Bollywood’s favorite baba has the same legend as the Mata at Vaishno Devi – you can’t visit them until you have the divine approval. We got it sometime last month and made the visit that included Pushkar and Jaipur as part of a three day trip.
The drive to Ajmer is effortless with all the expensive toll roads. Though, it is not true for the drive back, as most of the flyovers and bypasses are still under works. Starting from Delhi, I did the four hundred kilometer drive in nine hours, almost non-stop.
Until you enter the narrow alleys that lead to the Dargah, you will be surprised by the width of the roads. But once you do, you will be surprised if someone was trying to squeeze the whole universe into a narrow street. Like me, if you are driving your own car, you will notice the parking signs on the left. Hotels, homes and anybody who has space to park more than a car, has a sign outside. It cost us a hundred bucks for upto two hours of parking. Ten minutes late and you pay extra.
Once parked, you begin the long march. Though there are endless hotels on both sides, it is not easy to find a decent one and very difficult to find a clean toilet. So, you better empty your tanks before you enter the town. The street is a Meena Bazaar. Much like a Meena Bazaar, there is nothing in that overflowing market that you can buy. So, walk straight on till you hit the flower shops on the left.
No matter how thirsty you are, give the sugarcane juice shops a miss. They peddle some strange watered down flavored concoction which has no place in the real world.
We bought some flowers. There are always a few friends and relatives who would have sent money to make some offerings. The price of the flower basket you buy has nothing to do with the amount of love in your heart. So, don’t be intimidated by the sellers. Buy what you want, leave your shoes there and prepare for the darshan.
And, a darshan it is. You will see why hard coded Muslims find the idea of a dargah so appalling. It resembles a temple. Anyway, there seemed to be as many Hindus as Muslims there, so says a lot about the appeal of baba.
There were sikhs huddled together reading from their holy book. I may have spotted a few hanuman chalisas too. There were no formal prayers, no specific methods or rituals. Heck, people even felt free to take photos, which, generally, is on top of forbidden things to do at other religious places.
Namaz was being offered at the mosque in the back. But, you are free to do what you want. A long queue is always found outside the inner sanctum. On a weekend and a Friday, we had to wait a maximum of ten minutes to enter the dargah. So, the stories about hour long waits are all fiction.
The dargah resembles a temple in so many ways. Outside the dargah, on both sides are holy people who are busy doing sweet nothings for money. Once you enter the dargah, the small little place that it is, you are on way to exit from the door at the back.
The little time that I got inside, I was being hounded for donations by the dargah officials on the left. On the right, pressed against the walls, there were numerous people, crying. Devotion and donation were never placed in such stark contrast.
We prayed, we did the darshan, we went around the dargah and threw money into the deghs. There was nothing more to be done. Our nine hour journey had reached its climax in less than an hour.
There was no break in the crowd as the evening darkened. More people seemed to have come in, no one seemed to leave. But we did. A good friend had advised that we should spend the night at Pushkar. Only a hill divided the two towns. There was no end to irony, it seemed.
We left for Pushkar. It was already too dark.