It’s a 400 year old structure built on a tiny islet in the Arabian Sean, 500 meters from the coast. It is only accessible during the low tide because the causeway connecting it to the mainland is built such; it doesn’t have railings and gets submerged during the high tide. The Haji Ali Dargah is a landmark of the city, one of the best places to visit in Mumbai, drawing crowds of upto 40,000 on Thursdays and Fridays.
People from across the globe flock here irrespective of caste, creed or religion, the Dargah receives around 80,000 people a week. It houses the tomb of Pir (Saint) Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. He was a wealthy merchant from Bukhara (modern day Uzbekistan) in the ancient Persian Empire, who travelled around the world before settling down on the shores of Bombay in the mid-fifteenth century. He never married and has no descendants.
How to get there?
Located right in the middle of Worli Bay, Haji Ali is well connected by the infamous local trains of Mumbai. It is easily accessible by road, either by car or B.E.S.T buses that ply on all popular routes throughout the year. The Dargah is always open to visitors.
Riyavat (The Legend)
There are many legends that shroud the miracles of Pir Haji Ali’s life. Once the Saint saw a poor woman sobbing on the road, clutching an empty vessel. It turned out that she had stumbled upon something and spilled the oil she was carrying, her husband would thrash her if she went home with an empty vessel. He jabbed a finger into the earth where she had dropped the oil and the oil gushed back out. The overjoyed woman filled up the vessel and went home.
Later, Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari had a recurring and disturbing dream that he had injured Earth by his act. His health started deteriorating and he soon gave up all his worldly possessions and embarked on a journey to Mecca. Haji Ali left this world during this journey and as per his instructions his ‘Kafan’ (casket) was dropped in the ocean to be buried wherever it was found.
The casket miraculously floated back to the shores of Bombay, getting stuck in the string of rocky islets just off the shore of Worli. And that is how the Dargah came to be constructed there.
What to do there?
The general idea is to get the blessings of the Saint for a happy and prosperous life. The older caretakers and trustees tell stories of the Saints life and all the miracles associated with him. Irrespective of religion, the Dargah is a place where one can find immense peace and be at harmony with oneself.
There are a bunch of multi-cuisine restaurant outside the Dargah. My suggestion is to go for Bombay street-food like chaat, pav bhaji, missal pav, the area houses some of the best stalls.
You might not find it listed in the cheap tour packages to Mumbai, but it is definitely a must visit!