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Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah trust turns 100 years old

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Mumbai: The Haji Ali Dargah Trust, which manages the five-century-old Haji Ali shrine in the Arabian Sea off Worli, will complete 100 years on Saturday (February 20) and a host of celebrations are planned to commemorate the centenary, an trust official said.

The chief minister will be laying the foundation stone for the restoration and refurbishment of the Dargah premises, while a Sufi qawwali programme by the world-renowned qawwali singers, Fanna-Fi Allah from California and other events are planned, said trustee Suhail Khandwani.

The Fanna-Fi Allah party is currently on a three week long tour of India and has lined up qawwali concerts in New Delhi, Bhopal, three concerts in Mumbai, one at the Guru Ravidas Jayanti in Jalandhar, at the World Sufi Spirit Festival in Jodhpur and rounding off with a show in Srinagar on February 28.

Revered by followers of all religions, the Haji Ali Dargah is ranked among the top and most photographed tourist landmarks of Mumbai, resting on rocks around 500 yards from the Mumbai seashore off Worli. It is approachable only during low tides from a narrow windy stony lane connecting it to the shore.

The original structure was erected on high rising rocks and attained its present shape in the early 19th century after the Haji Ali Dargah Trust was formed on February 20, 1916, Khandwani said.

Housing the tomb of Muslim saint, the Iranian-born Pir Haji Ali Shah Bikhari, and a mosque, it is extremely popular with locals, domestic and foreign tourists round the year.

The tomb has white domes and minarets, typical of the Mughal architecture of that era and attracts around 20,000 devotees and tourists of all religions daily, with the figures jumping to nearly double on Thursdays, Friday and Sundays.

During major Muslim festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha, millions swoop to pray at the tomb and the pathway, dargah complex and the main promenade see a sea of humanity.

The saint had never married, has no descendents and the dargah passed down five centuries through generations of the caretakers and trustees here.

There are claims of many miracles that happened before and after the saint’s death.

According to a legend, he was once busy in prayers at a lonely place in his hometown when a woman passed from there crying and screaming.

When he enquired, she showed an empty vessel in her hand and said she had dropped oil from it and would suffer a beating from her husband if she returned home.

The Pir calmed her down and went to the place where the oil was dropped, took the vessel from her and pushed the earth with his thumb. The oil gushed from there like a fountain, and the woman filled the vessel and went away happily.

However, later, the saint was tormented by dreams of having “wounded” the earth and became full of remorse and grief. He later travelled to India with his brother, and reached the then small island of Worli, some place near the present day tomb.

His brother returned to his hometown, along with a letter from the saint to his mother that he was in good health, and he had decided to live there (Worli) permanently for propagating Islam.

He continued to impart knowledge of Islam to people and the devotees and years later he instructed his followed not to bury him but drop his body in the ocean in such a manner that it would be buried by the people wherever it was found.

They obeyed his wish and later, the body was found at the rocks off Worli, the same site where it came to rest, perching itself on a small mound of stones jutting out of the Arabian Sea.

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