Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, India. The tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum(also known as Haji Begum), in 1569-70, and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid Muhammad,[8] Persian architects chosen by her. It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent, and is located in Nizamuddin East, Delhi, India, close to the Dina-panah Citadel, also known as Purana Qila (Old Fort), that Humayun found in 1533. It was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale. The tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993,and since then has undergone extensive restoration work, which is complete. Besides the main tomb enclosure of Humayun, several smaller monuments dot the pathway leading up to it, from the main entrance in the West, including one that even pre-dates the main tomb itself, by twenty years; it is the tomb complex of Isa Khan Niyazi, an Afghan noble in Sher Shah Suri’s court of the Suri dynasty, who fought against the Mughals, constructed in 1547 CE.
The complex encompasses the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun, which houses the graves of Empress Bega Begum, Hamida Begum, and also Dara Shikoh, great-great-grandson of Humayun and son of the later Emperor Shah Jahan, as well as numerous other subsequent Mughals, including Emperor Jahandar Shah, Farrukhsiyar, Rafi Ul-Darjat, Rafi Ud-Daulat, Muhammad Kam Bakhsh and Alamgir II.It represented a leap in Mughal architecture, and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden, typical of Persian gardens, but never seen before in India, it set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture. It is seen as a clear departure from the fairly modest mausoleum of his father, the first Mughal Emperor, Babur, called Bagh-e Babur(Gardens of Babur) in Kabul (Afghanistan). Though the latter was the first Emperor to start the tradition of being buried in a paradise garden. Modelled on Gur-e Amir, the tomb of his ancestor and Asia’s conqueror Timur in Samarkand, it created a precedent for future Mughal architecture of royal mausolea, which reached its zenith with the Taj Mahal, at Agra.

The site was chosen on the banks of Yamuna river, due to its proximity to Nizamuddin Dargah, the mausoleum of the celebrated Sufi saint of Delhi, Nizamuddin Auliya, who was much revered by the rulers of Delhi, and whose residence, Chilla Nizamuddin Auliya lies just north-east of the tomb. In later Mughal history, the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar took refuge here, during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, along with three princes, and was captured by Captain Hodson before being exiled to Rangoon. At the time of the Slave Dynasty this land was under the ‘KiloKheri Fort’ which was capital of Sultan Kequbad, son of Nasiruddin (1268–1287).

The Tombs of Battashewala Complex lie in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site of the Humayun Tomb Complex; the two complexes are separated by a small road but enclosed within their own separate compound walls.

After his death on 27 January 1556, Humayun’s body was first buried in his palace in Purana Quila at Delhi. Thereafter it was taken to Sirhind, in Punjab by Khanjar Beg and, in 1558, it was seen by Humayun’s son, the then Mughal Emperor, Akbar. Akbar subsequently visited the tomb in 1571, when it was about to be completed.

The tomb of Humayun was built by the orders of his first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum(also known as Haji Begum). Construction began in 1565 and was completed in 1572; it cost 1.5 million rupees, paid entirely by the Empress. Bega Begum had been so grieved over her husband’s death that she had thenceforth dedicated her life to a sole purpose: the construction of a memorial to him than would be the most magnificent mausoleum in the Empire, at a site near the Yamuna River in Delhi.According to Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th-century detailed document written during the reign of Akbar, Bega Begum supervised the construction of the tomb after returning from Mecca and undertaking the Hajjpilgrimage.

According to Abd al-Qadir Bada’uni, one of the few contemporary historians to mention construction of the tomb, it was designed by the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas (also referred to as Mirak Ghiyathuddin), who was selected by the Empress and brought from Herat (northwest Afghanistan); he had previously designed several buildings in Herat, Bukhara (now Uzbekistan), and others elsewhere in India.[9] Ghiyas died before the structure was completed and it was completed his son, Sayyed Muhammad ibn Mirak Ghiyathuddin.

An English merchant, William Finch, who visited the tomb in 1611, describes rich interior furnishing of the central chamber (in comparison to the sparse look today). He mentions the presence of rich carpets, as well as a shamiana, a small tent above the cenotaph, which was covered with a pure white sheet, and with copies of the Quran in front along with Humayun’s sword, turban and shoes.

