Of course you’ve been to the New Delhi railway station and witnessed all the chaos there. Would you believe me if I told you that nearby lies a place far removed from the hustle and bustle of this busy city? Yes, friends, for all those who simply want to while away their time in case their trains (or those of their relatives) are delayed, there is an escape from the madness right next to the station! Every day, thousands of people step out of the New Delhi railway station and the first significant landmark they see – or rather see through – is the Ajmeri Gate. Before taking you on a virtual tour of this place, let me try to give you some perspective of its importance.
The city of Shahjahanabad- abode of all the Mughal emperors from Shah Jahan onwards, was built like a fortress with 14 entry gates in diverse directions. The gates were designed for people to have access and for royal processions to enter and exit. Many were conveniently named after the major cities or regions they faced: Kashmir, Calcutta, Lahore, Ajmer, and even Delhi (then referring to the settled area south of Shahjahanabad). Of the 14 entrances, only five have survived till date- the Kashmiri Gate on the north, Nigambodh Gate on the north-east , Delhi Gate on the south-east, Turkman Gate on the south , and Ajmeri Gate on the south-west , all of which vividly express the splendor of the walled city of the Mughals. All these gates are located within a radius of 5–6 km in present day Old Delhi.
Built in 1644, the Ajmeri Gate has high arched openings. The road through this gate leads to Ajmer in Rajasthan, city of the famous Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. This gate served as the principal exit point for royal processions on their way to the holy city.
Today, however, Ajmeri Gate lies disconnected from its past. It is so rooted to the place that few even realize its presence. Instead of landscaped grass, open space and pools that mark several other heritage sites of Delhi, this gateway is tucked within a free-for-all traffic square, one road leading to the New Delhi railway station, another to GB Road, and yet another to Chawri Bazaar.
Despite being situated in such a noisy region, Ajmeri Gate is strangely one of Delhi’s quietest monuments. To be honest, its single-arched entrance is unimpressive in terms of architectural merit. But as someone rightly said, some historical buildings are important for the continuity they lend to a place. Ajmeri Gate simply needs a setting in which it can smolder as beautifully as, say, the India Gate. Till that happens, the place will at least serve as a haven for all those looking for a patch of solitude in their lives.
(This piece was researched and compiled by Sanchita Srivastava, a history student at Delhi University and an avid writer)