World Heritage: Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

Outdoor shoots in Delhi = exploring a lot of heritage sites! This time on a not so busy day I decided to take a quick tour of one of the world heritage sites in the national capital … The 16th century Mughal masterpiece … A mausoleum that was made almost a century before the great Taj Mahal was built! The majestic Humayun’s tomb … A monument that is perhaps a prototype of Indo-Persian aesthetics.

Charbagh and fountain

It is a monument built with combination of red sandstone and white marble. A similar combination has been used in buildings of the Delhi Sultanate era … Alai Darwaza at Qutb Minar is one prominent example.

First thing I noticed after crossing the security gate was an interesting gateway leading to a beautiful tomb with well maintained garden. It is the Isa Khan’s tomb and there is a mosque in the same complex too. I had seen this monument about ten years ago in 2007 and I was pleasantly surprised with colour restoration done in a beautiful manner.

Isakhan tomb
Isa Khan’s Tomb
colour patterns masjid
Isa Khan’s mosque

Take a few steps towards the tomb complex and you see another grand gate on the right hand side. It is the entry to Bu Halima’s garden. This area has several interesting monuments that one must not miss.

humayun gate
Bua Halima’s gate
Afsarwala Mosque
Afsarwala tomb

It was fantastic to see Afsarwala mosque and Afsarwala tomb side by side washed in beautiful evening light. These two structures were built between 1560-67 AD according to archaeological data but the tomb is unnamed and houses some marble graves.

entry building

A very fine geometric Iwan (facade) of this entry gate clearly shows Persian visual language with Indian improvisations. This monument was built by Haji Begum in memory of Humayun and it was designed by Mirza Mirak Ghiyas from Iran. The tomb is surrounded by gardens on all four sides creating the famous charbagh gardens in Mughal style.

humayun entry
door pattern

According to ASI notes – The introduction of decorative brackets, balconies, pendentive decorations, etc in the architecture is an example in this regard. The other distinguishing features of Indo-Islamic architecture are the utilisation of kiosks (chhatris), tall towers (minars) and half-domed double portals. As human worship and its representation are not allowed in Islam, the buildings and other edifices are generally decorated richly in geometrical and arabesque designs. These designs were carved on stone in low relief, cut on plaster, painted or inlaid. The use of lime as mortar was also a major element distinct from the traditional building style.


Typical Mughal alcoves and persian stars on the Iwan (facade of the building) give an interesting complexity to the form, with red and white lines running in a rhythmic pattern. Interestingly, Titan (a watch and jewellry brand under TATAs) participated in the conservation efforts by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and re-created the finial on the top of the dome.

Gold finial restored and shining

The pietra-dura patterns on the tomb roof are vibrant and colourfull. The perfection in lines, the balance, the finesse and visual harmony of design leaves you mesmerized. Even here authentic colour restoration to these decorative motifs has given a fresh lease of life to this monument.

pietra dura
dome roof
top pattern
tomb inside pattern

While the dome structure looks very simple from exterior, the main tomb structure is quite complex built as per the Islamic traditions and has several chambers adjoining the Humayun’s grave.

humayun tomb inside

There is one more tomb within the complex, it is the Nai ka Gumbad (the barber’s tomb) nothing more than a simple grave surrounded by latticework on walls and a mihrab created on the wall that faces Mecca. Watching sunrays paying tribute to the grave was an enchanting experience.

nai ka tomb
Nai ka Gumbad
lattice outside
Mihrab and latticework

Just behind the compound one can see Nila Gumbad and towards north lies Sunderwala burz and Battashewala complex … heritage monuments I hope to visit later. Several attempts were made to revive the original water system in the garden but none were successful.

neela gumbad
Nila gumbad

When you leave the main tomb complex and walk towards main road another monument is spotted inside a traffic circle … that is Sabz burz … I clicked it way back in 2007. Aga Khan trust for culture has done a lot for restoration of this tomb and many artisans are employed in various activities here. Lime mortar is used extensively basis traditional building specifications.

sabz burj
Sabz burj

This tomb is also known for a black day in the history of Mughal empire. Bahadur Shah Zafar with his three princes was caught here after the British had crushed the 1857 battle for independence and was sent to Rangoon.

One comment

  1. Manasi Alekar

    It is awesome!! Some of this information is not even quoted in the book on Humayuns tomb that you gave me. I loved the blog and the pictures. Nice. Enjoyed reading it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: