Humayun’s Tomb – The first garden tomb of Indian Subcontinent

humayun's Tomb Maqbara-i Humayun
Humayun’s Tomb Maqbara-i Humayun | Image Source

Visiting Detail

  • Location: Mathura Road, Opposite Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia Dargah, Nizamuddin, New Delhi – 110013
  • Timings: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
  • Closed: Open all 7 days
  • Entry fee: Rs.30 for Indians | Rs. 500 for foreigners
  • Architecture: Mughal architecture
  • Architect: Mirak Mirza Ghiyath
  • Type: Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb (Maqbara-i Humayun)

Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi, also called ‘Maqbara-i Humayun‘ in hindi is the tomb of Humayun who was the second mughal emperor and the father of Akbar.  Her wife and the Empress Consort Bega Begum also known as Haji Begum built this tomb in 1569 to 1570. Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid Muhammad were the persian architects who designed the tomb.

Humayun’s tomb is situated in East Nizamuddin and close to Purana Qila which was established by Humayun in 1533. It was the first garden tomb built in Indian subcontinent. For the first time the red sandstone was used to build such a huge tomb.

In 1993, the tomb was announced as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After that lot of reconstruction work has been done on the tomb to protect it.

Inside the Humayun’s Tomb

The main entrance of the tomb lies in the west. Though there are many small pathways which lead to the main entrance. The complex has the main tomb of Humayun including many other tombs like her wives Bega Begum’s tomb, Hamida Begum’s tomb, eldest son of the mughal emperor Shah Jahan, Dara Shikoh’s tomb. It has the tombs of many other succeeding mughals like Alamgir II, Muhammad Kam Bakhsh, Rafi Ul-Darjat, Jahandar Shah, Shah Jahan II and Farrukhsiyar. 

This tomb was a jump in the mughal architecture as it resulted into a charbagh garden known as an Indo-Persian quadrilateral garden. This type of garden was built first time in India.

Humayun’s Tomb is a clear picture of mausoleum of his father, Babur (founder of the Mughal Empire), called Bagh-e Babur  which means Gardens of Babur located in Kabul, Afghanistan. Though Humayun was the first Mughal Emperor whose body was buried in a paradise garden.  

The Tomb is built on the banks of Yamuna river. The mausoleum of Nizamuddin Auliya (celebrated Sufi saint of Delhi), known as Nizamuddin Dargah who had received a lot of respect from the rulers of Delhi, and his residence, Chilla Nizamuddin Auliya is located in north-east direction of the tomb.

Surrounding Areas

Later in Mughal history, Bahadur Shah Zafar  who was the last Mughal Emperor took shelter here along with three princes during the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He was captured by Captain Hodson before being thrown out to Rangoon. During this time this land was under the ‘KiloKheri Fort’, the capital of Sultan Kaiqubad who was the son of Nasiruddin (1268 to 1287).

See also  Masuma Sultan Begum - Fourth wife of the Mughal Emperor Babur

The Tombs of Battashewala Complex is also located in the barrier zone of the Humayun’s Tomb Complex. A small road separates both the Tomb complexes but are enclosed by their own compound wall.

History

Humayun died on on 27 January 1556. After his death, his body was immediately buried in his palace in Purana Qila located in Delhi. Then it wa taken to Sirhind, in Punjab on the order of Khanjar Beg. In 1558, it was visited by Akbar, Humayun’s son. Akbar visited the tomb in 1571 again when it was about to complete. 

Construction of the Tomb

The Humayun’s Tomb was built on the order of his first wife and chief consort Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum). Construction of the tomb began in 1565 and completed in 1572. At that time it costed around 1.5 million rupees which was paid entirely by his wife Bega Begum. She had dedicated her whole life in the construction of this mausoleum as a memorial to him on the bank of the Yamuna river.

According to Ain-i-Akbari, Bega Begum had directed the construction of the tomb after she returned from Mecca and undertook Hajj pilgrimage.

Architect of Humayun’s Tomb

According to some of the historians a Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas had designed the construction of the tomb and was selected by the Empress and brought from Herat in Afghanistan. He had designed many buildings in Herat, Bukhara which is now in Uzbekistan, and many more in other places in India. When Mirak Mirza Ghiyas was died, the structure of Humayun’s Tomb was not completed. It was later completed by his son, Sayyed Muhammad ibn Mirak Ghiyathuddin.

