Humayun’s Tomb: New Delhi

“Spectacular!” that’s what visiting US President Barack Obama said about the Humayun’s Tomb on his recent visit to India.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the grandeur and magnificence of the monument. This beautiful red-stone monument in Nizamuddin (South Delhi), built over 450 years ago is being looked after thanks to the major renovation exercise taken up by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Archaeological Survey of India.

Humayun ka Maqbara or Humayun’s Tomb is one of the must see architectural sites in Delhi, especially since it was the inspiration for one of the Seven Wonders of the world – the Taj Mahal.

This tomb has also been a much loved backdrop of many film-makers in Bollywood. In Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Abhishek takes Preity to Humayun’s Tomb and tells her that since he didn’t have enough money to take her to see Taj Mahal, he brought her to see the tomb. A romantic song for the Kareena-Saif starrer Kurbaan was shot here. And even  Aamir Khan’s character in Fanaa takes Kajol and her friends on a Dilli darshan, and one of the places they visit is Humayun’s Tomb.

The entire complex is larger than what I had imagined; the first building one observes is the Isa Khan’s Tomb. This tomb is situated just outside the Humayun’s tomb. It was built in the honor of Isa Khan, a brave and valiant noble under Sher Shah, the Afghan ruler who had overthrown Humayun. It was built in 1547, and until the early 20th century, an entire village had been settled in the enclosure.

The actual Humayn’s tomb was commissioned a year before his death by his Persian wife Haji Begam and her son Akbar. The tomb was constructed from 1562-1572 by Mirak Mirza Ghiyuath a renowned Persian architect. He had previously designed buildings in Herat (now northwest Afghanistan), Bukhara (now Uzbekistan).

The muhgals built many architectural marvels in their times. Everyone from the Mughal Empire’s family tree left a bit of themselves in these buildings. It started with Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, who founded the Mughal Empire in Indiain 1494. In 1530, Babur’s eldest son Humayun succeeded him as the king. After his death the fourteen-year-old Akbar, under the care of Bairam Khan, took charge. Akbar died in A.D. 1605 and was succeeded by his son Jahangir. Jahangir, passed the expanding empire to his son Shah Jahan in 1627. Aurungzeb imprisoned Shah Jahan and took over in 1658. Aurungzeb’s three sons disputed over succession, and the Mughal empire crumbled, just as the Europeans entered the subcontinent.

Back to Humayn’s tomb. The plan of the building is simply brilliant and very mathematical, with symmetrical ground plan and chambers that are sure to wow you. Although the architecture of the tomb was designed by the Persian architect, one can observe the distinctly Indian aspects of the tomb, like the Hindu chattris, that surround the central dome. It follows the Indo-Islamic tradition that was already emerging at the time.

The beautifully carved stone screens are not only artistic but only practical for the ventilation and light. Another prominent features is the center of a garden in the classical Mughal char bagh (four gardens) pattern. High wall surrounds the garden on three sides, the fourth side being bounded by what was once the bank of the river Jamna (Yamuna), which has since been diverted.

We saw some bats having a slumber party in one of the rooms that was being restored. The complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, and since then has undergone extensive restoration work, which is still underway.

The recent attention from movies and foreign dignitaries visiting the tomb has helped increase the footfall among local as well as foreign tourists. We visited the tomb on a saturday and were surprised to see a large number of school Children on a field trip.

It is easy to get here, and if you are an avid photographer the visit will be well worth the effort. It is located on Mathura Road, near the Lodi Road crossing. No one can miss the Nila-Gumbad or the blue dome monument at this crossing. Also, an interesting story about the Nila-Gumbad is that, the architect who built the Humayun’s Tomb is buried underneath.

The monument is open for public all days, with parking available for busses, taxis and private vehicles. One has to buy a ticket for INR 10 for citizens and INR 250 for Foreigners.

(C) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal

The Times They Are a-Changin’ : My Delhi

I’m a Delhi’ite. I was born here and have lived/visited Delhi every year of my life. I relate to every word of the Delhi 6 song “Yeh dilli hai mere yaar, Bas ishq mohabbat pyaar” .

At different times in my life Delhi meant different things to me. For most of my schooling years, it was a place for summer vacation at my grandparents place. My memories are of enjoyable times spent with my cousins, maybe because there was no school to go to, or maybe it was the ‘dadi ka laad aur pyar’.  The majority of my time was spent between Karol Bagh & Green Park and occasional drives to India Gate for ice-cream. That was the Delhi I knew and loved.
Delhi was also part of my schooling as I did my 7th grade from here. Delhi to me was about living in Delhi Cantt, going to school in an Army 3-ton, swimming at the club for recreation and Gopinath Bazar for samosas in the evenings, usually post the swimming!  My world was limited to the extremely green, uncrowded part of Delhi. What is not to love about all that?

My next stint in Delhi was the three years spent in DU-South Campus. This was the time that I really explored Delhi, by which I basically mean movie halls, shopping centres and eating joints. The expanse of which was narrowed down to Sarojni Nagar, CP, Janpath, Shanti Nikatan, Chanakya Puri and Priyas. These were the kind of places we, as students could afford on a limited budget. Our most important asset was the DTC bus pass as we hopped on and off buses whenever we pleased.

My first job also happened to be in Delhi too. A Sales job teaches you many things, one of which is going to places you’d have never even heard of. In the 2 years of this job, I travelled mainly in my car. One thing is certain, I learnt more about Delhi driving myself than I would have ever otherwise sitting comfortably in a chauffer driven car (as most Delhi-ites do). For me, all the places were associated with companies; Nehru Place is where IFCI, Bengali Market was next to FICCI and so on. Places I most frequented were Sohna road, Okhla Industrial Area, and the Naraina Industrial belt along with the others.

Having said all that, I recently moved back to Delhi. In the last few months that I have been here I have realized that there is a lot of Delhi left for me to explore. I still have to visit the Lotus temple, Akshardham, North Campus, Humayun’s Tomb, Doll Museum, and Gandhi Smriti. The food tasting at Nizamuddin, Bikaner House and Andhra Bhawan are still left. To be a part of the cultural scene is only a dream… especially seeing a play at Kamani or Siri Fort and also a definite look-see at the recently opened Kingdom of Dreams at Gurgaon. That’s just a small list right now… 

So here is my New Year’s resolution: Exploring Delhi!