Haji Ali Dargah a magnificent sight to behold is one of those rare Islamic religious places that are accessible to people of every caste, creed, color and religion. The great structure with its white domes and minarets, standing majestically surrounded by the waters of the Arabian Sea; is one of the most important landmarks of Mumbai, which attracts not only people of faith but also tourists from all over the world. Though commercialized, the shrine has managed to maintain its magnificent, exotic mystic value.
The shrine entombs the body of the famous Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who was known to be a merchant from Persia. He had travelled many places around the world before settling down in Mumbai somewhere around the mid of 15th century A.D.
Legends of the Shrine
Legend has it that the casket of the saint had floated by itself and chosen the rocky islet as the final abode for his body; even though he had died quite far off from Mumbai, on a pilgrimage to Mecca which he undertook after giving up all his riches to the poor.
Another legend states that he drowned himself in the sea after being grief stricken over the guilt of hurting mother earth. The story behind this legend goes as follows. Once the saint saw a poor woman sobbing uncontrollably over the oil she had spilled. She was afraid of the wrath of her husband who would thrash her for her folly. The saint poked the spot where the oil had spilt; to the utter surprise of everyone present a fountain of oil gushed forth. But later he started feeling sad that he had hurt earth and fell sick due to the remorse.
As there is no proper record to substantiate the claim, today, all we know is that his followers erected the monument on the high rising rocks of the Arabian seas as he had wished in his lifetime.
Construction and Renovation
The shrine which is a great example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture is known to be constructed by a ship owner Usman Rangikar in 1431. In 1916 a legal trust was founded to renovate and expand the structure, which has given it the present day form. The trust also undertakes performance of festivities on special occasions like the death anniversary of the saint, birthday of prophet Mohammed etc according to the traditional customs of Islam.
Another renovation of the Shrine was undertaken in 1960 and again in October 2008, when a great plan was laid to enhance the beauty of the structure with white marble of Makrana.
Attractions of Haji Ali Dargah
The main attraction, especially for the followers and believers, is the Saints Tomb. The tomb is artistically constructed and decorated with art of glass work. Many visitors swear to have felt a powerful mesmerist energy flowing from the tomb, which makes them go back to place again and again.
The other things which catch attention are
- The amazing floral inlay decorating the structure.
- The beautifully carved artistic minaret behind the shrine.
- The very popular Mannat tree or dagha (thread) which is said to grant the rightful wishes of the people who tie it with faith.
- The attractive zhumar (chandelier) which is claimed to be nearly 500 years old and part of the original construction. There is some exclusive glass work arranged around the chandelier to reflect the 99 different Islamic names of Allah.
The place is also known for its famous qawwals and fakirs. The beggars are not so welcoming guests of the causeway and premises of dargah. These are no ordinary beggars, as they are known to earn quite a lot in one single day and also that they do have good collection of currencies from all over the world.
As the islet is situated in heart of Mumbai, off Lala Lajpat Rai Marg, there is no difficulty in getting up to shore of Arabian Sea. Beyond that, the glorious floating structure can be accessed only by a 500 yards narrow causeway, which unfortunately submerges under the water during high tides. As there are no barricades erected for the safety of the pilgrims, the shrine can be reached only when the tide is low.
Upon reaching the entrance, the males and females of the family have to separate, because the place has different entrances and prayer halls for males and females. The prayer hall is often too crowded and noisy for someone who would really try to pray or meditate.
Opening times are Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Indian Standard Time).
Address and contact details Haji Ali Dargah:
Haji Ali Dargah Trust
Above Kinara Masjid,
Lala Lajpat Rai Marg,
Mumbai 400 026
Telephone: +91 – 22 – 23529082
Fax: +91 – 22 – 23524221
A trip to the Haji Ali Dargah would be ideal for the religiously inclined. (Image credits: Yogesh Mhatre)