The fortunes of the once famous Charbagh (Four-gardens) made of four squares separated by four promenades, radiating from a central reflection pool. It spread over 13 hectares surrounding the monument, changed repeatedly over the years after its construction. The capital had already shifted to Agra in 1556, and the decline of the Mughals accelerated the decay of the monument and its features, as the expensive upkeep of the garden proved impossible. By the early 18th century, the once lush gardens were replaced by vegetable garden of people who had settled within the walled area. However, the capture of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 together with the premises, and his subsequent sentencing to exile, along with execution of his three sons, meant that the monument’s worst days lay ahead, as the British took over Delhi completely. In 1860, the Mughal design of the garden was replanted to a more English garden-style, with circular beds replacing the fours central water pools on the axial pathways and trees profusely planted in flowerbeds. This fault was corrected in early 20th century, when on Viceroy Lord Curzon’s orders the original gardens were restored in a major restoration project between 1903–1909, which also included lining the plaster channels with sandstone; a 1915 planting scheme added emphasis to the central and diagonal axis by lining it with trees, though some trees were also planted on the platform originally reserved for tents. In 1882, the official curator of ancient monuments in India published his first report, which mentioned that the main garden was let out to various cultivators; amongst them till late were the royal descendants, who grew cabbage and tobacco in it.

During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila together with Humayun’s Tomb, became major refugee camps for Muslims migrating to the newly founded Pakistan, and was later managed by the government of India. These camps stayed open for about five years, and caused considerable damage not only to the extensive gardens, but also to the water channels and the principal structures. Eventually, to avoid vandalism, the cenotaphs within the mausoleum were encased in brick. In the coming years, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), took on responsibility for the preservation of heritage monuments in India, and gradually the building and its gardens were restored. Until 1985, four unsuccessful attempts were made to reinstate the original water features.

An important phase in the restoration of the complex began around 1993, when the monument was declared a World Heritage Site. This brought new interest to its restoration, and a detailed research and excavation process began under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust and the ASI. This culminated in 2003, when much of the complex and gardens were restored, with the historic fountains running once again after several centuries of disuse. The restoration has been a continuous process ever since, with subsequent phases addressing various aspects and monuments of the complex.

Turkish and Mughal rule in the Indian subcontinent, also introduced Central Asian and Persian styles of Islamic architecture in the region, and by the late 12th century early monuments in this style were appearing in and around Delhi, the capital of Delhi Sultanate. Starting with the Turkic Slave dynasty which built the Qutb Minar (1192 AD) and its adjacent Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque (1193 CE). North India was successive ruled foreign dynasties in the coming centuries giving rise to the Indo-Islamic architecture. While the prevailing style of architecture was trabeate, employing pillars, beams and lintels, this brought in the arcuate style of construction, with its arches and beams, which flourished under Mughal patronage and by incorporating elements of Indian architecture, especially Rajasthani architecture including decorative corbel brackets, balconies, pendentivedecorations and indeed kiosks or chhatris, to developed a distinct, Mughal architecture style, which was to become a lasting legacy of the nearly four hundred years of the Mughal rule. The combination of red sandstone and white marble was previously seen in Delhi Sultanate period tombs and mosques, most distinctively in the highly decorative Alai Darwaza gatehouse in the Qutub complex, Mehrauli, built in 1311 AD, under the Khalji dynasty.

The high rubble built enclosure is entered through two lofty double-storeyed gateways on the west and south, 16 metres high with rooms on either side of the passage and small courtyards on the upper floors. Six-sided stars that adorn the main gateway on the west, are also seen on the iwan of the main tomb structure, though it has been used as ornamental cosmic symbol. The mosque usually present alongside royal tombs, like the Taj, is conspicuously missing from the enclosure, which has only one other structure, the tomb of Emperor’s favourite barber, now commonly known as Nai ka Gumbad (Dome-of-barber). The tomb built of rubble masonry and red sandstone, uses white marble as a cladding material and also for the flooring, lattice screens (jaalis), door frames, eaves(chhajja) and for the main dome. It stands on a vaulted terrace eight-metre high and spread over 12,000m². It is essentially square in design, though chamferred on the edges to appear octagonal, to prepare ground for the design of the interior structure. The plinth made with rubble core has fifty-six cells all around, and houses over 100 gravestones. Plus, the entire base structure is on a raised platform, a few steps high.

