Humayun's Tomb

An opulent tomb of Mughal Ruler Humayun, it is a saga of grief, love, and devotion. Signup for full VR Experience ! Book a holiday package to Humayun's Tomb.

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Humayun's Tomb

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Humayun's Tomb

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Location

Mathura Road, Opposite Dargah Nizamuddin, New Delhi, Delhi 110013

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Opposite the Dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia, in East Nizamuddin, New Delhi, lies the opulent tomb of the Mughal Ruler Humayun. Faced with red sandstone and white marble, it stands in the center of a formal garden that covers about 30 acres of land and boasts of manicured lawns and several diverse species of shrubs and trees.

Behind Humayun’s tomb is a saga of grief, love, and devotion similar to that of the magnificent Taj Mahal, which was built later having been inspired by the former. Humayun fell to his death from the stairs of the library at the Din Panah citadel (Purana Qila, New Delhi) that was built under his patronage. His first wife Banu Begum was struck by grief when her husband passed away and ordered the construction of a tomb near the sacred site where the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya is situated. The Mughals revered the Sufi saints of the Chisti order and built many monuments in the vicinity of their resting places. Banu Begum dedicated her life to the construction of her husband’s tomb and commissioned Persian architect from Herat, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas to construct the tomb. This resulted in one of the most aesthetically beautiful tombs on the Indian Subcontinent and the first one to have a formal garden. It also employed the use of red sandstone in an unprecedented manner.

                 Image Courtesy- Flicker

Humayun's tomb is an architectural splendor that has enriched and inspired the Mughal architecture of the ages to come. The vast scale and the grand view that greets one when entering from the western gateway is at once awe-inspiring and breathtaking. The gate itself is two-stories tall and rises to 16 meters. The rooms around the central passage serve as an information center and small courtyards lie on the upper floor. The main gateway that the Royals used, however, was on the southern side but is now closed to the public.

 

The tomb rests in the center of a garden enclosed by high rubble walls on all the three sides. The Yamuna River once flowed along the eastern side but has shifted its flow in due course of time. The garden tomb was a Mughal feature that symbolized the resting place of the dead in paradise. It made the garden a setting for a building instead of a place for recreation. The Persian notion of Charbagh inspired the formal garden divided into quadrants by a grid of paths with axial water channels flowing to pools at the intersections. The water channels on the main pathways appear to run beneath the tomb, depicting the holy rivers that flow beneath the Quranic paradise. 

One of the main pathways at the Charbagh inspired garden - WIKIMEDIA

 In this paradisiac setting, the tomb stands on two chamfered square platforms one above the other. The main higher platform consists of secondary arcaded cells on the sides. The central arch leads to the platform above. The tomb consists of a main octagonal chamber surrounded by four others placed diagonally. The marble double dome rests above a high drum with the plastered ceiling decorated with orange-red patterns depicting palm leaves and lotus flowers.

  The dome ceiling inside depicting the palm leaves and lotus flowers - WIKIMEDIA

The architecture of this tomb is derived from Persian as well as Indian influences. The arched recesses on the side walls feature arches of Persian origin that are devoid of Indian motifs, constructed by Persian craftsmen that accompanied Humayun when he regained the throne of Delhi in 1555. The pillared kiosks or chhatris around the dome, however, are indigenously inspired by Rajput architecture where they were extensively used in built forms like memorials, forts, and palaces. Persian influence can also be seen on the domes of chhatris in the form of peacock blue tiles covering them, seen in a number of mosques and palaces in Iran.

 

 Blue tiled chattris around the white marble dome of Humayun’s tomb along with the brass finial on top - WIKIMEDIA

The dome is covered with white marble and the structure below is made of grey quartzite clad with red sandstone. The colour red is associated with the tents of the royals and later became prominent in Mughal architecture with most buildings clad with red sandstone especially those built under the patronage of Humayun’s son, Akbar. White marble bands, border the red sandstone features, accentuating the different parts and serve to unite the structure into a whole. Intricate lattice screens or jaalis too feature prominently in the mausoleum providing views to and from the structure while regulating the airflow to ventilate the building.

 

A sandstone jaali at the tomb

Humayun’s tomb emphasizes the obsession of the rulers with constructing tombs. It was an important concern and with time the tomb garnered even more significance as seen in later structures like the Taj Mahal. Modelled after Gur-e-Amir in Samarkand, the tomb of Timur, the ancestor of the Mughals in India, it tried to reinforce Akbar’s connection to the dynasty and his legacy.

The Humayun’s tomb was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It had fallen into despair after centuries of neglect and was renovated after the designation. Today it serves as an escape from the dense neighbourhoods of Delhi which are polluted and suffocating. The gardens have calm and shaded spaces that provide relief from the harsh sun. Birds frequent the dense green areas planted with oleander, hibiscus, fig, neem, and a variety of plants that the Mughals favoured; and cool breeze passes through the spaces in this earthly paradise.

 

Glossary

Tomb –A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes.

Formal garden – A garden characterized by clear geometrical order and may have a symmetrical layout.

Rubble wall – Wall constructed with stones of uneven shape and size set in mortar laid in irregular courses.  

Charbagh –  Charbagh is a Persian quadrilateral garden layout divided into four parts by axial paths. It denotes the four gardens of paradise mentioned in the Quran.

Dome – A dome is an architectural element that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere.

Double Dome – A double dome is built of two layers. There is one layer inside which provides ceiling to the interior of the building. The other layer is the outer one which crowns the buildings. The inner one might be provided to structurally support the outer dome.

Paradisiac – of or related to paradise.

Motif – A pattern or design that is often repeated to provide ornamental qualities or symbolic representations. 

Chhatris – Dome-shaped canopies that are raised on pillars that originated in the architecture of Rajasthan. “Chhatri” literally means umbrella or canopy.

Jaali – Perforated screens made of stone, wood or other materials with geometric patterns carved in them.

 

 

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