During our stay in Pushkar, we decided to book a local cab for a day and explore Ajmer. Now Ajmer and Pushkar are pretty much twin cities just separated by a hill and a 15 – 20 minute drive. Based on my own experience, I recommend that everyone stay in Pushkar and visit Ajmer for a day trip only.
We started our day with a visit to the Jain temple of Nareli. Nareli is a new temple complex that is around 7 kms ahead of Ajmer and is a kind of township. There is a main temple building built-in the centre on the ground and 23 small temples built atop the hill behind this main temple. The color of the stone used for these temples is a mix of pink and red which contrasts with the barren hills around this place and contribute to the character of this complex. There are gardens all around the main temple and they have small rooms built with replicas of Jain beliefs on conducting their life and small boards which explain the principles of Jainism in the most simple language.
“There’s another striking monument to the Jain faith some 7 km southeast of Ajmer on the Jaipur bypass, the angular modern Nareli Temple, a striking edifice mixing traditional and contemporary architectural styles to somewhat quirky effect, with 23 further miniature temples lined up on the hill above.”
We spent a good 2 hours exploring all the 24 temples in this complex, gardens, seeing the replicas and reading all the boards. There is also a small shop here that sells a very good collection of books and we bought quite a few interesting books on Jain philosophy. We then went to the bhojanalaya (canteen) in the complex that has simple yet very good food.
We then proceeded towards Ajmer to visit the Jain temple in the city which is famous for the Soniji ki Nasiyan. This Jain temple is in the city centre, very old (about early 19th century) and an architectural delight. The ground floor of the temple is the main shrine with the most gorgeous work on walls and ceilings and some extremely old idols of our Gods. I loved every bit of this temple and especially these bells below.
On the first floor (the way is from the side of the temple) is the Soniji ki Nasiyan. There is a ticket of a very nominal amount and you then climb up to the second floor which has the Swarna Nagari (City of Gold). This entire glass enclosed city depicts the ‘five auspicious events’ (pancha-kalyanak) in the life of every Tirthankara (our Jain Gods): garbha (conception), janam (birth), diksha (renunciation), gyaan (enlightenment), and moksha (nirvana).
We spent a good hour here just amazed with the designing and detailing of this whole model. It is completely made of gold and depicts the complete life of a Jain Tirthankara. There are also explanations on the walls for people who don’t know anything about Jainism. We were spell-bound in this miniature golden city, with trees, palaces, people, animals, tin soldiers, flying swans, flying elephants etc. It is complete wonder in itself.
I recommend that everyone (including people who are non Jains) should visit both these Jain temples as both these temples are beautiful sights in themselves and provide an insight into Jainism.
We then explored the old markets of Ajmer but were pretty disappointed with it. There was nothing unique or special about anything here.
So we left early and went to see the Anasagar Lake. This is a historic man-made lake that has 5 marble pavilions at one side. However this visit was also very disappointing as the crowd around this place was really sad and we didn’t stay long.
Since we had visited Ajmer on the day of Eid, we decided to skip a visit to Dargah Sharif as it would have been very crowded.
The other things that one can visit in Ajmer are – the Mayo college and the Taragarh Fort, but we decided to skip them and instead return to Pushkar.
On our way back, we decided to stop and see the Budha Pushkar (old Pushkar). This is on a different way from Pushkar and has a lake that is supposed to be the actual old Pushkar Lake. But sadly it has now dried up and there are only some old idols around it.
On our way back we saw all the rose farms around Old Pushkar. This was quite interesting too.
My verdict on Ajmer – For some reason, Ajmer disappointed us. This city is like any city in India and does not have anything special or captivating about it. So if you are short on time then you can skip it and spend all your time in Pushkar.