taken in Jan. 2003.



This interior shot shows the tomb itself.  It is covered with rose petals, which are thrown by pilgrims as an offering with their prayers.  The railings around the tomb are both made of silver.  Pilgrims stand outside the outer railing, and the khadims (hereditary shrine keepers) move in the space in between.  The heaps of rose petals give off an incredibly strong scent that fills the room, adding to the atmosphere. 

Photography is restricted inside the shrine, so I got this photo from http://www.campuslife.utoronto.ca/groups/sufi/CHISHTI.HTM, which gives permission to reproduce their material for non-profit use, provided proper citation is included. 



The atmosphere outside the tomb is reverent (as is appropriate for such a setting), but it is also full of activity.  One of the common activities is devotional singing by qawwals, whose songs often recount the deeds of the saint, and the power of the shrine.  This photo shows  qawwals set up directly outside the tomb, looking into one of the entrances (and thus figuratively at the "gateway" to the shrine.  The qawwals are there through much of the day, and their singing enhances the devotional atmosphere. 


As mentioned above, the shrine has enjoyed considerable patronage during its history from different Muslim rulers.  This decorative gate was ascribed by a local source to Ala'uddin Khilji, who ruled the Delhi Sultanate between 1296-1315.  Several other later rulers have built gateways outside of this one, including one built by the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1911, which forms the present boundary between the street and the shrine grounds.


This is a ceremonial tomb for Baba Farid, a famous Sufi who was Khwaja Sahib's "spiritual grandson."  Farid migrated to the Punjab, and lived in Pakpattan in modern-day Pakistan; he was the teacher of Hazrat Nizamuddin.


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Last modified 10 October 2003