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The first great Mughal tomb in India and a model for the world-famous Taj Mahal!

HUMAYUN’S TOMB
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Humayun’s Tomb

humayun
he often faced challenges from his own brothers, who conspired to overthrow him. Worse, he failed to recognize the growing threat from an ambitious Afghan chieftain, Sher Shah, until it was too late. In 1540 the remarkable Sher Shah defeated the imperial armies and forced Humayun to flee. 15 Years of Exile Humayun spent the next 15 years in exile in central Asia and Persia. While in Persia he enjoyed the hospitality of the king Shah Tahmasp, eventually returning to India with the Shah’s military support as well as an appreciation of Persian culture that would flower in Hindustan in the decades to come. It was also during this period that he met his second wife, Hamida Banu Begum. Together, they had a child, Akbar, who would go on to become one of the greatest kings in Indian history. A Triumphant Return Fate is unpredictable and Sher Shah died in battle in 1545, leaving his empire considerably unstable and weakened by internal strife. His descendants were no match for Humayun, with his Persian army and able commanders like Bairam Khan. And so Humayun once again rode into Delhi as king in 1555, having comprehensively defeated the Surs. The Death of Humayun Humayun regained his kingdom but did not live to enjoy it. A few months after his return, he fell down the stairs of his library and died from his injuries. And thus ended the tragic saga of this man of peace who fate compelled to spend his entire life fighting his enemies. He lies buried in one of the grandest tombs to be found anywhere in the world. 1

The Beginnings of the Mughal Dynasty In 1526, Babur, descendant of the great Central Asian conquerors Timur and Gengis Khan, swept into India and defeated the much larger armies of the reigning Lodi kings. With this victory, he established the foundation of the Mughal Empire that was to rule almost uninterrupted for the next 300 years. Humayun’s Troubled Rule Babur’s reign did not last long and he died in 1530, leaving the reins of empire to his 22-year-old son, Humayun. Humayun ruled for the next 10 years from his newly-built capital of Dinpanah (now called the Purana Qila) in Delhi. He was a man of gentler inclinations, preferring to spend his days with music and books, and did not preoccupy himself with the business of ruling as much as his father. As a result of his perceived weakness,

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Humayun’s Tomb

A SuGGESTED WALKInG rouTE IS MArKED ouT By MEAnS oF nuMBErS In THE MAP ALonGSIDE. InForMATIon PrESEnTED In THE PICToGuIDE IS CorrESPonDInGLy nuMBErED AnD ArrAnGED.

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WEST GATE Charbagh GArDEnS ToMB ExTErIor

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ToMB InTErIor BArBEr’S ToMB nILA GuMBAD AFSArWALA ToMB

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ArAB SErAI ISA KHAn’S ToMB GArDEn

10 Bu HALIMA’S

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Humayun’s Tomb

you ArE HErE

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west gate
his son on a lavish budget of one and a half million rupees of the time. nothing of this scale and grandeur had been seen in India before and the monument served to underscore the power of the nascent Mughal Empire.

Built in 1569, Humayun’s tomb fused local Indo-Islamic ‘sultanate’ architecture with Persian elements to become the first true example of the spectacular Mughal architectural style. Commissioned by the emperor’s wife, Hamida Banu Begum, it was executed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and

While the South Gate originally served as the main entrance, the West Gate is the one in use today

South Gate

West Gate

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Humayun’s Tomb

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charbagh gardens
royal insignia. In Mughal times, the gardens may have been symbolic of the king’s desire to turn his kingdom into a thing of beauty. This design was a novelty in India at the time, being an import of Humayun’s father, Babur, who built such gardens to cool off from the heat and dust of the country. Similar designs may be seen at Akbar’s tomb (Agra), Jahangir’s tomb (Lahore) and, most famously, at the Taj Mahal.

Humayun’s Tomb stands in the center of a large Charbagh, a garden divided into four parts by paths and waterways. The waterways represent the four rivers of life consisting of water, milk, honey and wine and the layout as a whole creates a symbiotic symmetry with the tomb in the center. The Charbagh has other significances as well. Timur, from whom the Mughals were descended, first began using them as a

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on the north wall of the tomb is a pavilion with a mechanism to collect and distribute water from a nearby well to the water channels criss-crossing the garden

The water channels themselves are designed with inclines and a corrugated floor that produces a relaxing, stream-like gurgling sound

Humayun’s Tomb

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tomb exterior

The gleaming white marble dome has an imposing full semicircular shape visible for miles. It incorporates an innovative double-domed design with an interior curvature smaller than the exterior. This allows for a more proportionate inner chamber while maintaining a grand outer silhouette. The pointed brass finial serves to create the impression that the dome is stretching skywards.

