Almost six hundred year old Dargah of Haji Ali at Mumbai is not just one of the most important Sufi shrines in India but also one of the most revered religious places in India. This is also one of those popular shrines which have been part of Indian cinema, especially Bollywood a lot. Many sufi songs and qawwali have been filmed here, which went on to become popular musical numbers as well. More recently the shrine has been in news for all the dispute related to entry of women to the inner sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. Putting all this aside, this shrine is going to celebrate its annual URS on 15th January this year.
This shrine is also popular for its structure. Dargah is built in Arabian sea, almost half a kilometre offshore from the coast at Worli in Mumbai. A pathway for pedestrians has been built from the Mahalaxmi area in Mumbai upto the shrine. Here is the most fascinating part of this structure. This path has no railings on its sides. Hence, when there is a high tide in the sea this path gets submerged in the sea water and the shrine becomes inaccessible by foot. Shrine turns into a island then. So, in practicality this shrine is accessible only in low tides.
Built in 1431 this shrine is said to be a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture. The structure has typical white domes and minarets reminiscent with the Mughal architecture of the period. It was constructed in memory of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. There is story about this saint. He was a wealthy merchant. He hailed from Bukhara in Persia (in present day Uzbekistan), hence he got his name Bukhari. He travelled a lot around the world and finally settled in Mumbai. There are many legends about his settling in Mumbai and subsequent death on his visit to Mecca. Since he never married and had no descendants, hence most of things about him have been learnt from the caretakers and trustees from generation to generation. In the process many other stories and sub-stories have entered into the play.
Nevertheless, he was a great holy man and had asked his followers to cast the coffin carrying his body into the ocean so that it should be buried by the people where it is found. Now according to some legends, he died on his trip to Mecca and as per his wish when the coffin was pushed into the ocean, days later it miraculously floated back to these shores, getting stuck in the string of rocky islets just off the shore of Worli. Thus, the tomb and dargah was constructed there. It was a very small structure for many centuries. Its current structure was built only in 1916 when a trust to maintain the shrine was officially formed. The entire structure is spread over an area of around 5,000 sq. m. and stands adorned with an 85 foot high minaret. Inside the shrine is the tomb of Haji Ali decorated with red and green sheets. The main sanctorum is made in marble decorated with coloured glass. Main gate is also covered with pure white marble.
Many miracles are attributed to Haji Ali and as with many other sufi saints in India, Haji Ali is also revered alike by people of all religions. People visit the dargah to seek his blessings. There is a huge rush mostly on Thursdays and Fridays. On Sundays too, many tourists and local people come here to see the place. Besides being a religious place, it is also an important destination on the Mumbai Tourist Map. The location of the Dargah serves as one of the major attractions luring tourists here. With the sea forming the backdrop, Haji Ali becomes a sight to behold.
The annual URS (Death Anniversary) of Haji Ali Shah Bukhari takes place on the 16th of (Rabi-ul-Aakhir / Rabi-al-Thaany) (17th Shab) as per Islamic Calendar. This year (2017) this URS will be on 15th January.
Its very enjoyable and relaxing to listen to qawwals here in nights singing sufi songs. Actually visiting this place in late evenings brings a different feeling altogether. Watching the shrine as one moves from the pathway to the shrine and then watching the glittering Mumbai all around the shrine… simply fascinating.
Where and How:
For all those who want to be there in Mumbai for URS of Sayed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, Etihad brings you direct to Mumbai daily from almost all destinations in Gulf and Middle-East. Staying in Mumbai is never a problem as there are accommodations available for every pocket. For those who want to stay longer and enjoy the mega metropolis there are many resorts in Mumbai for luxurious and comfortable stay.
Very interesting! I’ve never seen Haji Ali by night, so thanks for this virtual journey. If you’re curious what my visit to Haji Ali was like, feel free to check out over here http://www.indiapalette.com/haji-ali-dargah-a-mosque-in-the-middle-of-the-sea/
Thanks a lot Antonina