Inspired by Persian architecture; the tomb reaches a height of 47 metres (154 ft) and the plinth is 91 metres (299 ft) wide, and was the first Indian building to use the Persian double dome on a high neck drum, and measures 42.5 metres (139 ft), and is topped by 6 metres (20 ft) high brass finial ending in a crescent, common in Timurid tombs. The double or ‘double-layered’ dome, has its outer layer which supports the white marble exterior, while the inner part gives shape to the cavernous interior volume. As a contrast to the pure white exterior dome, rest of the building is made up of red sandstone, with white and black marble and yellow sandstone detailing, to relieve the monotony.

The symmetrical and simple designed on the exterior is in sharp contrast with the complex interior floor plan, of inner chambers, which is a square ‘ninefold plan’, where eight two-storyed vaulted chambers radiate from the central, double-height domed chamber. It can be entered through an imposing entrance iwan (high arc) on the south, which is slightly recessed, while others sides are covered with intricate jaalis, stone latticework. Underneath this white dome in a domed chamber (hujra), lies the central octagonal sepulcher, the burial chamber containing a single cenotaph, that of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun aligned on the north-south axis, as per Islamic tradition, wherein the head is placed to the north, while the face is turned sideways towards Mecca. The real burial chamber of the Emperor, however, lies further away in an underground chamber, exactly beneath the upper cenotaph, accessible through a separate passage outside the main structure, which remains mostly closed to visiting public. This burial technique along with pietra dura, a marble and even stone inlayornamentation in numerous geometrical and arabesque patterns, seen all around the facade is an important legacy of the Indo-Islamic architecture, and flourished in many later mausolea of the Mughal Empire, like the Taj Mahal, where again we find twin cenotaphs and exquisite ‘pietra dura’ craftsmanship.

The main chamber also carries the symbolic element, a mihrab design over the central marble lattice or jaali, facing Mecca in the West, here instead of the traditional Surah 24, An-Noor of Quran which is inscribed on the mihrabs, this one is just an outline allowing light to enter directly into the chamber, from Qibla or the direction of Mecca, thus elevating the status of the Emperor, above his rivals and closer to divinity.

This chamber with high ceiling is then encompassed by four main octagonal chambers on two floors, set at the diagonals with arched lobbies leading to them also connecting them, plus there are four auxiliary chambers in between suggesting that the tomb was built as a dynastic mausoleum. Collectively the concept of eight side chambers not only offers passage for circumambulation of the main cenotaph, a practice common in Sufism and also visible in many Mughal imperial mausoleums, it also reflects the concept of Paradise in Islamic cosmology. Each of the main chambers has, in turn, eight more, smaller chambers radiating from them, and thus the symmetrical ground plan reveals itself to contain 124 vaulted chambers in all. Many smaller chambers too, contain cenotaphs of other members of the Mughal royal family and nobility, all within main walls of the tomb. Prominent among them cenotaphs of Hamida Begum herself are there alongside Dara Shikoh. In all there are over 100 graves within the entire complex, including many on the first level terrace, earning it the name “Dormitory of the Mughals”, since the graves are not inscribed their identification remains uncertain.

The building was first to use its unique combination of red sandstone and white marble, and includes several elements of Indian architectural, like the small canopies, or chhatris surrounding the central dome, popular in Rajasthani architecture and which were originally covered with blue tiles.

While the main tomb took over eight years to build, it was also placed in centre of a 30-acre (120,000 m2) Char Bagh (Four Gardens), a Persian-style gardenwith quadrilateral layout and was the first of its kind in the South Asia region in such a scale. The highly geometrical and enclosed Paradise garden is divided into four squares by paved walkways (khiyabans) and two bisecting central water channels, reflecting the four rivers that flow in jannat, the Islamic concept of paradise. Each of the four square is further divided into smaller squares with pathways, creating into 36 squares in all, a design typical of later Mughal gardens. The central water channels appear to be disappearing beneath the tomb structure and reappearing on the other side in a straight line, suggesting the Quranic verse, which talks of rivers flowing beneath the ‘Garden of Paradise’.

Char Bagh :
The entire tomb and the garden is enclosed within high rubble walls on three sides, the fourth side was meant to be the river Yamuna, which has since shifted course away from the structure. The central walkways, terminate at two gates: a main one in the southern wall, and a smaller one in the western wall. It has two double-storey entrances, the West gate which used now, while the South gate, which was used during Mughal era, now remains closed. Aligned at the centre on the eastern wall lies a baradari, literally a pavilion with twelve doors, which is a building or room with twelve doors designed to allow the free draught of air through it, finally on the northern wall lies a hammam, a bath chamber.

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