The Urs at Ajmer Sharif, the revered shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is one of the most famous festivals of Rajasthan. The famous Sufi saint lived in the 12th and 13th centuries and even today has an immense following, especially among the followers of Islam in India. The Urs festival marks the death anniversary of the saint. It is a six day affair, and is said to be the largest fair of the Muslims in the country. Over 5 Lakh people assemble in Ajmer to pay homage to their beloved saint and participate in the celebrations.
The Urs is held during the first six days of Rajab, the 7th month of the Islamic calendar. The legend associated with the festival says that the saint, approaching the age of hundred, went into seclusion in a room for six days and embraced death. His remains are buried at this spot, which makes the Ajmer Sharif Dargah one of the most important tourist attractions of Rajasthan. The Urs is not only a muslim festival. Members of all communities arrive at the shrine every single day of the Urs.
The Urs at Ajmer Sharif is initiated by Sajjada Nashin, who is the representative of the Chishtis, as the members of the order the saint had founded are called. He hoists a white flag on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-akhir, the sixth month of the lunar calendar. On the last day of this month the Jannati darwaza (gateway to heaven) is opened for the people to cross. They cross it seven times, with the belief that this will guarantee a place in heaven for them. The tomb is cleaned and fresh silk clothes are used to cover it on the first day of Rajab.
Thousands of pilgrims arrive here during the Urs. They bring with them offerings called nazrana that includes the votive offerings of Chadar, gilaph, and Neema. Besides, the offerings also include incense sticks, jasmine, roses, sandalwood paste, and many perfumes. The rich aroma of these ingredients fills up the air at the spot, creating a pious ambience. The gathering is treated to impressive Sufi music and qawwalis, which further enhance the festive and religious mood of the Urs. At night mass gatherings called mehfil are held in the large hall, presided by the Sajjada Nashin. These gatherings are concluded by offering prayers for peace and harmony.
Among the other rituals observed at the Urs, the looting of Kheer ( rice pudding with dry fruits ) is of special importance. This is distributed as blessed food and is known as Tabarruk. The whole area is full of activities and merriment as the pilgrims and tourists swarm the place. The shops, permanent and makeshift, sell flowers, prayer items, rosaries, toys, garments, and large variety of other merchandise.
For the convenience of the tourists, special buses ply from the nearby cities during the Urs festival.
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