Just as you take off your dust-coated shoes at the foot of the steps leading to the Nizam Gate – a magnificent portal intricately crafted in lustrous gold – and begin walking along the cold marble floor, a strange feeling – of calm, serenity and exaltation – washes over you. The monotony of trudging through those narrow, congested alleys to the Dargah is quickly forgotten. The familiar fragrance of burning incense overwhelms your senses. Strains of qawwali to the accompaniment of the harmonium and the tabla beats resonating from the courtyard cast a spell on you. Entranced, you know it is a different world, far removed from the busy, boisterous streets of everyday life, its skirmishes and petty rivalries, and before you realize you’re hypnotized into another reality – of love and ardour as a way to God. This is Ajmer Sharif – faith country.
And you are on a quest.
At the entrance, the lined shops invite the visitors with their jute trays filled with rose petals and white jasmine blossoms, shiny chadors (sheets) embroidered in green, gold and maroon, bundles of lachcha (threads) in yellow and reddish orange, and other votive offerings.
Walking tentatively forward, keeping to the right, I feel tranced as the qawwali moves to a higher pitch. Walking through the Begami Dalaan, I reach the shrine. A young man of slight built, sporting a little beard and skull cap, ties a thread to the marble lattice surrounding the courtyard. Standing next to him, almost shoulder to shoulder, an old woman wearing rags, silver hair splattered across her sunken, clammy cheeks. Standing there with folded hands, she looks as though she has fallen into a trance. The only ornament she wears is a pair of red-and-white bangles. And then, she ties a thread to the façade, too. I make a mental note of that seemingly intense, desperate wish she wants the great Sufi saint to grant her.
Admittedly, I have never been an overtly religious person, never fond of visiting shrines to put forth my prayers. Rites and rituals according to the calendar of the moon have never made much sense to me. I was, at best, curious. And it was my insatiable curiosity that had brought me knocking at the doors of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer Sharif