Sunday, February 01, 2009

Humayun's Tomb, Delhi

Humayun's Tomb is a complex building of Mughal architecture built as the tomb of Mughal Emperor Humayun. Humayun was the son of Babar, who founded the dynasty. The tomb is now one of the best-preserved Mughal monuments in Delhi and is maintained by the Archeological Society of India (ASI). This is also listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Humayun's Tomd is located in near the Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station. I drove to ITO and then took Mathura Road. At the Lodhi Road crossing, I took left turn and then one more left turn at the next round about took me to the tomb. It was just 20 minute drive.

Locate on Google Map


The tomb was built by emperor Akbar according to the wish of his mother, the senior widow of Humayun, Hazi Begum (alias Hamida Banu Begum). The constructions started in 1562 AD and took 8 years to complete. The architect of the monument was Sayyed Muhammad. Muhammed worked in the guidance of his father Mirak Ghiyathuddin. Both of them were persians and came from Herat.

The tomb is surrounded by the gardens from three side. This was the first tomb in India with gardens. These gardens are beautifully maintained by the ASI.

On entering the main entrance, we saw Isa's Tomb at the left hand. After visiting Isa's tomb, we walked towards the main building. The main building is set at the center of gardens. A high wall surrounds the garden on three sides, the fourth side being bounded by what was once the bank of the river Jamuna, which has since been diverted. The garden is divided into four parts by two bisecting water channels with paved walkways (khiyabans), which terminate at two gates: a main one in the southern wall, and a smaller one in the western wall.

imageA large iwan, a high arch, punctuates the center of each facade, and is set back slightly. Together with the other arches and openings, this effect creates a varied and complex impression of depth at each facade. Detailed ornamentation in three colors of stone adds to the richness to the surfaces. The plan of the main tomb building is intricate. It is a square 'ninefold plan', where eight two-storyed vaulted chambers radiate from the central, double-height domed chamber. The chambers of each level are interconnected by straight and diagonal passages. In Humayun's tomb, each of the main chambers has in turn eight more, smaller chambers radiating from it. The symmetrical ground plan contains 124 vaulted chambers in all.

The sarcophagus of Humayun is found in the central domed chamber, the head pointing south, and facing east according to Islamic practice. The vaulted chambers also contain sarcophagi that were added later. The sex of each occupant is marked by a simple carved symbol: a box of writing instruments indicates a male, and a writing slate indicates a female. The sarcophagi are not otherwise inscribed, but among them are known to be those containing the wives of Humayun, and several later Mughal emperors and princes.


imagePink and white stone is used in the construction of the tomb. The dome of the tomb is made of whit stone, which gives it a beautiful look. The architects of the tomb, Sayyed Mohammad and his father were persian. But they were influenced with the Hindu architecture and other buildings in the Delhi. It has hexagonal chattries (domed pavilions) like those found in the Rajput forts. Even at the main entrance of the tomb, they have two-triangular hexagonal (two-triangles placed on one other with one's vertex towards the base of other), which is very common in Hindu culture. The inner side of the dome of main building is beautified with a special pattern of white tiles (See image at the right).

Environmental Development:

Between 2000 and 2003, The Aga Khan Trust for Culture funded and collaborated with the ASI in implementing a project to revitalize the 30-acre garden surrounded the monument. Amongst other conservation work, 3 kms of water channel has been repaired, 3.5 kms of pathway edging restored, 3000 trucks of excess earth manually removed, 4 kms of sandstone hand-chiselled, 2500 plants favored by the Mughals planted, 2500 square meter of pathway restored, an exhaustive rainwater harvesting system introduces, minor structure conserved, historic wells discovered and destilled, wheel chair access and a site interpretation center provided.

Restoration work was going on the roof of the tomb and they had laid sown stairs made of iron pipes and wood to carry the construction material to the top of the building.


At the entrance of the main boundary wall, encountered a ticket counter. Thy charge a very nominal fees towards the maintenance of the tomb.

  • Children up to 15 years: Free.
  • Adult Indians: Rs. 10 per person.
  • Foreigners: Rs. 250 per person.


From sunrise to sunset.

Other Buildings:

The Humayun’s Tomb complex also houses many other prominent buildings which are examples of architecture of the period preceding and succeeding Humayun. The prominent among them are:

Barber’s Tomb
The tomb is located at the southeast corner in the garden complex. The tomb is datable to 1590-91, through an inscription found inside. The person interned in this tomb is unknown, the local name of the tomb is Barber’s Tomb (Nai ka Gumbad).

Nila Gumbad
The monument is located outside the eastern enclosure wall, which is locally known as Nila Gumbad, due to the blue coloured dome. It is believed to contain the remains of one Fahim Khan, the attendant of Abdur Rahim Khan, who lived during the reign of Jahangir. The attendant died in 1626 A.D.

