India // Mumbai //

Mahalakshmi Temple and Haji Ali’s Tomb

Mahalakshmi Temple, just off Bhulabhai Desai Road, is approached via an alley lined with stalls selling spectacular floral offerings and devotional pictures. Gifts for Mumbai’s favourite devi, Lakshmi, goddess of beauty and prosperity – the city’s most sought-after attributes – pile so high that the temple pujaris run a money-spinning sideline reselling them. While you’re here, find out what your future holds by joining the huddle of devotees pressing rupees onto the rear wall of the shrine room. If your coin sticks, you’ll be rich.

Occupying a small islet in the bay just north of the Mahalakshmi is the mausoleum of the Muslim saint, Afghan mystic Haji Ali Bukhari. The tomb is connected to the mainland by a narrow concrete causeway, only passable at low tide. When not immersed in water, its entire length is lined with beggars supplicating passers-by and chanting verses from the Koran. The site is a great place to head for on Thursday and Friday evenings, when large crowds gather around the headland to watch the sunset and listen to live qawwali music. Non-Muslims are welcome, but you’ll need to keep well covered up (a headscarf should be worn by women). The entire complex was undergoing major renovations at the time of writing, but should have finished by the time you read this.

The traditional way to round off a trip to the mausoleum is to take a glass or two of fresh fruit juice at the legendary Haji Ali Juice Centre, just to the right of the entrance to the causeway. Customers either cram into the tiny dining hall or else order from their cars.