THE HAJI ALI Dargah, one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city, is the perfect contrast to the rush of traffic on the road opposite it. Surrounded by the Arabian Sea, the iconic white dome houses the tomb of Iranian saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and is said to have been first constructed in 1431. The dargah has been in the news recently over women’s protests, seeking the right to the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum, with the Bombay High Court hearing a petition on the subject.
Despite the serenity of the dargah, however, the long-winding causeway leading from Lala Lajpat Rai Marg to the shrine runs into the same problems encountered by visitors to several other famous places of worship.
Those headed to the Haji Ali dargah, which sees around 20,000 visitors daily, cannot really avoid the aggressive chadar sellers along the causeway. The chadar is the cover sheet for the tomb comprising flowers or cloth, an offering followed at several dargahs. The vendors of the offering, positioned along the causeway, not only call out to prospective customers but also sometimes grab devotees by the hand, hoping to make a sale. The intense competition among the several chadar stalls is a daily nuisance for visitors.
“All places of worship are surrounded by shops selling religious items. These shopkeepers can get aggressive. But holding a person’s hand and forcibly stopping him is taking it too far. They should respect the holiness associated with the place,” said Fazlur Rahim, a Hyderabad resident who came to the city with his family to meet his relatives.
Rizwan Merchant, a trustee of the Haji Ali dargah, however, said he was not aware of such aggressive behaviour by shopkeepers on the causeway.
Other visitors at the shrine also pointed out that during low tide, the initial stretch of the causeway is surrounded by garbage returned by the waves, an unseemly sight before reaching the pristine white shrine, an example of the Indo-Islamic style of architecture.
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