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Amid falling footfall, devoted Hindu pilgrims continue to visit Ajmer shrine

Ram Vilas and his wife at the pilgrim camp in Ajmer (Photo: Syed Minhaj Ashraf)

Ajmer: The footfall of Hindu pilgrims arriving at Dargah Khwaja Saheb, Ajmer, has plummeted after alleged provocative speeches made by people connected to the shrine following the controversy about remarks made against Prophet Muhammad some time back. However, some devoted souls are still descending for the pilgrimage with same fervour.

Ram Vilas, a self-acclaimed mystic, from Tiwaripur village in Chandauli district, UP, has arrived in Ajmer with his wife and some of his followers.

“The call of Khwaja has to be answered. I come here every year with my followers. For the last seven years, my wife is also accompanying me. We are seekers of spirituality. We quench our thirst from every divine well,” he says.

Originally a farmer, Ram Vilas has taken to the life of a travelling mendicant. “As soon as my family reaps the crop, I pack my jhola (sack) and leave for pilgrimage to any holy place, be it Badrinath, Mathura, Ajmer, etc. My family never prevents me from embarking on such pious voyages,” he says.

He shrugs vehemently when asked whether he has ever faced any discrimination in Ajmer. “I began coming here almost 30 years back. Since my first visit to this day, I have always felt welcome. Perhaps more welcomed than my Muslim fellow pilgrims. In fact, I became a sort of sufi-sadhu figure only after people started treating as a pious soul, after return from such pilgrimages” he says.

He adds that people began to follow him after his speech became a discourse on secrets of religions. “I quote and narrate incidents from the lives of great Hindu and Muslim saints like Khwaja Gharib Nawaz and people listen to such stories with rapt attention and their regard for you increases. Indian people are basically people of faith. They love people who help them find serenity in their chaotic lives,” he says.

His wife Titari Devi says it was difficult for her initially to travel to far-off places with her husband. “But his passion rubbed on me and I am now his fully dedicated co-traveller in this mystic quest,” she says.