Friday, April 18, 2008
wandering through ajmer
ajmer is the perfect contrast to the bustling crowds of delhi or the occasional scheming of jaipur, and i have felt at home here. we found our way to dargah masjid yesterday, one of india's holiest islamic pilgrimage sites. the bazaar leading up to the gates was busy with locals and those on pilgrimage purchasing flowers and holy cloths as offerings. i purchased a skull cap (topi) that i wore inside, after leaving my shoes, turned inward, at the door. jenni waited outside the front gate with our bags, because we weren't allowed to bring them inside. sadly though, the khadim (priest) that led me into the holy place of the masjid was a bit course in his manners. he rushed me through, and, after arriving at the holy place, which was packed with people giving offerings and seeking blessings under prayer cloths, he subsequently yelled at the other worshipers to get out of our way. his tone was harsh, and the worshipers didn't respond kindly to it - and at one point he got into a shoving match with a woman, where he finally pushed her off to the side so that we could pass. however, i met another khadim outside dargah, and he explained that this priest i had encountered was "a very bad" one. so he offered to lead me and jenni back into dargah masjid later today. (jenni ultimately did not go inside after deciding we'd just wait and go back the next day.)
but the carnival atmosphere of the street leading up to dargah masjid was something to behold. and we "whites" were a bit of an attraction. worshipers flocked up to us to take our pictures or have their pictures taken by us. i think their fascination with us is equaled by our fascination with them: we are constantly trying to sneak a picture of a group of women in beautifully colored saris, or a craggy-faced man in a turban. i think being from america doesn't help stem anyone's curiosity about us either. we are constantly told, "america is the number 1 country!" or "everyone wants to go to america!"
well, we wandered through the town as the evening set in, and we happened upon a wedding party, a group of men celebrating their completion of their exams, and preparations for a festival honoring hanman, a hindu god. we climbed the 150 or so steps to his temple and worshiped there before climbing back down to the streets below. the night cooled quite a bit, so we walked some more before heading back to the hotel. however, we became lost and found ourselves winding through a meandering alley. but along the way, we met a kid (raja) on a bike who told us of our error and then led us the kilometer or so back to hotel bohla. i was very tired after a good day in india and accidentally fell asleep in my clothes.