History & Culture

After two years, century-old Ma Hajiani Dargah restored to glory

Cocooned in the shielding hold of the bay, just off the arterial, traffic-clogged road that hugs the coastline, is the 111-year-old Ma Hajiani Dargah, restored to its former glory. The restoration of the building began in November 2017 and was completed by conservation architect Vikas Dilawari on April 19, which also marked the eve of Shab-e-Baraat.

The dargah is one of the lesser-known spots of quiet in the city, often interchanged with the more popular Haji Ali Dargah, a stone’s throw away. Built in 1908 when Sir George Sydenham was the Governor of Bombay — primarily in Porbandar stone and basalt ashlar plinth — it is an ideal example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Subtle influences of the colonial style of construction are evident, particularly in the ornamental work. “This is a very unique building. It is a magical place, of tranquillity, at the tip of the land on a natural rocky outcrop, elevated so gracefully,” Mr. Dilawari said.

After two years, century-old Ma Hajiani Dargah restored to glory

Over the years, the dargah’s neighbouring plots of land were sold to private developers. The towering Samudra Mahal — a piece of prime real estate — was where the residence of the Scindias of Gwalior once stood, before being demolished in 1960. “Until a few decades ago, the Mahalakshmi temple, the Haji Ali Dargah, and the Ma Hajiani Dargah would have been the beacons along the coast of Bombay. The proliferation of high-rises without appropriate urban design is certainly impacting the pristine setting, and this might change further with the introduction of the impending coastal road,” Mr. Dilawari said.

A nautical past

The dargah is the site of three graves: Ma Hajiani, Haji Ismail Hasham Yusuf, and his son, Sir Mohamed Yusuf, draped in red and green brocaded chaddars and rose petals. The Yusuf family has been eminent in shipping trade and philanthropy in the city. Haji Ismail Hasham Yusuf founded the Bombay Steam Navigation Company in the late 19th century, and established the erstwhile Marine College at Rashid Mansion in Worli as a charitable institute, later moved to the island of Nhava and still functional as Training Ship Rahaman.

The mausoleum is built in honour of Ma Hajiani, a saint believed to be the sister of Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. The Haji Ali Dargah, houses the tomb of the latter. According to legend, they died at sea and their bodies were washed ashore, a few metres from each other. They were then buried at the respective spots they were found. Subsequently, two tombs were built — Haji Ali for the brother and Ma Hajiani for the sister. At the Ma Hajiani Dargah, women have always been allowed to access the maqbara. Women frequent in large numbers, making offerings of red or green glass bangles: red indicating one’s wish for marriage, and green for offspring.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 11:23:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/after-two-years-century-old-ma-hajiani-dargah-restored-to-glory/article26915467.ece

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