As the last scaffold covering its walls is dismantled, Haji Ali dargah’s gleaming new minaret can be seen in its entirety for the first time. A towering 99 metres, representing the different names of Allah, the minaret is the first structure to be completed as part of the plan to reconstruct the shrine completely in marble.
Floral designs in inlay skirt the lower part of the tower and ‘jali’ or lattice work covers the upper levels. The round balcony at the top, which can be reached by climbing the spiral stair with 113 steps, is crowned with a cupola held by pillars.
Since there are few artisans in Mumbai who can work in marble, workers were brought in from Makrana. Even the inlay designs in semi-precious stones like moonga (coral) and firuza (turquoise) are being done by artists from Rajasthan.
After the minaret, the mosque will be next structure to be rebuilt. The pillars have been completed. The dargah that holds the tomb of the saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari will be constructed next, followed by the office building and dormitory. The project is expected to cost Rs10 crores.
Though the shrine is believed to date back to the 16th century, the present structure was built in the 19th century. But the reinforced concrete and plaster buildings deteriorated in the salt laden air. When reconstruction work was started 18 months ago, the minaret was in danger of toppling down.