In spite of my love to the British colonial architecture, I was deeply impressed by another place in Mumbai, completely different in style, spirit and atmosphere – Haji Ali Dargah. It’s a mosque and a tomb situated on a small islet in the Arabian Sea and connected with the shoreline by a broad concrete walkway.
I wrote this post approximately two years ago here on IndiaPalette forum. I haven’t been to Haji Ali since then, but still, I just thought it would be great to share these thoughts and observations with my blog readers as well, otherwise some of you may think I never get anywhere outside Colaba 🙂 Anyway, let’s go back to the sea mosque.
Walking along this path is the most enjoyable part – you become a particle of a giant and powerful, never ending stream of people, who come to this holy place to seek for the saint’s blessings in their earthly aspirations. The explosion of colors and sounds is reminiscent to the one in any oriental market, multiplied by the noise of the sea waves. I don’t know what impact it creates on other people, but when I reached the mosque, I felt almost half hypnotized. Lots of people were holding a red rose in their hands – I saw them buying the flowers on the way. I like the way people in India of different religions bring flowers to their gods and saints.
Of course, I didn’t go inside – I always feel a little confused in holy places, or even in regular churches and temples, where people visit to bring their sorrows, hopes, gratitude, prayers, and I come to satisfy my interest in local culture or just for the sake of sightseeing and aesthetic pleasure.
I was sitting on the rocks looking how they break the sea waves into millions of splashes and imagined myself in the fifteenth century, when this place had just been built. Imagined Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, that wealthy merchant who was turned into a saint because of his decision to renounce all his earthly possessions. According to the legend, he drowned in this place on the way to Mecca, that’s why his tomb is in the middle of the sea. Could he imagine that six centuries later he’ll be worshipped by all these people, and the place of his death will turn into one of the most recognizable symbols of Islamic Mumbai?
As you can see, the architecture of the structure is traditional Indo-Islamic. Painted in bright white against the blue of the sky and exposed to continuous sea breezes, the arches, pillars and minarets look especially delicate.
By the way, it’s also a nice place to try some delicacies of the local Muslim cuisine – there are lots of stalls with kebabs, biryanis and ice-creams.
Leaving the place, once again I was astounded by the number of people!
And the last glance at the sea mosque…