Visiting Mumbai’s Haji Ali Masjid and Darga during the rainy season is nearly magic. The mosque was built in 1431 in the memory of Islamic merchant Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari (who is buried within the mosque) and has become a pilgrimage site for seekers from every faith. The beautiful structure sits on a tiny island almost a kilometre from South Mumbai’s shore, and is connected to the city by a narrow causeway.
A visit during the monsoon guarantees that the tides will be high! On the railing-free causeway, you can find thousands and thousands of pilgrims from in and out of Bombay, stray dogs and beggar kids who alternately clutch at their stomachs to cry and laugh. All are soaked to their skin and weighed down by heavy clothes, but invigorated by the cool wind and rain. Everyone’s sandals slap against their wet feet as they walk the distance of the concrete strip. I followed the crowd to see the spectacular Islamic-Indian architecture up close: dazzling white Rajasthani marble that has been eroded by wind and salt water but has undergone a recent refurbishing. I watched men and women file into separate areas as is customary in Mosques, and observed as adults perform rituals fervently and children frolicked (to my joy, and their parents’ dismay) in the ocean spray.
Once back on dry land and before heading to change clothes, I recommend visitors make sure to stop at Haji Ali’s juice center! The famous juice parlour serves incredible fresh juices, milkshakes, dry fruits and creams: the seetaphal cream (custard apple in fresh cream) is my favorite! Even if you’re only in Mumbai for a few days, a visit to Haji Ali should not be missed.
Bronwyn McBride is a student from Vancouver, BC, and now lives between India and Canada. After quitting her intensive study of circus arts and dance in Quebec, Bronwyn flew across the globe alone to see if she could live in a very different way. It wasn’t her first visit to India, and wouldn’t be her last!
Wherever she is, Bronwyn explores different ways to volunteer and get involved with local communities. She’s worked with severely disabled kids in a Mother Teresa orphanage in Kolkata, crossed the country with a social change performance tour, and has spent long months through the boiling summer in Varanasi, working in a school for girls. Next up: enjoying volunteerism and a foray into Bollywood in India’s cosmopolitan metropolis, Mumbai.
More of Bronwyn’s writing can be found at: www.bronwyngrace.wordpress.com