There were two ways to reach the Taragarh fort. Since we did not know the route through the city, we had no option but to follow the GPS, which guided us to the Taragarh Fort through National Highway 08, which was a longer and tedious route. After crossing two railway gates and through a patchy road, we reached to a crossing, where a signboard indicated the route towards the fort. A 6 kilometers long stretch of lonely road took us to the base of the small Aravalli hill from where, its ramparts became visible.
At the base of the hill, a memorial dedicated to Prithvi Raj Smarak was situated. But the gates were locked at that time. Therefore, we could only see the sword-wielding statue of Prithvi Raj Chauhan From outside and continued our journey ahead.
Soon we started to climb up the Taragarh Hill. I had no earlier experience of driving on sharp curves on the steep climbs. On one occasion, we had a scary moment when I lost the gear and the car started to slide downwards. It took me three attempts to put the gear and the car moved ahead. That incident, however, made me realize my fault of not applying higher gears at the most appropriate time while climbing up on curves. From then onwards, I corrected that mistake and climbed up without any further difficulties.
When I was struggling with the gears, one young person on an Enfield motorcycle had come near us to offer help. Later, we realized that those persons follow the cars of the visiting tourists upto the fort. There they approach the tourists and request them to hire their services. It was like ‘Panda system’ in many temples. Anyway, once my car was in my control, I started climbing and stopped just short of reaching to the top of the hill to click a photograph of the city of Ajmer. There an old man on the motorcycle came near me and introduced himself as Syed Abdul Hakim, a Shia muslim and offered me his services for showing us the Dargah. Hakim was an expert negotiator and soliciting was his everyday job. After about fifteen minutes of canvassing, he convinced me to hire his services to show us around.
Hakim requested me to park the car in his locality where a local lad would be taking care of the car. But, it was not easy to believe a total stranger and so I did not heed to his request and parked the car in the official parking lot which was very congested. It required great skill to park and more to retrieve the vehicle. Somehow I did it. After parking the car, we went to see the dargah along with Syed Abdul Hakim. He introduced us to the nearest structure as Karbala built in memory of the Mohammed Ali, who was the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed and who was martyred by the Khalifa. Every year they mourn his killing in the Karbala. It was a settlement of Shia Muslims. According to Hakim, the population of that place was about 5000 for which a separate polling booth is arranged during election time.
From Karbala, Hakim took us to his shop-cum-office, where his relatives were selling the Chadar (Shawl), Flowers and incense sticks etc. and persuaded me into purchasing the items from their family shop. Though his shop was not cheap by any means, we had no option but to purchase from there itself. So, we purchased the items from Hakim and his relatives carefully choosing the items that were being sold at the lowest rates and proceeded towards the dargah. My son, Ruchir looked good when he walked upto the Akbar gate carrying the chadar on his head. After entering the premises, we saw a massive silver sword at the top of a building. Hakim told us that it was Jafarani sword given to the Dargah by Mughal Emperor, Akbar.
While walking to the dargah, Hakim was constantly telling about the place and about various buildings situated there. I started noticing that he was very happy to describe about those constructions that were done by the Hindu rulers at different times. It came into my mind that either he wanted to project the cultural mixing of the two religions or he wanted to encourage us to donate more and more and at every point.
Anyway, we soon came across a huge gate. Hakim informed me that this gate was got constructed by Emperor Akbar. We entered through this gate and reached the main compound of the dargah.
The compound of the dargah was huge. We had to go past the chhatri and go beyond a tree to enter the dargah sanctum sanctorum. As per Hakim, the chhatri was constructed by king of Jodhpur and the building to the right of the chhatri was constructed by the kings of Jaipur. When we reached at the gate of the dargah, we were ushered into a baradari, where Hakim introduced us to a khadim. Khadim started telling the history of the place and the importance of donation to him. Actually, that interaction was very brief and it did not serve any purpose. But the Khadim stood waiting for his fee for the work done by him. So, we had to see him off by giving a little donation or his fee. He was not happy with 100 rupees that we gave him and started making faces. But till now we had realized that the place was full of such persons and practices and so we did not give him anything further. He left us and soon joined the other visitors.