Deterioration of the Tomb

Charbagh, the four-gardens made of four squares are separated by four promenades has a central pool throwing radiating reflection. It is spreading over 13 hectares surrounding the Tomb. It has changed many times over the years after its initial construction. Decline of the Mughals caused the decay of the Tomb and its features and so the expensive maintenance of the monument becomes very difficult.

In the early 18th century, once the people staying within the walled area started growing vegetables in the lush garden area. It was the worst days of the garden when the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar was captured during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 sentenced to exile, along with his three sons. During that the British took over Delhi completely. 

See also  Shahi Burj - A three storey tower in the Red Fort

Restoration of the garden

In 1860, the Mughal design of the garden was designed into a more English garden-style with circular beds. The four central water pools were replaced with the axial pathways. Trees were planted in flower beds. However, this fault was rectified in early 20th century on the order of  Viceroy Lord Curzon. The original gardens were restored in a big restoration project (1903–1909) including the lining of the plaster channels with sandstone. In 1915 trees were planted to the central and diagonal axis. Some of the trees were also planted on the platform for tents.

During the Partition of India, in August 1947, Purana Qila along with Humayun’s Tomb, had became the major refugee camps for Muslims migrating to Pakistan. It was managed by the government of India later. The camping was continuously going on for 5 years which caused the major damage to the tomb as well to the garden including the water channels. In later years, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) undertook the responsibility of preserving the heritage monuments in India. The damaged building and its gardens were restored gradually . 

In 1993, when the monument was declared under the World Heritage Site, a significant restoration phase began. The detailed restoration research and excavation process started under the supervision of the Aga Khan Trust and the ASI. This process reached to peak in 2003 when the larger portion of the complex and gardens were restored and maintained. Now the historic fountains started running once again after many years. The restoration process is still going on with subsequent phases.

Architecture

The combination of red sandstone and white marble was first used in the tombs and monuments built during the period of Delhi Sultanate in a highly decorative gatehouse of Alai Darwaza in Qutub complex, Mehrauli, built in 1311, during the period of Khilji dynasty.

 

Enclosure Plan of Humayun’s Tomb Garden 

Material used

The enclosure is the high rubble built which can be entered through two lofty double-storeyed gateways, one on the west and another on the south. It is 16 metres in height including rooms on both sides of the passage. There are small courtyards on the upper floors. The red sandstone and the white marble  has been used on the built of the tomb. The tomb is square shaped, though chamfered on the edges to appear octagonal. The plinth is made with rubble core and has fifty-six cells throughout with over 100 gravestones. The complete base structure is lifted on a few steps high platform.

See also  Zafar Mahal - The last monumental structure of Mughals

Dimension

The design of the tomb is inspired by the Persian architecture. The tomb has a height of 47 metres (154 ft). Thee plinth is 91 metres (299 ft) wide. It is the first Indian building which has the Persian double dome structure on a high neck drum, measuring 42.5 metres (139 ft) in height. It has 6 metres (20 ft) high brass finial which ends in a crescent. This is more common in Timurid tombs. The double dome outer layer supports the white marble exterior layer. As the outer exterior dome is pure white, rest of the building is purely made of red sandstone giving  a nice contrast. White and black marble and yellow sandstone are used in detailing.

cenotaph of Humayun

Cenotaphs 

The burial chamber having a single cenotaph of Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor lies on the north–south axis according to the Islamic tradition. The head is placed to the north and the face is turned sideways towards Mecca. Though the real burial chamber of the Humayun lies in an underground chamber, exactly beneath the upper cenotaph which is reachable through a separate passage outside the building. This usually remains closed to the visiting public. 

Chambers

The main chamber has also the symbolic element, a mihrab which is designed over the central marble lattice or jaali.

This chamber has the high ceiling encompassed by four main octagonal chambers on two floors. There are four more auxiliary chambers in between which suggest that the tomb was built as a dynastic mausoleum. Therefore the eight side chambers offer passage for circumambulation of the main cenotaph. It is also a common practice in Sufism which is visible in many Mughal royal mausoleums. It also shows the concept of Paradise in Islamic cosmology. Each of the main chambers has thus eight smaller chambers radiating from them. Many smaller chambers too have the cenotaphs of many other members of the Mughal royal families, all within the main walls of the tomb. One of the prominent one is the cenotaph of Hamida Banu Begum.

There are more than 100 graves within the entire complex. Since the graves are not inscribed most of them are unidentified.

Attractions near Humayun’s Tomb


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