Mumbai Lens: Haji Ali Dargah

This blog post was featured in the “Around the Blog” section of the DNA newspaper published on January 23, 2011 (pg.6).

We almost miss the narrow entrance to the Haji Ali Dargah hidden amongst the many stalls. Actually, that is not really the entrance to the dargah itself; it is the entrance to the only path that leads to it. The path has stalls selling flowers and sweets to be offered at the dargah on one side, and beggars with unimaginable physical deformities lined up on the other side. It is nearly 4.30 in the evening and we (a friend who is visiting from Delhi and I) have joined the many people making their way to the dargah. For both of us, this is our first visit to the Haji Ali Dargah.

Just outside the main entrance to the dargah, we pick up some flowers and sweets from one of the stalls and join the separate queue for women. The din, the crowds and the organised chaos that is normally associated with such places vanish when we enter the dargah. Inside, it is quiet and peaceful and when our turn comes, we make our offerings, say our prayers and move to one side.

My friend wishes to take some photographs of the dargah, but we are not sure if it is allowed. Though there are no signs stating otherwise, we are still hesitant to take out our cameras. A caretaker at the dargah notices the cameras around our necks and our indecision, and mimes that it is alright to take photos.

Inside the Haji Ali Dargah

The beautiful chandelier at the Haji Ali Dargah

Afterwards, we take a walk around the dargah and notice that it is crumbling away and in dire need of some serious repairs. We also notice some construction work being carried out in the rear portion of the dargah. A peek into the curtained off portions reveal a lot of marble and inlay work in progress. A security guy chases us away when we attempt to photograph that.

The area behind the dargah is the real big surprise. It is like a picnic area with families and couples perched on the rocks and munching away on chips and what not and photographers offering services of that perfect and instant photographs against the backdrop of the dargah. In the midst of all this are also people who had managed to find a quiet spot and were praying or meditating.

Visits to such places are always refreshing in a very different way. Though I am aware that the dargah attracts people from all faiths, it is surprising to see that an overwhelming majority of the visitors are non-Muslims. Somehow, at that moment, it does not matter whether they are at the dargah out of curiosity or faith—it is just heartening to see the mixed crowd peacefully co-existing, relaxing and even praying together.

It’s good to keep my cynicism in check and for hope to flower. 🙂

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.

34 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: Haji Ali Dargah

      1. Hi This is Jayyanth from NZ. This is will be my first visit to Mumbai and of course to the holy shrine. Could you give me a heads up on how much time it will take for me to visit the shrine and return back. I am Mumbai only to see the Dargah. I arrive in the early morning flight visit the Dargah and continue to Jaipur on the same day. Is it possible to visit the Dargah within 4 hours? I plan to go there early in the morning by 8 am IST.

        Please advise

        Cheers,
        Jayyanth

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        1. Hello Jayanth,

          Welcome to my blog and to Mumbai as well in advance. Does the 4 hours that you have kept aside for visiting the dargah include travel as well? In that case, it will not be possible as Mumbai’s traffic is quite horrendous. I would suggest that if you have just 4 hours visit the Bandra Fort and the St. Andrew’s Church in the vicinity.

          Hope this helped. Have a good trip to India

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          1. Hello Sudhagee- Thanks for your quick reply. I land at 7:05 in the morning. and plan to go straight to the Dargah. I am travelling to Mumbai only to see the Dargah. My next flight is at 14:55 on the same day to Jaipur so plan to be back by 12:55.Worst case Scenario 13:30 at any cost.

            Is that possible?

            Cheers,
            Jayyanth

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  1. I have been wanting to write a post about Haji Ali too, took ome pictures the last time I was in Mumbai. You beat me and did an amazing job, if I ever do that post I’ll link this article of yours.
    Beautiful pictures too

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    1. Thank you, Prathma. After my visit to the Haji Ali Dargah, I felt a little sheepish that I had never visited this place in spite of having lived in Mumbai for so long. But then, better late than never, right? Do write that post, I’d love to read your take on the dargah.

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  2. Its been years since I visited the dargah! been meaning to take samhith, but it seems the time hasnt yet come. we had gone once to mahalakshmi and thought of going, but work was then going on, so we decided to postpone the visit….and nice to see that the area behind is still left open for people to enjoy the sea… the similar area behind mahalakshmi temple has been concreted and barricaded 😦

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  3. Only the other day when I went to Peddar Road, I was thinking that I should visit Haji Ali dargah. Funny how we don’t visit some landmarks despite living in a city for many years. I have visited some masjids in Bangalore where women are not allowed inside. This one seems to be different in that respect. I believe you can’t visit a pilgrimage centre unless you get the ‘bulawa.’ Wonder when I will get it 🙂

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  4. I have been to Haji Ali way back when….and the highlight of my trip was the area behind the dargah where people can picnic. I was a little too young to realize how beautiful the inside of the masjid is. The last time I was there I saw it from the Worli Sea link on a rainy evening and it looked beautiful.
    I have always loved mosques and one thing I want to do is visit when they have singers there. Needless to say, this is motivated in part by the Piya Haji Ali song from Fiza. Now, that motivation has gone up several notches. Will have to visit Haji Ali, soon.
    Seeing Mumbai through your eyes has made me realize why my heart will always belong to that city 🙂

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    1. I hope that you get to visit Bombay soon, because the rate at which the Haji Ali Dargah is crumbling is quite alarming. And I am very glad that you are getting to see Mumbai through my eyes 🙂

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    1. You’re right, Sulagna. Once you are in the dargah, everything around fades away. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. 🙂 And I hope that you will keep visiting – both the dargah and my blog !

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  5. I pass this dargah so many times but I dont know why I have never ventured to visit it! But yes, your blog is calling out to explore more of these places. Sooo…am planning to now :).

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    1. Richa, I have lived in Mumbai for 23 years (spread over 2 spells) and this is the first time that I visited the dargah. As Zephyr said in her comment here, there is a bulawa that makes one visit such places and my visit happened because of that and yours will too. 🙂

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  6. Hi from my end,

    I liked your post: “https://thatandthisinmumbai.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/mumbai-lens-haji-ali-dargah/”. Can we email about a proposition with your site? This is regarding a posting for a wonderful travel interest group that I want to help, http://www.facebook.com/TheWanderers . I will do my part of promoting your blog to our community (Over 20,000 members).

    Looking for your reply
    Regards,
    Abhijit

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