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Peace Watch » Kashmir-Talk » My Days in Bombay: Searching for Inner Peace in Tinsel City

My Days in Bombay: Searching for Inner Peace in Tinsel City


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 that had been witness to 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, sipping the waters at the tank and old men 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 hullabaloos 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 of 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, which is almost a kilometer 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. To see the high tides yielding place for the low tides, I might have waited many times on the main road.   The ten to fifteen-minute walk on the walkway, particularly after the dusk with the sea on both side used to be as seductive as fairies in the forests of Zabarwan mountain range.   There were lots of stories, blend of history and myths 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. Though I did once buy a small booklet about the saint, there is nothing as documented as that of saints like Shahi-Hamadan,  Syed Ali Hamadani and his associates who have visited Kashmir- and more or less 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. It has been caretakers, who have been trustees of the stories about the life, missionary works, and spiritual attainments of the saint.


For the group of islands known as a Bombay having quite a long coastline, many saints from Arabia and Persia have arrived in India from here. These saints did not only live in the seven Islands but also chose some wasteland and arid mountains as their abode. One of them was Haji Abdul Malang who had chosen an arid hillock in Thane district as his abode. It was orderly Dutta Ram from Alibag, who on knowing my interest suggested me to visit the mausoleum of Malang Baba, as the saint is popularly known on a parched hillock some 5o Kms from our office. One Sunday, my colleague and I started our journey towards the hillock. The story of the shrine had some similarity with that of Amaranth cave back home. The hillock belonged to Raja Nal. The saint had made it as a dwelling, and after the death of the saints, 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.  The management of the shrine was looked after by a trust, and it had Hindus and Muslims as its members- of course, unlike Amarnath where not a single Muslim from the Pahalgam taken  on the trust.  From Damandwadi base of the hillock to Dargah it is almost three hour’s arduous trek. Nonetheless, I remember having seen hundreds of devotees’ Hindu and Muslims, more Hindus going uphill in the scorching heat for the blessings of the saint…… It was a journey worth taking for the inner peace.


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