The salt water splashing, shimmering under the setting sun draws the attention to an endless expanse of the sea. A plunge into the rough eastern shores of the Arabian Sea provides a glimpse of the flora, fauna and even the deep-seated sedimentary rocks holding the viscous oil within. Yet, one might not come across the intangible plethora of beliefs that have accumulated over the centuries right there, finally culminating in the Haji Ali dargah (tomb).
At a time when the Mumbai archipelago was administered by the Gujarat governors appointed by the Delhi Sultanate, the first construction of the dargah began in 1431 CE approximately 500 metres off the Mumbai coastline. This was also the peak of the Sufi movement in medieval India. The story goes that Iranian Sufi saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari created a stream of oil flow by a touch of his finger on the sea shore in order to help a woman in need. Struck by remorse for injuring the earth, he later requested his followers to lay his coffin in the sea without harming the earth. The flow of waves is said to have lodged his coffin at a point where eventually the Haji Ali dargah was constructed. Is this folklore merely a figment of man’s imagination or truly a miracle in the sea where around 500 years later, India’s only offshore oil field–Bombay High was explored in 1974?
The narrow road leading to the tomb, often drenched in sea water, is submerged during high tides making the place inaccessible. Nevertheless, the dargah remains dry throughout the year.