Recently I had been to Central University of Rajasthan, which is located at a place called Bandar Sindri. I read it as Bandar Sundri. In Odia and Bangla it means pretty she-monkey- khubsurat bandariya.
I like this kind of quirky names, which make you smile, make you reflect, smells of the soil, provides a sneak pick of the local culture or local history, instead of flat and drab Nagar or Pur with the names of some political leader or historical figure.
The former gives you a lively kaleidoscope of visual and mental images, the later overdone still of a faded and jaded image.
The distance to Ajmer from Bandar Sindri is just about 54 km. Ajmer is known for the dargah of Sufi saint Moinuddin Chisti, a 13th century saint and philosopher. Born in Sistan in Modern day Iran he travelled across South Asia, eventually settling in Ajmer. He died here in he died in 1236. As local as well as national rulers began to come and pray, the structure was expanded. In 1332, the sultan of Delhi Mohammad Bin Tughluq constructed a dargah. Dargah is essentially a commemoration structure constructed around the tomb of Muslim saints, where people from all religions come to pray and ask for favours. Dargah of Kwaja Moinuddin Chisti grew in popularity and size over the years. The structure was subsequently expanded by a number of rulers. Mughal king Akbar used to regularly visit the dargah. It is said that Akbar walked over 400 km to come here and prayed for a son. He built a palace in Ajmer. Tens of thousands of people visit the dargah to pray and ask for favours.
I visited the dargah under a cloudy sky. Occasional showers of rain had made the road muddy and dirty. Despite that mass of humanity were moving towards the shrine.
Once inside, I found uncanny similarities between Dargah Sharif of Ajmer and Jagannath Temple in Puri or for that matter any popular and revered temple. I was offered the same advice, without me asking for: do this, wear this, tie this around your wrist, and you will receive His rehmat/ kripa/ blessings. I found the same mad rush of people to enter the sanctum sanatorium. And there are similar set of people inside (in different attire, speaking different languages) asking you ‘dil khol ke de baba’. As I did not offer any money, one made a caustic comment; ‘Khali dekhne aa jate hain’ (only came to see). Obviously he had doubt on my reverence, as I did not pay currency notes. So reverence is equated with money you pay. I have experienced the same in many temples too. Once out through a suffocating small door, you are treated with sufi songs, sung by a motely crowd of about four men. One more person is collecting the offering or asking for it. Out of the main gate, hordes of beggars – old women, small girls, persons with physical disabilities, even incapacitated persons rolling on the muddy road – asking you for alms, shouting Allah barkat dega.
As you dodge them, persistently following you- you feel an emptiness within. It was raining, when I came out of the Dargah. I felt that scaring emptiness. I felt it in Puri. In Kalighat. In Mathura. Now, in Ajmer. The façade of the shrines are different. But the similarity is uncanny.
Puskar, where there is an ancient Bramha Temple is about 20 km from Ajmer. Around Pushkar lake there are many temples of and for the cows like the one you see in this photo. Every such temple has one or more donation box (Dan Patra) in front or around. There are people selling blades of grass to feed the cows. By doing this, you are told that you would gain ‘punya’. They have some cows also nearby so that you don’t have to look for one and spend time. With the cow just there gaining punya is so easy. Somebody later told me that the cow actually belonged to the person selling grass. He sold you grass to feed his own cow. Think about the business model!
There are umpteen number of temples of different size, shape for different gods and goddesses around Pushkar lake including one for the cow. But one thing is common. No temple is without a Donation Box. ‘Donet Box’ is ubiquitous in Pushkar.
Sword Shops at Pushkar
A fortnight ago I was in the Spanish city of Toledo once famous for its swords. There are umpteen number of souvenir shops there selling different kinds of swords and knives. I was pleasantly surprised to find many shops selling swords and knives in Pushkar.
I saw a fairly recent and small temple in Ajmer of ‘Current-wale Balajee’. It beats me why should a temple be named so?
Kishangarh city (it got its name from Kishan Singh who was a prince of Jodhpur), about 20 km from Bandar Sindri is known as Marble City of India. Surrounded by areas with rich marble, Kishangarh is a one stop shop for variety of marbles supplied to all the Indian states and exported to numerous countries.
There are umpteen numbers of factories and outlets dealing with marble plate and artifacts. Lots of shops are named with the prefix marble city, including a large hospital and a liquor shop. Buy liquor from Marble City Liquor shop. Fall Ill. Go to Marble City Hospital.
Kishangarh is also famous for its unique style of paintings of 18th century. The Kishangarh paintings are unique because of elongation of human faces, green color is used lavishly, and panoramic landscapes are depicted in a very elegant manner in Kishangarh style of paintings. More about that next week.
Decide what to drink
The guy who made people drink COFFEE got scared of loans and committed suicide, but the guy who made people drink ALCOHOL, ran away so bravely.
Now you decide what to drink.
(Courtesy: Social Media)