Delhi – Dormitory of the Mughals

The mughals have left many a mark on the culture of Delhi, its food, even its legends and most importantly its history. While the Red Fort maybe the most visible of their contributions because of its place in the political history of Delhi, the most majestic is probably a tomb that houses not just the second Mughal ruler of Delhi but also a number of his relatives, courtiers and even his barber. Thus giving it the title ‘dormitory of the mughals’.

The small water channels add beautiful reflections…

Humayun’s Tomb is located at the edge of one of the most posh areas of Delhi, right next to two of the largest and best maintained gardens in the city. The tomb itself is surrounded by beautiful mughal style gardens characterized by four square gardens making a bigger square called the ‘charbagh’. The walkways between the gardens are beautified by fountains and water channels with manicured shrubs and trees adding to the appeal. The majestic red sandstone structure than stands between these gardens was architecturally inspired by the tomb of Tamerlane in Samarkand then further inspired the Taj Mahal. While the Gur’e Amir (tomb of Timur) is covered in traditional blue ceramic and the Taj was made of some of the most pristine marble, this structure feels a little bare with just inlay work on red sandstone to write home about. But once put in context with its size and the time at which it was made, it would hold its own against some of the most magnificent structures around.

The diagonal view

There is some beautiful symmetry in its construction some amazing architectural feats. Designer lattice windows and a maze of rooms around the main burial chamber provide for a continuous draft of air which keep the inner sanctum cool even in the hot Delhi summers. The rooms also are burial location for many important people from the times. The main chamber has a single ornamental grave which sits vertically above the true grave, that is a level below – not accessible to visitors. A lamp hangs above the grave, though I have never seen it being lit. Light filters in through the lattice windows and create a calm and sombre ambience just right for the monument. One other piece to notice is the craft work on the roofs – beautiful designs that have recently been meticulously restored.

The insides of the chamber

Some of the recent restoration work on the monument has actually been spectacular – it now looks fresh and the red sandstone shines bright. Some of the stone work is now more prominently visible and the brass headpiece over the main dome is sparkling clean. There is still ongoing work to restore the tomb of Isa Khan just at the entrance of Humayun’s tomb – its domes have now begun to sparkle with blue and green ceramics that are replacing the totally worn out original.

Tomb of Isa Khan

There is an experience centre being built at the entrance and there is some talk of lighting being installed for night viewing – right now its open only dawn to dusk. The fountains have mostly been repaired and the main fountain can often be seen spraying a jet of water to greet the visitors.

Besides a spectacular tomb with loads of stories, legends and history you also get to see a lot of birds here, especially kites. After having been there a few dozen times, I think the tomb has its moods that change with the Delhi weather – there is a shiny clean side for a rainy day to a bright angry look in mid-summer. In winters, the fog and the chill add a unique mystique to the monument – afterall a lot of people are buried here including a great king and his wife. I am sure at least a few of them did not die natural deaths and while dead men tell no tales, the involvement of dead women usually makes for some legends.

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