THE AJMER PROJECT
'Dargah and the city'


Ajmer
The Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishty Dargah

Pedagogy
The Sixth Semester Architectural Design Studio is an interrogation of the architecture of Institutions. The project aims to enable students through methods of lateral thinking with the ability to examine a situation, take a position with respect to the questions that it raises, and arrive upon a strategy of intervention. The institutions to be examined in this semester are those related with religious practices and their relationship with the communities that they serve.

Ritual
There are rituals associated with every institutional form. They could be the movements of bodies as they navigate the travails of their everyday existences, or could even be the particular pilgrimages that are traced to mark hallowed ground. These rituals mark distinct terrains within space, often demarcated by distinct edges consolidating the difference between the 'inside' and the 'outside'. These rituals also connect the contemporary pilgrim across time to an imagined past and possible future. It is through the movements prescribed by rituals that bodies are conjoined in imagined communities.
How does one access the world beyond the already known?
The ritual marks a space of the known within the unknown

Sufi
How does one access the world beyond the already known?
Through Love, or so it was believed, where the difference between the self and the other dissolves. The Sufi emerged out of the need for a de-ritualized, unmediated relationship between the self and the divine. The Dargah becomes the locus around which this desire is consolidated. It is here that love is demonstrated- for the divine and for each other, through the tying of threads, through the donation of food, through music and poetry. These are the rituals of love. They challenge the norm, allowing for a relationship based on a subjective spirituality- beyond the strictures of organized religion. However, these rituals of the heterodox, however, too often can coagulate into their own orthodoxy.

Institutions
Institutions are consolidations of existing power relationships. It is this very nature that often distances them from the communities that they claim to represent. As the world changes around them, they become suspicious and inward looking, seeking solace in tradition and resistant to transformation. A conformism creeps in, self-satisfied in it’s own logic of morality.

The Dargah in Ajmer
The city of Ajmer is centred around the Dargah-E-Sharif. Probably the most important Sufi shrine in India, it attracts millions of pilgrims from around the world. It exerts it’s influence throughout the city affecting it everyday life through its institutions and culture. At the same time, the city of Ajmer has been one of the important urban centres in Rajasthan being a railway junction and a colonial centre of governance with many important schools and colleges. It has also been selected as part of the heritage cities list for the HRIDAY (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana) scheme of the Government of India.
The Sixth Semester Architectural Design Project aims to examine the relationship of the Dargah to the city of Ajmer. The initial study of the Dargah will use the ‘biography’ as the method of understanding this relationship. Interviews will be conducted with actors in and around the Dargah that will examine the nature of the relationship of the visitors and inhabitants of the old city with the institutional systems in the city. Following this, through the deployment of Oblique Strategies in reading the Dargah, it hopes to reexamine the relationship between the institution and the city. Existing normative value systems, roles and responsibilities of the actors will be reexamined and challenged and new systems will be reconfigured to meet the demands of the new city, the new time- to access the world beyond the already known. This, it is hoped, will allow for new programs and architectural strategies to emerge- for new rituals to be formed- new paths, new nodes, new edges and new communities.