Thereafter, we entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Dargah. The Khadim at the dargah covered our heads in the “chadar” and started muttering his blessings. At the end of the blessings, it was a custom to offer any donation. We offered 100 rupees, but the Khadim got annoyed. According to him, nobody should be offering him less than 500 rupees. We ultimately decided not to make an issue out of it and paid him what he desired.
Hakim was little greedy when it came to money but was quite liberal in giving information. He informed that Miran Syed Husian Asghar Khangswa was the governor of Ajmer after its conquest by Sultan Shahabuddin Ghori. On the death of Qutubuddin Aibak in 1210 A.D., the Rathor and Chauhan Rajputs attacked the Taragarh Fort and massacred Miran Saheb and his men. Hakim also told us an interesting phenomenon that used to happen during annual Urs, when the entire sanctum sanctorum starts trembling on its own.
A very strange looking grave was lying just outside the door of the main dargah. It looked like a horse. Hakim told us that it was the grave of the horse of Miran sahib, who had lost its life in the same battle. Many people were sitting around the grave of his horse and collecting money from the chance visitors, who came to that grave. Strangely, Hakim also avoided it and so did we.
In the compound, there were three big cauldrons. Hakim told us that the bigger one was given by Emperor Akbar and the second one was given by Jahangir. The third cauldron was supposed to be given by Jodhabai. Donations were being collected in those big cauldrons. Hakim also took me there and requested me to offer some donations. By now, I had understood that donations were a prominent feature here. So, I had started rationing the donations. This was not liked by Hakim. According to him, I should be more generous. I had to convince him that I should be donating an amount which is appropriate according to me.
My eyes fell on some people, who were offering a fruit of the tree situated near the dargah. Any woman, who wants a child, could have this fruit! And merciful lord would grant her an offspring. If by eating one fruit, no child happened, it simply meant that she did not follow instructions properly. Hakim told me that in case of failure at the first attempt, you had to come again to have this fruit there itself, or you take away a stock with you. The cost of this fruit was a humble 10 rupees each. I was really wondering about the ways and means to find out the number of children born due to eating fruits of that tree every year or in the last five years! Or, for that matter, how many women actually believed and ate that fruit in last five years!
In the meantime, Hakim had another surprise for us. He told us about a plant which grows in the same premises of that dargah. Any leaf from the plant could cure any of your diseases. God forbid! But if you were under attack from the magical spells of someone evil, leaf of this plant would save you. Of course, this leaf was not free. A boy was guarding it. When he saw us moving towards the plant, he rushed to us and asked 10 rupees. When Hakim saw that I am withdrawing, he eyed the boy to go away. But I knew, tonight the boy would take his share from the fee that I would have paid to Hakim. Everywhere a system prevails.
When we came out of the dargah, Hakim, who was so far walking with us, also requested for some fee for his services. He had done some work, so we rewarded him with a handsome fee and said our goodbyes.
Once we were free from Hakim, we came to the small market situated at the dargah compound. Market is a place where demand and supply meet. I often love to watch the shops and stalls that sell goods near any religious place. There the first shop I visited was selling small “bowls” made of brass, copper and steel, which people buy for feeding their new-born children from it. Next shop was selling wooden key chains and metal key rings of the letters of English alphabets. The next shop was selling the kitchen tools made of wood. With the increasing sale of non-stick tawa and all, these tools have found a market of their own. The other shop was selling “Tabeez” and all other mystic items. I do not know if any research has been done in the area of Tabeez. Almost everyone falls for it. And, many will vouch for their utility. This shop clearly indicated that people are demanding a tabeez here.
Prithvi Raj Chauhan had two capitals. The Taragarh fort, Ajmer was his first capital and Quila Rai Pithora at Delhi was the second. His romance and elopement with Sanyogita, the daughter of king of Kannauj, in 1175 AD is well-described by his court poet, Chandbardai in a great literature called “Prithvi Raj Raso”. Mohammaded Ghori had defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan in 1192 in the second battle of Tarain and established a sultanate at Delhi, which was later known as Slave dynasty. Queen Sanyogita ultimately performed Jauhar. The reason of defeat of Prithvi Raj Chauhan was mainly attributed to the treachery of King of Kannauj.
The fort on that hill was very strategically located. The entire city of Ajmer could be seen from the top of the Taragarh Hill. With these thoughts, I climbed down the hill driving very carefully and then proceeded to our next destination in Ajmer.