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Held in the holy town of Ajmer in honour of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, special prayers are offered at the mosque, and huge amounts of consecrated food offered from the large, steaming cauldrons that were a gift from Akbar. While quwwallis are sung at night, the celebrations unite people of all faiths, and the complete town is decorated with buntings, and wears the spirit of festivity.

The pilgrims who come to seek the blessings of the Khwaja make rich offerings called 'nazrana' at the holy spot where the saint has been entombed. The offerings of rose and jasmine flowers, sandalwood paste, perfumes and incense contribute to the fragrance that floats in the air inside the shrine. Cash offerings are also made. Also offered by devotees are the 'chadar', 'ghilaph' and 'neema', which are votive offerings for the tomb. These are brought by devotees on their heads and handed over to the 'khadims' inside the sanctum sanctorum.

Urs FairThe dargah is located at the conjunction of three bazaars. There are a number of restaurants around the dargah where visitors can choose from a variety of dishes most of which are non-vegetarian preparations. Guest houses on the road leading to the Dargah offer accommodation that ranges from economical to luxurious. Many other guest houses are strewn across the city. The shops in the market around the Dargah sell flowers, prayer mats, rosaries, textiles, and general merchandise as well.

Members of all communities have access to the dargah. It is compulsory to remove the shoes, before entering, at the main gate. Within the dargah premises, the head of the pilgrim should be covered at all times. Many visitors engage the services of Mujavirs who take their patrons around the dargah, fetch them 'tabarruk' and are duly rewarded.

The Urs is initiated with the hoisting of a white flag on the dargah by the Sajjada Nashin (successor representative) of Chishtis. It is done on the 25th of Jamadi-ul-Akhir (sixth lunar month), with the accompaniment of music. On the last day of the sixth month, the 'Jannati-Darwaza' (gateway of heaven) is flung open early in the morning. People cross this gate seven times with the belief that they will be assured a place in heaven. On the 1st of Rajab, the tomb is washed with rose water and sandalwood paste and anointed with perfumes. This ritual is called 'ghusal'. The tomb is then covered with an embroidered silk cloth by the Sajjada Nashin.

At night, religious assemblies called 'mehfils' are held in the 'mehfil khana', a large hall meant for this purpose. These are presided over by the Sajjada Nashin of the dargah.

Qawwalis are sung and the hall is packed to capacity. There are separate places reserved for women who attend the 'mehfil'. The 'mehfil' terminates late in the night with a 'fatiha', which is a mass prayer for the eternal peace of the Khwaja in particular and mankind in general. An interesting ritual is the looting of 'kheer' (milk- pudding), which is cooked in two large cauldrons called 'degs' and distributed to the devotees as 'tabarruk' (blessed food).

On the 6th of Rajab, after the usual 'mehfil' and the sound of cracker-bursts accompanied by music; the Sajjada Nashin performs the ghusal of the tomb. Fatiha and Salamti are read. A poetic recitation called 'mushaira' is arranged in which poets of all communities arrive to recite compositions dedicated to the Khwaja. The Qul (end-all) on the 6th of Rajab marks the end of the Urs.




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