The small town of Ajmer, 78 miles west of Jaipur, played a surprisingly important role in India’s history. Set at the point where the rocky Aravalli Hills end and the Thar Desert begins, this was originally the stronghold of the powerful Chauhan Dynasty of Rajputs, who built India’s first ever hill fort here in the 7th century, Taragarh, whose ruins you can still see today.
Ajmer was ruled by the great Raja Prithvi Chauhan the last Hindu king of Delhi, until his defeat in 1192 . After having changed hands several times, in 1556 Ajmer finally came under the Mughal Emperor, Akbar who used it as the headquarters for his vitally important operations in Rajasthan. It was here, a generation later, that the first British Ambassador, Sir Thomas Roe, had an historic meeting with Emperor Jahangir in 1615, and it was here, half a century later, that the critical battle between the Mughals crown prince, Dara Shukoh, and the usurper, was fought. Later Emperor, Aurangzeb, took place. In the 19th century, Ajmer became a little British enclave, from where the British Chief Commissioner for Rajputana kept and eagle eye on all the Rajput Kingdoms. After the decline of the Mughals, control of Ajmer passed into the hands of the new power brokers, the Marathas, particularly the Scindias of Gwalior. By 1818, Ajmer had come under the influence of the British who left their legacy in the form of some excellent academic institutions like the King George Military School and the prestigious Mayo College, a public school for the young Rajput Princes.
Today Ajmer is, frankly, not the most charming of towns, unlike its hayday in the 17th century when it was Emperor Shah Jahan pleasure resort. There are also various buildings of historical interest to visit here. Ajmer remains the centre of many quality public schools in India to this day.