Honeymoon Lodge: The Birthplace of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah

Today, l am speaking to you in a city and in a country which have a particular meaning to my family and myself. On 2nd November, 1877 my beloved grandfather was born here in Karachi. Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity

Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, August 4, 1957

Portrait Aga Khan III Memoirs of Aga Khan
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, as a young boy in the Spanish Edition of Memoirs of Aga Khan.

By  MUMTAZ ALI TAJDDIN S. ALI

The ancient Greek chronicler Lucius Flavius Arian (86-160 BC) had recorded in his Anabasis of Alexander that Alexander the Great, at the end of his campaign along the Punjab river and the Indus, marched back home with army and ordered his Admiral, Nearchus, to sail down the Indus River to the sea and bring the fleet into the Persian Gulf as far as the mouth of the Euphrates.

The Greek fleet under Nearchus descended into the sea from a branch of the Indus. After sailing about 70 miles along the coast, it reached at a sandy island, called Krokala. The fleet proceeded from Krokala further to north-west, and shortly entered a natural harbor where the fleet had to stay for over three months due to bad climate. Admiral Nearchus named this harbor “Alexander’s Haven” in honor of his illustrious master. The historians like James Runnel (1792 A.C) and M.R. Haig (1894 A.C) have identified that location with the harbor of Karachi. Dean Vincent Smith (1797 A.C) has identified Krokala with today’s harbor of Keamari in Karachi and placed Alexander’s Haven near the Chilney Island. Lately, H.T. Lambrick expounded the theory that the Karachi harbor is identified to the place called Morontobara, where the Greek fleet halted after weighing anchor from Alexander’s Haven.

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International Space Station (ISS) night time view of Karachi NASA photo
A night time photo of modern day Karachi captured on January 9, 2021 by the International Space Station that was flying 420 kms (261 miles) above the Arabian Sea just off the coast of Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan with a population of about 16.1 million. Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He became the 48th Imam of the Ismailis in August 1885 at the age of 7. Photo: NASA

The fleet of Nearchus first reached a sandy island in Krokala. In those days, there were few islands in the location now called Karachi city. When the water of sea dried up or went back, the islands then began to appear as hilly tracks. The small islands vanished in due course and only the hilly track of the modern day Honeymoon Lodge survived near sea in Karachi. Thus, it is most probable that the Greek fleet at the command of Admiral Nearchus should have anchored around the present Honeymoon Lodge, which was surrounded with water and its top surface looked like an island about 2000 years ago.

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Aga Khan III Mint stamp Pakistan Pioneers of Freedom Barakah
An image of a mint stamp of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, issued in 1990 as part of Pakistan’s “Pioneers of Freedom” series.

Muhammadi Tekri or Tekri (hill), a famous historical site, where Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was born on November 2, 1877, is generally known as Honeymoon Lodge. It is situated on the eastern outskirts of Karachi city at plot no. F.T.N. 3/1. It is an old fashioned, but spacious house, perilously perched on the top of the hillock at Korangi Road in the Defense Housing Society area, Karachi. The compounds were built on the hillock soon after the British occupation of Sind in 1840. It was made available to the high government officials for their residence, known as Honeymoon Hall in 1841.

The Independence War in India against the British East India Company began in May 10, 1857. The British detained 733 Maratha prisoners at the foot of the Honeymoon Hall in 1860. They were then shifted to Calcutta in April, 1868.

This property was purchased by the British Government in 1859 on account and expense of the Kolhapur State, as a residence for Cheema Sahib, the ex-Maharaja of the Kolhapur, a city and district of Maharashtra state, India, which was occupied by the British in 1792. Later, the vendor of this property was Mr. Edwin Bray, a contractor, who in 1860 obtained a lease of the site for 21 years at the rate of Rs. 75/- per year. Henceforth, it was called, Bray Cliff Honeymoon Lodge. The British again occupied it for Rs. 35,000/- The purchaser on this account was a certain Mr. Noonan, who afterwards sold it ultimately to the 46th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Shah Hasan Ali Shah, Aga Khan I, in 1870.

No water supply existed in the location, but was procured in town. Ismail, the maternal grandfather of Itmadi Bhula Ali Khimani (1860-1922) daily brought two skin bags of water on donkey. Later, 20 Ismaili ladies in Karachi’s Garden area brought water daily with Ladak Damani (d. 1944). They filled water in pitchers from the well of the Garden Jamatkhana and put them on their heads and trekked down on foot towards Honeymoon Lodge and spilled in the tank on the upper side of residence. Sakina Bhannji of the Garden area lovingly brought cow’s milk for the Imam’s family on a daily basis.

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September 1885: Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, at his enthronement ceremony as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay at the age of 7. Photo: Copyright Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty.

When Imam Shah Hasan Ali Shah inherited its ownership, he used the Honeymoon Lodge as his residence. The old construction was demolished and a new bungalow was built on the hilltop for Imam soon after its registration on January 5, 1876. Later, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was born here on Friday, November 2, 1877 at 5.30 p.m. in the right corner room facing the east side. When the news of his birth was routed to Imam Hasan Ali Shah in Bombay, he said in his telegram: “Name him Muhammad Sultan. He will be a Sultan (emperor) in world. His period will witness incredible events, and earn prominent position in world.”

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Honey Moon Lodge Karachi birthplace of Aga Khan III, Barakah
In this rare photo of Honeymoon Lodge, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, is seen standing at top of a flight of stairs. The person at left is Vazir Rahim Basaria; he is standing in front of a window of the room in which the Imam is believed to have been born. Photo: Mumtaz Tajdin Collection.

When the Imam’s household shifted to Bombay in 1882, the edifice was turned into family guest house for their occasional visits to Karachi between 1895 and 1951.

