A tomb on an island in the middle of the Arabian Sea! Doesn’t that immediately sound enticing enough? But there is more to the Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai than just its location. Such is the reverence that this Muslim saint commands that his final resting place draws the faithful from all communities who come here with the firm hope that their prayers will be answered. With a mosque located adjacent to the tomb complex, the edifice is also a brilliant specimen of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture.
Located about 500 meters from the coast off the Lala Lajpatrai Marg at Mahalaxmi in Mumbai, the Haji Ali Dargah was constructed in 1431 in memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, who renounced all his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca. It is said that he had come to India from Bukhara in the ancient Persian Empire and had travelled around the world before deciding to settle down in Mumbai.
According to a legend, the saint once came upon a poor woman crying on the road with an empty vessel in her hands. Upon inquiring the reason for her sorrow, she said that the oil she was carrying in the vessel had been accidently spilled and that she was now afraid of being beaten by her husband. The saint asked her to lead him to the spot where the oil had been spilled. There, he jabbed a finger into the soil and the oil gushed out, which the woman filled into the vessel and went home.
However, this incident is reported to have led Haji Ali experiencing disturbing dreams about injuring the earth. Full of remorse, he soon fell ill and directed his followers that upon his death his coffin should be cast into the sea. Haji Ali left this world during his journey to Mecca and miraculously the casket carrying his body floated back to the Mumbai shore, getting stuck in the string of rocky islets just off Worli. And so it was that the ‘dargah’ was constructed here.
The tomb in itself is simple in design. On an elevated platform is the main structure with a white dome and minarets. Men and women enter the ‘dargah’ through different entrances to arrive on either side of the shrine. The main hall has marble pillars embellished with artistic mirror work: blue, green, yellow chips of glass arranged in kaleidoscopic patterns interspersed with Arabic patterns which spell the 99 names of Allah. The Kinara Masjid is behind the ‘dargah’ and an open Qawwal Khana chamber next to the tomb works as a stage for Sufi singers. There is a fountain within the complex lined with a few trees adjacent to which is a tea and snack vendor and a shop selling books and ‘chaddars’ that are bought for the shrine.
The pier and the promenade leading to the ‘dargah’ have several vendors along the way selling flowers, incense sticks, colourful shawls, imitation jewellery, dresses, picture postcards, toys and souvenirs. The ‘dargah’ is also a favourite with photographers because of the sheer beauty of the place, especially the view of the sunset that is best enjoyed from the rocky edge behind the tomb.
How to reach
Visitors can reach Haji Ali Dargah via the many modes of local transport available in Mumbai city - Metered taxies, B.E.S.T. city buses and Local trains are available. The nearest railway station is Mahalakshmi on the western line. Auto rickshaws ply in the suburbs of Mumbai only and will not come all the way to Haji Ali. One needs to take another mode of transport beyond Mahim / Sion when traveling into the city from the suburbs.