Haji Ali set to go, and Rise Again

Mumbai Mirror

  • Dargah trust gets final set of permissions to go ahead with the demolition and reconstruction of the dilapidated shrine

Mumbai, Aug 7: Nearly four years after plans were first made to demolish and reconstruct Haji Ali dargah, one of city's most prominent shrines and landmarks, the project has got the final set of permissions from the government.

With the commencement certificate to start work in hand, the first step will be to demolish the dilapidated structure. Though the shrine of Pir Haji Ali Shah Baba dates back to the 14th century, the present structure nestled like a pearl in the sea, was constructed a little over a hundred years ago. But with constant erosion the building has become dilapidated, leading to concerns over safety. Approximately 80,000 people visit the shrine every week, say trustees.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's deputy chief engineer (development plan) A S Kale confirmed that the work on the demolition and reconstruction of the shrine can begin. Structwell Designers and Consultants Pvt Ltd, which is in charge of the project, will resurrect a mildly modified version of the present dargah. In keeping with Islamic building principles which say that a rebuilt religious structure should be bigger than the original, the height of the shrine will be raised by a few  feet. “After waiting for more than a year for the commencement certificate, we want to start work as soon as possible,” said project architect Chetan Raikar.

Contractors for the work were appointed about a year ago, but construction could not start without the commencement certificate and a host of other permissions from different government agencies. Even the marble purchased for the project was kept in Rajasthan because of the delay in permissions.  

The shrine trustees who have been doing the rounds of various government departments for the different approvals were ecstatic after the final permission came through. Member of the shrine trust, Abdul Sattar Merchant said that the trustees will meet on Thursday to discuss the demolition plans. "The contractors have also been called. Work should start shortly," said Merchant who added that the work will not affect the flow of pilgrims to the shrine. "We will work on one section of the building at a time. We will start work on a section only after one demolished part has been rebuilt." 

The complex comprises of the dargah, a sanatorium and a mosque. The project is expected to take two years to complete and will use 30,000 cubic feet of fine Makrana marble out of which 20,000 cubic feet has been already been purchased or booked by the dargah trust. The project cost of Rs 9.6 crores however could rise to account for the increase in cost of construction material and labour.

The shrine which was built in A D 1431 around the resting place of a rich merchant who renounced his wealth and opted for a life of piety. There has been continuous remodelling and repairing of the present structure which is situated on a rocky islet off Mahalaxmi temple and is accessible through a narrow causeway that is flooded during high tide. But the present buildings which was built in the nineteenth century in concrete has deteriorated in the monsoon seas and corrosive salt-laden air. One of the minarets is in danger of toppling over and sections of the abraded walls have been covered with cloth to hide the damage.

Devotees said that the reconstruction of the shrine was long overdue. "The dargah trust receives enough money in donations. They could have repaired the buildings long time back. Why did they wait for the building to fall apart before rebuilding it?" asked Mumbai Central resident Yusuf Baugwala, a regular visitor to the shrine. 


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