Visiting the tomb today of one of India’s highly honoured Sufi saints, The Prince of Wales placed flowers as a symbol of reverence and respect. The shrine of Haji Ali Shah Bukhari or ‘dargah’ as it is known is one of Mumbai’s notable landmarks.
The idea behind the visit was to show support for the renovation currently taking place on the 500 year old building. The visit was to also encourage a discourse among diverse religious faiths.
Entering the shrine, Prince Charles was greeted by Sufi devotional songs which honour the miracles of the saint. The shrine or ‘Haji Ali’ “is a tiny mosque-like shrine with arches and minarets at the end of a promontory, surrounded by the sea,” according to Dean Nelson in The Telegraph.
The followers of Haji Ali Shaj Bukhari believe that during his life, numerous miracles were performed. Although a Muslim Saint, he is also followed by Hindus and Sikhs.
Over one million believers visit the shrine yearly to partake in prayer and devotion.
His followers believe he performed several miracles in his life and as a saint his spirit lives on. Despite being a Muslim Saint, thousands of Sikhs and Hindus are among the more than one million devotees who visit the shrine every year to pray for miracles.
After taking off his shoes, Charles and the shrine’s priest also known as a ‘Khadim’ prayed for peace together. They then laid the royal blue devotional cloth or ‘chadar’ on the tomb of Haji Ali. The laying of the cloth was followed by a crimson rose and jasmine quilt, after which oils and perfume were sprinkled around the shrine.
“I recited from the Koran and prayed for the prince’s health and the health of his family,” commented The Khadim, Mohammed Islam Deen Mohammed Ashirafi.
Pooja Oberoi welcomed Charles to the Shrine. Oberoi is a Sikh who has a charity that aids the devotees to the shrine who cannot afford medical treatment. The charity also provides free cataract surgery.
“With very big man there is tension, too big tension, so many responsibilities, too many friends and enemies. I will pray and God will give him happiness,” Oberoi stated in regards to Charles.
Unfortunately time, increasing pollution and the salt from the sea has not been kind to the shrine. Erosion of the white marble, neglect of the textiles, chipping of the walls which contain numerous semi-precious stones and a complicated maze of electrical wire make for a difficult place to worship.
As Charles left the shrine, he inconspicuously gave a contribution to one of the shrine’s trust representatives.
The trust is currently fundraising with a goal of a million pounds to help restore the 500 year old building. It is a massive undertaking that will require elaborate masonry restoration. Charles told one mason that his work on the restoration was “brilliant.” The mason replied that he was “only learning at the feet of baba [his master]”.
On Thursday, before leaving for Sri Lanka, the Royal couple will pay a visit to a Jewish Synagogue to participate in a traditional Jewish blessing prayer. They will then visit the Mattancherry Palace Museum, also known as the Dutch Palace in Kochi, to view the Kerala murals and other Hindu art.