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Peace Watch » Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk, Memeiors, Z. G. Muhammad » My Days in Bombay- Looking for spiritual solace in film nagari

My Days in Bombay- Looking for spiritual solace in film nagari

Haji Malang

My Days in Bombay – A spiritual Journey

My Days in Bombay- Spiritual Journey of Downtown Boy

Looking For Inner Solace in Film Nagari

Off To Haji Malang


Many spiritual experiences can’t be captured in words.  Offering late-night prayers during sultry days on an islet with the soothing breeze blowing on all sides from the Arabian Sea had a unique spiritual elation. Perhaps, it was as good an experience as that of whirling dance when ‘the invisible world becomes apparent to the whole.’ Nevertheless, for me, it had the same inner solace that I experienced as a young student of Islamia High School saying Zohar prayers during hot summers under the canopy of six-hundred-year-old majestic Chinar in the Jamia Masjid. Those days everything inside the Jamai Masjid had a spiritual touch.  The thirteen grand Chinar trees had witnessed many glorious periods in our history and had seen mighty kings prostrating before the Almighty. The translucent water of the ablution tank with a big stone Mogul type fountain in the middle, the pigeons, quenching thirst at the tank and elders reclining against the trunks of Chinars busy in incantations were a source of solace.  Something that one missed on an outstation posting.

To fill the inner void within me in the commotions of the bustling commercial capital of  India during the Holy month of Ramadan, I more than often said late-night prayers and tarveeh in the Masjid within the precincts the Haji Ali Dargah. The fifteen-century place of worship and the mausoleum of a saint from the Central Asian state of Bukhari Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari is linked to the city by a narrow causeway, almost a kilometre long. During high tides, the causeway gets submerged, thus denying access to the Dargah. There was some extraordinary attraction in the mausoleum that made many devotes from all beliefs and faith wait on the main road till the tides ebbed. I might have stayed on the main road many times to see the high waves yielding place for the low tides.   The ten to fifteen-minute walk on the walkway, particularly after dusk with the sea on both sides, used to be as seductive as fairies in the forests of the Zabarwan mountain range.   Stories, a blend of history and myths, were galore about the arrival of the Saint and his burial on the rocky islet. These stories were not different from the saints and missionaries that visited Kashmir almost in the same period to spread the message of Allah in our land.   I once bought a small booklet about the Saint; there was nothing as documented as that of saints like Shahi-Hamadan,  Syed Ali Hamadani and his associates who have visited Kashmir- and more or less the laid foundation of modern Kashmir.  Whatever is known about Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari has come through oral tradition and passed on from generation to generation. Caretakers have been trustees of the stories about the Saint’s life, missionary works, and spiritual attainments.

Many saints from Arabia and Persia have arrived in Western India for seven islands known as Bombay, with a long coastline. Some of these saints lived in the seven Islands. Some travelled over to the neighbouring areas and chose wasteland and arid mountains as their abode, and Haji Abdul Malang was one of them.  It was orderly Dutta Ram from Alibag. Knowing my interest in visiting shrines and masoluems suggested I visit the Maqbara of Malang Baba, as the Saint is popularly known on a parched hillock some 5o Kms from our office in Chicago Building, Fort Bombay. One Sunday, my colleague and I started our journey towards the hillock. The story of the shrine had some similarities with that of the Amaranth cave back home. The hillock belonged to Raja Nal. The Saint had made it his dwelling, and after the death of the Saint, it was descendants of the Raja who were trustees of the shrine.

In 1983, when I visited the shrine, one of the descendants of Raja, Kashinath Gadkar, opened the shrine in the morning. More than six lakh pilgrims, irrespective of religion and caste, visited the shrine every year.  A trust looked after the shrine’s management, and it had Hindus and Muslims as its members.  From Damandwadi base of the hillock to Dargah, it is almost three hour’s arduous trek. Nonetheless, I remember seeing hundreds of devotees’ Hindu and Muslims, more Hindus going uphill in the scorching heat for the blessings of the Saint. At the foothill, Sardar Narinder Sing, then Publication Officer of Jammu and Kashmir,  Nisar Hussain, Tourist Officer, Driver Hanief trekked uphill to the Dargah. The long trek is dotted with graves of disciples of the Saint. And irrespective of religious faith, many trekkers pay respects to them – these mini-shrines also served as resting places.  

    It was a journey worth taking for inner peace.


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