The last refuge of Mughal Emperor Humayun reminds rather of a luxurious palace, than a tomb.
Located in the eastern part of Dehli, Humayun’s tomb is one of the best preserved Mughal monuments. This spellbinding mausoleum is the first example of Mughal architecture in India. After a century from its construction Humayun’s tomb inspired the construction of the more famous Taj Mahal.
From the point of view of the history of architecture this building is the unique connecting link between the Gur Emir, where Humayun’s ancestor Tamerlane is buried, and the mausoleum of his grandson Shah Jahan, i.e. Taj Mahal.
Humayun’s tomb was built thanks to the initiative of his widow Hamida Banu Begum, who commenced the construction of a mausoleum for her deceased husband in 1565, nine years after his death. The construction was finished in 1572.
The architecture of the tomb is strongly influenced by Persian architecture. The architect of the building Mirak Mirza Ghiyas himself was of Persian origin. Ghiyas constructed the tomb in the center of a Persian-style chaharbagh garden (translated from Farsi – four gardens) with quadrilateral form. The garden, divided in four main parts by walkways or flowing water is created to resemble the paradise garden described in the Quran. These four main parts on their turn are separated by channels to 36 parts.
From the 17th to the 19th centuries the garden was gradually filled with the tombs of Humayun’s descendants and his entourage. Several Mughal emperors are even buried inside Humayun’s mausoleum. Humayun’s mausoleum has earned the title of necropolis of the Mughal dynasty. No sepulcher in India or elsewhere contains such a high number of tombs of the Mughal emperors and their relatives. Moreover, Humayun’s tomb is the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent.
The mausoleum stands on a massive platform which has a height of up to 7 meters. The building is constructed from red sandstone, while the tomb itself is made of yellow and black marble. The two-storied mausoleum is crowned with white Persian style marble dome that seems weightless and imponderable. The height of Humayun’s Tomb is 47 meters, and its breadth is 91 meters.
The lower tier of this rectangular construction is decorated with graceful arches, which are located around the whole perimeter of the building.
The cenotaph of the ruler is located in the center of the upper tier in a large room decorated with several rows of arched windows.
The central chamber is octagonal with corner-chambers which house the graves of other members of the royal family. The real grave of the emperor is on the basement floor.
The architecture of the mausoleum has details both from Persian architecture and Indian architectural traditions.
The Persian influence can be seen in the arched alcoves, corridors and the high double dome, while Indian traditions have inspired the creation of the kiosks, which give it a pyramidal outline from distance.
Humayun’s Tomb History
Mughal emperor Humayun died in 1556 and was buried in his palace in Dehli. Later he was reburied in Sirhind, Punjab in order to secure him from possible damage by Hindu king Hemu, who had defeated the Mughals in Agra and Delhi in 1556. In 1565, nine years after Humayun’s death, his empress consort Bega Begum decided to create the most beautiful tomb for her deceased husband. The construction lasted 7 years and was finished in 1572.
The decline of the monument started almost immediately after its construction. The capital was moved to Agra, the Mughal dynasty started to decline and the monument lost its importance to the ruling elites. After a century from the construction of the monument the surrounding gardens were being used as vegetable gardens for people who settled near the mausoleum. In 1857, after British invasion of Delhi, these vegetable gardens were replaced with English style gardens. Later from 1903-1909 the original look of the garden was recreated by the order of Viceroy, Lord Curzon.
Humayun’s tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. Since then several important renovation projects were accomplished in this complex. Major restorations of the monument and surrounding gardens were organized from 1999 to 2003. Thanks to the efforts of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Archaeological Survey of India and the National Culture Fund a project with total cost of $650,000.
As a result all the monuments and green spaces were restored. The water channels of the garden were re-laid, a new water circulation system for the walkway channels was created, more than two thousand trees were planted in the garden, and the fountains of the garden started functioning again.
Humayun’s Tomb Facts
1. The body of the emperor was buried in two different locations before being transported to Humayun’s tomb.
2. Although the internal decorations of the tomb have not survived up to today, in 1611 an English merchant, William Finch visited the mausoleum. Thanks to his description of the tomb’s interior we know that it was decorated with rich carpets, and a shamiana, a small tent above the cenotaph. The cenotaph was decorated with copies of Qoran, Humayun’s sword, turban and shoes.
3. Humayun’s tomb’s architecture was the model for Taj Mahal.
4. The architecture of the mausoleum is a mixture of Persian and Indian traditions.
5. There are around 150 graves in Humayun’s tomb and the surrounding garden.
6. To the south-east of Humayun’s Tomb there is a fine square tomb, known as the Barber’s Tomb. This tomb is dated to 1590-91 and, most probably, belonged to the barber of one of the representatives of Mughal dynasty.