Minarets are topped with Lotus emblems The gates are twostoreyed and have rooms on the upper floor

red sandstone from Tantpur (Agra) and white marble from Makrana (rajasthan) are fused in a style native to pre-Mughal India. However this was the grandest and most copious use of the technique seen at the time. The marble is used to accent outlines on arches and doorways, a simple use with extraordinary results

Staircase to the plinth

The tomb is elevated by a platform about 6.5 metres high. There are 17 arches on each side, with the central one leading up to the plinth. Many lead to small chambers and one actually leads to Humayun’s grave

The arches, along with the plinth and interior chambers provide space for dozens of subsidiary graves, so many in fact that the tomb has been called the ‘Final resting Place of the House of Timur’, from whom the Mughals were descended. notable residents include Humayun’s two wives, Dara Shikoh (Shah Jahan’s son) and several later Mughal emperors such as Jahandar Shah, Farukkhsiyer and Alamgir II

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tomb interior
According to nicolao Manucci, a traveller, the room once held many paintings and the roof was gilded.
The interior of the double dome is simple except for the skilful use of muquarnas, a honeycomblike pattern of cells

The main chamber is a two-storeyed octagonal structure surrounded by four subsidiary chambers with other graves.

A cenotaph marks the spot directly above Humayun’s grave, which is sealed off from the public. There are more cenotaphs in the subsidiary chambers

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Soft natural light comes into the chamber through beautifully carved sandstone grilles, or jaalis

The interiors also use multicoloured stone patterns, though with a broader palette made of white marble, red sandstone and blue-grey quartzite

Humayun’s Tomb

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barber’s tomb

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nila gumbad

In the South-East corner of the Humayun’s Tomb complex is a small structure called the Barber’s Tomb or ‘nai ka Gumbad’. It was built in 1590-91, a few decades after Humayun’s Tomb. nobody knows for sure why a barber would have been accorded this honour when so many royals lie in plain tombs within the main building. It is possible, however, that he was Akbar’s personal barber and hence a close confidant.

outside the enclosure is the ‘nila Gumbad’, or Blue Dome, named in reference to the geometric-patterned tile-work that covers it. The structure itself is octagonal and made of grey quartzite. It has not been conclusively dated. Some accounts indicate it is the tomb of Fahim Khan, attendant to Akbar’s Prime Minister. This would make it newer than Humayun’s Tomb. However, it also looks as if the Humayun’s Tomb enclosure walls were designed to accommodate it, which would imply it is older.

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afsarwala tomb and mosque
afsar, or officer, who built it or whose tomb it is, remains unknown.

The Afsarwala Tomb and mosque are believed to have been built in 1566-67, around the time of Humayun’s tomb. The

Mosque interiors

Cenotaph of the afsar

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arab serai
The Arab Serai is a dilapidated hostel built around the same time as Humayun’s Tomb. It’s likely purpose was to house Persian construction workers, though some accounts claim that these were lodgings for scholars brought back from Mecca by Haji Begum, one of Humayun’s wives.

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isa khan’s tomb
The main dome is flanked by umbrella-shaped chhatris rather than smaller domes, as normal

Tomb

Among the last Afghan-style tombs in India, Isa Khan’s tomb and mosque were built about twenty years before Humayun’s, during the reign of Islam Shah,

Sher Shah’s son. The tomb is built of grey quartzite with some sandstone. Coloured tiles are used for decoration.

While nothing is known about Bu Halima, after whom this garden is named, the architectural style as well as archaeological evidence seems to indicate this area pre-dates Humayun’s Tomb. The gateway at one point was decorated with coloured tiles but little survives today.

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10 bu halima’s garden

Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

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Humayun’s Tomb

references
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ World Heritage Series: Humayun’s Tomb & Adjoining Monuments, (Archaeological Survey of India) Peck, Lucy, Delhi: A thousand years of building, (roli Books) Eraly, Abraham, The Last Spring: The Lives and Times of the Great Mughals, (Penguin Viking) Humayun nama, trans. A.S. Beveridge, (Low Price Publications) Mukhia, Harbans, The Mughals of India, (Blackwell Publishing) nath, r., Private Life of the Mughals of India, (rupa & Co) Kock, Ebba, Mughal Architecture, (oxford university Press) Spear, Percival, Delhi and its Monuments and History, (oxford university Press) Kaul, H.K., Historic Delhi: An Anthology, (oxford university Press) Sharma, y.D., Delhi and its neighbourhood, (Archaeological Survey of India)

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MAPs & LAYouT AHSAn HABIB AMIT rAy

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