The Haji Ali Dargah, seen floating just off the coast of Mumbai – gleaming white in the sun during the day and glittering with lights at night – is an ancient shrine, built nearly 600 years ago in 1431. It was built to house the remains of Sayed Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a merchant who gave up all his wealth and became a holy man. Legend has it that Haji Ali asked that his coffin be thrown into the sea after his death, but it floated right back here.
The Dargah (shrine) is a beautiful example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture, similar to the architectural style of the Taj Mahal. In fact, it is even made from the same kind of marble as the Taj Mahal, known as Makrana Marble, making it one of the most beautiful landmarks of Mumbai. A wonderful structure, it almost seems to rise out of the waters as if from another world. Uniquely enough, it is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and Muslims alike. It is believed that if one wishes for something here with the right rituals – ‘mannat mangna’, as it is called – the wish is sure to come true.
The Dargah consists of two main structures: the tomb of Haji Ali and a mosque. The inner walls of the Dargah are decorated with beautiful mirror-work in different colours, and list the ninety-nine names of Allah. There is a magnificent dome above the tomb, also decorated with a mosaic of mirrors. At the base of the dome there are inscriptions of select verses from the Quran. The tomb itself is housed in a white marble enclosure with eight pillars.
Getting to Haji Ali Dargah is an adventure in itself: a narrow concrete path – without any railings – running through the sea connects the mainland to the mosque. During the high tide the path is quite inaccessible, so it’s advisable to go during the low tide. In the monsoons, the waves lash the path so violently that the Dargah has to close its doors to visitors for their own safety, irrespective of the tide. However, visiting the Dargah is a must, and so we recommend that you stop by the nearby Haji Ali Juice Centre for some juice or falooda first, say a quick prayer to Haji Ali, and then launch yourself onto the path. Good luck!