The town houses two Assembly constituencies. One of them, Ajmer South, includes Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti’s Dargah and the nearby substantial Muslim population. This constituency is a Sindhi stronghold. Whatever name this constituency may have been called by, ever since independence, it has always been represented by a Sindhi.
Sindhis were people who came to this part of the country to escape the Muslim majority of their native Sindh. Some prejudice against Muslims would be understood. In all my years, I have never seen any. In the throbbing market surrounding the Dargah are shops of Muslims, Sindhis and other communities. Welcome is accorded to the pilgrims by all. Chaadar, loban, flowers and other materials required for ‘ziarat’ are sold by shopkeepers of all communities. The pilgrims put up in hotels set up by all communities. There is stiff competition for this business, and that is that.
The nearby Pushkar houses perhaps one of the holiest of Hindu shrines, the Brahma Temple. In five out of the last six assembley elections, this temple town, where sale and consumption of onions, besides non-veg food is banned, has elected a Muslim MLA.
Come October-november, and the city goes into festive overdrive. While Ajmer city plays host to lakhs of Muslim pilgrims at the annual ‘Urs’, the ‘Pushkar Mela’ and the ‘Karthik Snan’ attract Hindu devotees and tourists in the same numbers. Any north Indian can testify that festive seasons at places of religious significance of even one community are ‘sensitive’ times. In Ajmer, two places, of paramount religious significance of two communities play host to huge festivals simultaneously. This has been happening for centuries. The word ‘sensitive’ till yet remains out of vocabulary of this season.
Of course, these religious places attract international tourists as well. And while pilgrims from the Arab countries are offering prayers to the Khwaja, boys and girls from their friendly neighbor Israel are running about, scantily clothed, up and down the streets and nearby hills and valleys of Pushkar.
Ajmer, like India itself, is not without its contradictions.
Previous posts in this series:
The Town that was – I http://wp.me/p1jJo-dL
The Town that was – II http://wp.me/p1jJo-ee