Honeymoon Lodge is spread over a contour area of 18.5 acres on a hilltop at a height of 111 feet from the road level. There is a coarse road leading to the hill’s summit.

There is also another small hilltop at the height of 94 feet. On its summit was an octagonal wooden umbrella, a flight of stairs leading to top, where one can get a panoramic view of the city.

The principal hilltop covers an area of 788.62 square yards. The servant quarters and guard quarter, including the main edifice covers an area of 1066.85 square yards. The main building is so oriented that it faces the south west direction, allowing the sea breeze to cool the interior without any artificial mechanical cooling system. There are over 2500 trees already planted, covering the hilly terrain. Accessible records have it that this building has undergone structural changes over a period of years. The first of these changes was carried out in 1905 when the entire edifice was demolished except one room, which was kept intact, where Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was born. This time the building was rebuilt in a colonial style with a gabled roof.

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First Day Cover Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III Barakah
First day cover issued by Pakistan on the anniversary of the birth centenary of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, on November 2, 1977.

In 1920, Vazir Rahim Basaria (1885-1927) renovated it. Banna Bhula Ali and Suleiman Mukhi Ghulam Hussain Parpaya prepared special furniture from Calcutta. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah took its visit on April 10, 1920 and gave it a new name, Highland. On Sunday, April 11, 1920, the Imam said in Karachi’s Kharadhar Jamatkhana, that Vazir Rahim Basaria has constructed a bungalow of Tekari (Honeymoon Lodge) for the Imam.

In 1951, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah assigned Vazir Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodboy (1905-1956) to convert the Honeymoon Lodge into the Convalescent Home. The site underwent further physical changes. The gabled roof was replaced by a R.C.C. slab, retaining the load bearing stone walls. On its rear side, rooms were added including two kitchens, bathrooms and extension of the veranda. A porch was added on the front side. These changes were made to facilitate conversion of this place from a residence to a Convalescent Home.

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Aga Khan III birth place
A modern day version of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III’s birthplace in Karachi which is commonly referred to as Honeymoon Lodge. It is also known as Muhammadi or Sultan Tekri. This photo was taken several years ago, and a lot of the rock and other debris shown in the photo have since been removed. We were unable to obtain the most recent picture of the building due to the inaccessibility of the site as well as its surrounding areas. Photo: Nizar Hikmat Collection via Mumtaz Tajdin.

The Imam is reported to have told to Vazir Dr. Pir Muhammad to give it a new name of Mahdi Convalescent Home in loving memory of incredible and meritorious services of joint Mukhi Rai Mahdi, the son of Alijah Hasan Ali Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj of Bombay. The project of Mahdi Convalescent Home was completed and inaugurated on September 14, 1953 by Muhammad Ali Bogra (1909-1963), the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

According to the old records of its ownership deed with the District Commissioner (inquiry register no. 375), the official name of Honeymoon Lodge from Honeymoon Hall was changed in 1951, covering an area of 86495 square yards. Prince Sadruddin (1933-2003) inherited the property under Register Gift Deed No. 66 on July 21, 1951. It was subsequently gifted to Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, the present Ismaili Imam on June 26, 1968 under Registered Sale Deed No. 655.

Mawlana Hazar Imam made a visit of the Mahdi Convalescent Home on November 11, 1967 with his architects and Vazir Dr. Habib Patel (1912-2004), the Chairman of the Aga Khan Central Health Board for Pakistan. The Imam inspected and mounted to the roof of the main premises and observed its vicinity.

A portrait of the new 49th Ismaili Imam taken shortly after he succeeded his late grandfather to the throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of twenty. A framed portrait of the late 48th Imam who served the community for 72 years is seen in the background. Photo © Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

Many many memories come to our minds as we think of him. He achieved in his life, for our community that which could only have been accomplished normally in a period of many generations. The tributes that the world has paid him bear honest testimony to his great life and work

Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Takhtnashini, Karachi, January 23, 1958

Soon after the Imam’s visit in 1994 to Pakistan, the site was cleared of rock debris that lay at the feet of the hills. Cracks were cemented and repaired. Rooms were plastered and colored. Gardens were grown with new plantation. On October 27, 2000, the Imam visited the site during his visit to Pakistan.

Over time it has been extensively rebuilt and renovated, as a result of which the site has lost much of its original character. It is very important to modernize elements of a city, but care should be taken that such transformation does not destroy the city’s heritage. Important in this, is the upkeep of historical heritage buildings by the community and its institutions.

Date posted: November 22, 2021.

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Mumtaz Ali Tajdin Ismaili scholar
Mumtaz Ali Tajdin

About the author: Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali is a prolific writer based in Pakistan. He majored in Islamic history with a Masters degree. Over the past several decades, he has contributed numerous articles to Ismaili literary journals, and is also the author of several books including 101-Ismailis HeroesEncyclopaedia of Ismailism, and Ismaili Pirs,  Sayeds, Vakils of South Asian Region. His Brief History of Ismaili Imams was serialized on the website Ismaili Digest. Within Ismaili institutions, he has served as a religious education teacher at the Karachi Religious Centre in Kharadar as well as an Honorary Lecturer/Waezeen with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) for Pakistan. In addition, he is a curator of Hashoo Museum in Karachi which is dedicated to memorabilia from recent Ismaili history. For his long and devoted services to the Ismaili community, he has been bestowed with the titles of Huzur Mukhi (1986), Alijah (1996) and Rai (2010) by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

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One comment

  1. Lovely to read the full story about The Tekri. I was fortunate to visit it 1969 with my parents Rai Fazal Manji and Raibanu Rehmat Fazal Manji and it was Missionary Bhagat (who had moved from Dar es Salaam to Karachi), who knew my father well took us around and showed us the place. Thank you Mr Ali for writing this.
    Dr Mohamed F Manji

    Like

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