Ajmer is a small but crowded and unorganized city, surrounded by the Aravali Hills in the State of Rajasthan. It is bustling with life and continues to grow at a fast and never-ending pace. The city, approximately 135kms from the capital, Jaipur, is considered a major pilgrimage epicenter for Muslims and Hindus alike, with people coming from all over the world to visit the famous Dargah Shariff, the rare Brahma Temple in Pushkar, the man-made Ana Sagar Lake, the Buland Darwaza etc.
I can bet, anyone who has ever been to Ajmer, has visited at least one of these mentioned places.! Right? Is this all there is to Ajmer? Not really!! Here are a handful of places in and around Ajmer that not everyone knows about, or has visited, but surely have their own charm and history.
The Adhai-Din-Ka-Jhonpra is a mosque in the city of Ajmer. The origin of the structure dates back to the year 660CE, with local Jain tradition leading to believe that it was built originally as a Jain shrine. The Mosque commissioned by Muhammad Ghori in 1192CE was constructed on the remains of a Sanskrit college, with materials from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples. It is the oldest surviving monument in Ajmer and one of the oldest mosques in India.
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Adhai-Din-Ka-Jhonpra, literally meaning “shed of two-and-a-half-days”, which complies with the legend saying that a part of it was built in two and a half days. Others say that it is named after a festival that used to happen there and lasted two and a half days.
2. Taragarh Fort:
Another forgotten wonder of Ajmer is the Taragarh Fort. It is also known as the ‘Star Fort’. It is situated 3Kms from the Adhai-Din-Ka-Jhonpra mosque and is accessible via a steep climb of one and a half hour. It commands a breathtaking view of the city even though in dire need of restoration. Constructed in 1354, the fort was renowned for its tunnels crisscrossing the entire hillside.
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It is an extraordinary example of Rajasthani architecture and was once used as an important centre of military activity. There is a Dargah inside the fort named after the Governor of the fort who gave his life defending it during an invasion. There is a large battlement in the fort called ‘Bhim Burj’ which once housed a huge cannon called Garbh Gunjam or ‘Thunder from the womb’.
About 165 Km from Ajmer is the quaint city of Bundi. It is covered on three sides by the Aravali Hills, and a wall encircles the entire city. It has its own fair share of forts, palaces and over 50 stepwell water reservoirs(only a handful have been maintained till date).
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These are stepwells were once the primary source of water for the residents. Other places that definitely need to be visited include the mesmerizing Bundi Palace, the huge artificial lake – Nawal Sagar and the Sukh Mahal Palace on the banks of the lake.
Khimsar is a tiny Hamlet located on the edge of the Thar desert. It is surrounded by sand dunes and the centre of the town is a water body which seems like an oasis in the surrounding desert. Located about 170 km from Ajmer, the history of Khimsar dates back to the construction of the Khimsar fort in the 16th century, which was intended to provide a strong defense against any invasions.
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The fort has now been converted into a Heritage Hotel and the Royal Garage is a must visit for vintage car enthusiasts. The Panchala Black Buck Reserve is in close proximity and till date remains a stronghold for the endangered species(Black Buck) and also a home for some migratory cranes.
About 220 kms from Ajmer and 7 kms from Nawalgarh, rests a small town called Dundlod. There are a number of forts and havelis in the town dating back to the mid 17th century. The Dundlod fort was the first fort, built by Keshari Singh, youngest son of Rajput leader Sardul Singh. Construction was completed in 1750 and was to be used as a thikana for Shekhawati rulers. Ram Chandra Goenka in 1888 built the Chhatri of Ram Dutt Goenka, adjacent to which is a well. The Chhatri (Dome) is designed with a consistent floral pattern and is encircled with paintings depicting Krishna dancing with his gopis. The paintings around the inner base of the Chhatri, show the scenes of the Mahabharata in a panorama. The wealthy Goenka Merchant family has also found abode in this beautiful town. The Bhagirath Mal Goenka Haveli and Satyanarayan Temple were built by the Goenka family and are a must-see for visitors.