Chillah Nizamuddin Aulia
The building is located outside to the northeast corner of the mausoleum and in Tughluq style. The building is believed to be the residence of Shaik Nizamuddin Aulia who died in 1325 A.D.

Afsarwala Mosque
The mosque is located to the southwest of the west gate of the main mausoleum, the building is dated between 1560 and 1567 based on the architectural style.

Afsarwala Tomb
The tomb is located adjacent to the Afsarwala Mosque, and is an unidentified tomb. One of the marble graves inside the tomb has a date of 1566-67 A.D..

The sarai was built by Haji Begum, the widow of Humayun in 1560-61 to house the three hundred Arab priests, who were said to have been brought with her from her pilgrimage to Mecca. Another version is that the building housed the Persian workers and craftsmen who were actually engaged in building the Humayun’s Tomb. The sarai is located adjacent to the Afsarwala mosque.

Garden of Bu Halima
The visitor entering the Humayun Tomb complex first enters into a garden complex, known as the Bu Halima garden. However, the origin of the name is not known and the garden on its style could be datable to the early Mughals.

Tomb and Mosque of Isa Khan
The tomb and mosque of Isa Khan is located to the south of the Bu Halima garden. An inscription on a red sandstone slab indicated that the tomb is of Masnad Ali Isa Khan, son of Niyaz Aghwan, the Chief chamberlain, and was built during the reign of Islam Shah, son of Sher Shah, in 1547-48 A.D.

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A Visit to Humayun's Tomb

It was winter saturday and a sunny day. I decided to go out with family. Usually we hang out at some mall in Delhi but this time my wife suggested to visit some historical place. After a shoot discussion, we agreed on Humayun's Tomb. We also took children of my brother-in-law, who lives nearby, with us for the company of my daughter, Yanshi. I drove to the site comfortably as the traffic was smooth. There were little issue at the parking as the whole parking was full. But I managed to get place for my car at the VIP parking area.

Humayun was the son of Babar, founnder of the Moughal dynasty in India. Humayun' son, Akbar, was one of the most respected and liberal emperor of the Moughal Seltnate. His tomb is listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Earlier we planned to sit there in the garden, but later decided against it. My daughter argued that this is not a park. Since we came to see a historic monument, we must explore it. So we left our snacks and coffee in the car.

We entered the entrance gate of the complex and welcomed by the well maintained garden. Thanks to ASI, which has the responsibility to maintain the heritage sites in Delhi and in India. After waling a few steps in the pathway between the garden, we encountered another gate. A guard was checking the tickets, so I learn that we must buy tickets. I purchased two tickets for me and my wife for Rs. 10 each. The entry for children below 15 year was free.

We entered the gate and found that people were going in two directions. Straight from the gate was the main entrance of the Humayun's tomb. At the left hand, there was another gate which leads to the Isa's tomb. We decided to see the Isa's tomb first. I will describe the Isa's tomb later in another post.

After we have seen the Isa's tomb and the mosque in its premises, we headed towards the Humayun's tomb. The main entrance of the tomb is guarded by a double story gate, made up of red and white sand stone. One thing that caught my eyes were two stars, one at each side of the of the gate. These stars are printed in white color on the pink sandstone. The look of the gate is almost same from both sides - outer and inner.

On reaching inside the gate, there were large garden, divided in four parts by swallow water channels. In front of the main entrance of the building, there was a small rectangular tank of water. Now they have installed a fountain in it.

The main building is dome shaped and is raised on a large stage. The stage is 17 meter high. There are stairs from all the four sides of the stage to reach on the stage. The stage is made up of many cells (small rooms). These cells are locked now and visitors are not allowed to see inside these cells. The first floor of the gateway has square and oblong rooms. On the outside, the gate is flanked by screen-walls with arched recesses. Immediately to the west of the south gateway is an enclosure measuring 146 meters by 32 metres, built against the exterior face of the enclosure wall. The building is a low-roofed one with 25 arched entrances and was meant to house the attendants of the royal tomb. There were rectangular holes on the roof of the stage, which are now covered with the iron railings, to allow light and air inside the stage.

The main building on the stage is made of the combination of red sandstone and white marble. White marble is used for decoration over the background of red sandstone.

Around the main dome, above the stage, were many graves. Something were written on these graves in Urdu, so I could not know whose graves were these. But I believe that these were the graves of other members of Humayun and Akbar, his son.

Humayun's grave was built in a in a hexagonal cell within the dome on a floor which is decorated by the octagonal and irregular hexagonal white tiles. The roof of the dome is decorated by the beautifully arranged white rectangular, rod-shaped tiles. The arrangement of tiles gives the look of feathers. It looks like the dome was made of bird feathers. The wall of the dome is decorated by the small windows.

There were other graves in other cells as well.

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