During a recent visit to Delhi I managed to find some time to visit HumayunÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Tomb. I had heard about the renovation work that had happened there and though during my earlier visits to Delhi I had visited most of the other landmarks I never happened to visit the Tomb.
I was in for a surprise. I thought it to be a simple but elegant structure housing the grave of the second Mughal Emperor. But when I saw it I found it to be rather grand in scale and quite well-kept, as is not the case with many sites, but pretty under-promoted as is the case with many other sites in India. It is one of the better-kept monuments, thanks to it being declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It was also a relief to find relatively fewer marks by the common publicÃ‚Â celebrating their romantic aspirations but yet there were various like ‘Ramesh loves Asha’.Ã‚Â
When I reached the window counter to buy the tickets the clerk asked his juniorÃ‚Â to give two Ã¢â‚¬ËœIndian ticketsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. TheyÃ‚Â were rupees ten only whereas for a foreign citizen it is Rs. 250! I was wondering what would be the definition of a foreigner. Will it be just the skin of the person? How about a foreign citizen of Indian origin? And then what about an Indian citizen of white skin, say, Mark Tully? Anyway they manage it somehow.
As we started to walk, we discovered that it is a huge area of around 30-acre. A long pathway takes us to the main tomb. But before that there is another tomb in a pre-Mughal architecture of Ali Isa Khan Niazi who was in the court of Sher Shah Suri during the short reign of the latter. The pathway leads to the main structure, which we found, is massive.
Thought to be an inspiration for the Taj Mahal itself, it is actually an imperial graveyard and not just the mausoleum of the Emperor. There are scores of graves in the structure. It lies close to the mazaar of Nizamuddin Auliya, the thirteenth century Sufi mystic, and having a close proximity to the mazaar was perhaps the reason of the location of the Tomb.
The structure is supposed to be the first building in what is called the Mughal architecture. Around the imposing building are the huge gardens, called char-bagh, another typical aspect of the Mughal architecture. It was completed in around 1570 and that puts it at around 435 years of age! Yet it appears pretty intact, also thanks to the renovation work that has been recently completed. The gardens have been completely renovated with the aid of the Agha Khan Trust after thorough research into the way the gardens were laid out initially.
The gardens are of special significance as it was the first time they were built in that pattern in the Indian subcontinent. The Char-bagh, as they are called, are rectilinear shaped huge gardens with elaborate water systems running around them. Since its renovation it has attracted many more tourists. When Condoleezza Rice visited Delhi in 2005 this was the only site that was chosen for her visit. It was a conscious selection by the government with an eye on her visit to Pakistan subsequently to enforce the Muslim heritage of India.
The widow of Humayun commissioned the tomb and it cost around fifteen lakh rupees then. The architecture is a mixture of Persian and Indian styles that later came to be known as the Mughal architecture. The chief architect was a Persian but the structure has a lot of local Indian influences. The main tomb sits on a huge square plinth that rises seven meters high. The total height is around 140 feet. The staircases take one to the top of the plinth from where the various graves could be visited.Ã‚Â It is built with white marbles and red sandstone and the marble onion dome (another typical aspect of Mughal architecture) gives glimpses of the Taj Mahal that was to come up after around a century.
Though it is called HumayunÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tomb there are many other from the royal family who are buried there including Dara Shikoh and Farrukhsiyar. It is tough to find out who is buried where other than Humayun and that too because of the central location of his grave in the structure. It is said that during the 1857 mutiny Bahadur Shah Zafar hid with his three sons in the mausoleum for some time before the British captured him.
In the hustle and bustle of Delhi, it has a remarkably serene and quiet atmosphere. It was pretty hot in Delhi when I visited but I really cherished visiting the place. It was also surprising as well as relieving that there were no ubiquitous guides and cameramen trying to push themselves into business. And the staff at the gate was kind enough to offer his cold water bottle to have a few sips before we left the royal gentry to rest in peace.