Humayun’s Tomb – Poetry etched in red stone

Words and photos By Amitabh Sharma

Tucked behind a façade of thick stone walls, lies Humayun’s Tomb, a magnificent structure in red stone, pathway to which is lined with trees, in the midst sprawling manicured lawns, the structure that unfolds before the eyes is one that a visitor can’t help but see the semblance to India’s most recognizable and iconic landmarks – the Taj Mahal.IMG_0442

A jewel in the crown of India’s capital city of New Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb, built in the 1560’s, is an opulent, imposing and grandiose mausoleum built in the memory Humayun, the second emperor of the Mughal Empire. He ruled over an empire that spanned from modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1531–1540 and again from 1555–1556.

What many might not know is that Humayun’s Tomb, built in 1570, is the Indian sub-continent’s first garden-tomb and major architectural influence for Taj Mahal.

Humayun’s Tomb offers the visitors serenity, tranquillity, and as one walks in, the scramble, hustle bustle, and chaos of this metropolis packed with 14 million people. You walk into a time warp, which draws you in.

Unlike Taj, hordes of tourists seldom overrun the place, which gives it the added dose of tranquillity – one can soak in the richness, solitude and get kissed by the whiff of crisp cool breeze – a far cry from the excitement outside.

The sprawling complex of the Humayun’s Tomb houses other 16th century Mughal garden-tombs and a complex where the craftsmen employed for building Humayun’s Tomb lived.

The gardens are representative of Quranic paradise – Char Bagh (four quadrant garden with the four rivers), the pools joined by channels. These are both aesthetic and helped to keep the place cool in the hot Delhi summers when the temperatures shoot up to 46 degrees Celsius.

The entrance to the tomb is from lofty gateways on the south and from the west with pavilions located in the centre of the eastern and northern walls.

The main building – Humayun’s mausoleum, rises high, sitting on a wide terraced platform with two bay deep vaulted cells on all four sides.

The irregular octagon plan with four long sides and chamfered edges are surmounted by a double dome made from marble flanked by pillared domes (chhatris – or umbrellas) and the domes of the central chhatris are adorned with glazed ceramic tiles.

The middle of each side is deeply recessed by large arched vaults with a series of smaller ones set into the facade.

The interior house the final resting spots for the emperor, his wife under a large octagonal chamber with vaulted roof compartments, which are interconnected by galleries and corridors.

The structure is clad in red sandstone with white and black inlaid marble borders. Humayun’s Tomb is also referred to as the ‘dormitory of the Mughals’ over 150 Mughal family members are buried here.

In the vicinity is the shrine of 14th century Sufi Saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the air filled with a heady blend of mysticism and spiritual consciousness. It is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint’s grave, and the seven centuries of tomb building has led to the area becoming the densest ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings in India.

According to historians, Humayun’s garden-tomb is built on a monumental scale, grandeur of design and garden setting with no precedence in the Islamic world for a mausoleum.

Humayun’s Tomb, in essence is the symbol and perhaps the turning point of Indian architecture style, confluence of the Persian into the sub-continent’s style of building.

This outstanding Islamic garden-tomb personifies the Mughal Dynasty, under whose rule; most of the sub-continent was unified.|P

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