Saint Ma Hajiani Dargah Is The Other Dargah by the Sea


saint ma hajiani dargah worli


Saint Ma Hajiani Dargah stands facing the Haji Ali Dargah in Worli. Built in 1908, it is the resting place for Ma Hajiani and her son, who built her the mausoleum in 1908. Women are allowed to enter and pray here.

Saint Ma Hajiani Dargah, Motilal Sanghi Road, Shiv Sagar Estate, Worli, Mumbai 400 018.


It takes a wanderer – or the truly devotional – to find Saint Ma Hajiani Dargah in the first place. Most are ignorant about its existence, so if you ask for the Dargah by the sea, your taxi will lead you right to the nearby (and popular) Haji Ali Dargah. But once you’ve seen this Sufi mosque, it’s hard to unsee the bright blue dome that glistens boldly facing the Mumbai skyline.

Ma Hajiani Dargah has stood facing the Haji Ali Dargah for over a century. However, while millions of tourists and devotees throng its neighbour, Ma Hajiani is more of a tranquil pit-stop for the city dweller than a point of curiosity for the city tourist.

saint ma hajiani dargah worli

My first impression was that it was tiny and ended before it began; but isn’t that true of everything that is worth knowing in Mumbai? The century-old cafés, the economical matchbox sized apartments in the business ends of this city, the shops that teeter on for centuries, slowly disappearing from the city’s façade but continuing to thrive within its spirited bosom. Ma Hajiani Dargah is no different.

In the early 2000s, when the buildings surrounding it were fewer, I’d plonk myself on a teetering edge outside the mosque, surrounded by lovers who were looking for a quiet spot to remain unnoticed. I suppose the fear of a religious building in the vicinity restricted them to holding hands.

But when I stepped past the mosque towards the sea-facing ledge almost a decade after I first stumbled upon it, I was told that I wasn’t allowed near. The old buildings had been replaced by offices and one large private bungalow. My little sea-facing nook was gone. “But you can always go to the masjid right there” the watchman offered, seeing I was heartbroken.

saint ma hajiani dargah worli

I realised I had never stepped inside the building, cynical as I am about religion. But with nowhere else to go and fascinated with the turquoise blue dome, I thought I might as well. “You can come inside if you want,” said one of the workers, lounging on a scaffolding inside, as he saw me standing uncertainly at the steps. It took two deep breaths and a lot of feet shuffling before I could convince myself to walk in.

Inside, the sea battered white walls of the mostly hidden dargah were withering badly, but the imposing blue dome shone, unaffected by age or the corroding sea breeze. I saw a crack on the dome and noticed it was an unusual oval shape, almost like an amulet. Out of habit, I looked up the shape online and come across nothing comparable.

The worker offered some information about the place – he told me women are allowed inside this dargah (a rarity for Islamic religious structures), and that some leave behind offerings of green and red bangles hoping for a husband or an offspring. Bangle-less and uninterested in either, I meekly asked, “Can I sit there?” He shrugged. I found myself a corner from where I could admire the dome.

saint ma hajiani dargah worli

The October sun at noon burned on, but inside the dargah it was cool and quiet. I heard nothing, not even the sea from where I sat. No one walked in – neither lovers nor devotees. Time slowed down as the workers and I sit in our respective corners, not particularly doing anything.  

It’s hard to be this quiet though, and I lasted all of ten minutes before I started darting around. “Can I go up there?” I asked. The worker shook his head. “There’s nothing there”. I peeked anyway to see the vast Arabian sea unfold behind the dargah, with birds cruising as far as the eye can see. Nothing but infinity. Inside the Dargah lies the tomb of the saint Ma Hajiani besides that of her son, a shipping mogul who built her the mausoleum in 1908. I nodded at the two, not particularly inclined towards saying a prayer but still wishing to acknowledge them. No one commented on my awkward gesture, mainly because no one witnessed it. Old stained-glass windows surrounded me, transporting me to another time altogether. This isn’t Mumbai like I know it. Used to noise, used to being constantly squeezed into small spaces, used to being stared out of spaces that I am a stranger to, I stood inside quietly, hands in my pocket waiting for someone to shoo me out. No one did. This isn’t at all like the Mumbai I know.

saint ma hajiani dargah worli

I left eventually, because the city outside continually beckons with its blink and miss opportunities and amusements. This was a strange encounter, an almost meditative experience in a structure that was largely unremarkable – too new to be historical, too withered to be majestic, too small to be grand. As I stepped out, I couldn’t help but leave with a prayer – I wished the dargah would stay on for a few more centuries as a rare spot of solace in this city that’s constantly changing and rebuilding itself.

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