As November turns to December, the weather turns cooler, you need jacket and shoes in the evenings and the sun is not burning as it was last week. But Delhi continues to be a wonderful place to wander around. This time our destination was the Humayun’s Tomb.
The tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s wife Hamida Banu in 1562 AD, and designed by the Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyath. The complex has the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun, also houses the graves of his wife, Hamida Begum, Dara Shikoh, son of the later Emperor Shah Jahan, as well as numerous other subsequent Mughals. It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinenet and the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale. The main tomb enclosure of Humayun is set in the middle of a typical Persian garden and several smaller monuments dot the pathway leading up to it. The tomb complex of Isa Khan Niyazi, an Afghan noble in Sher Shah Suri’s court, who fought against the Mughals, predates the main tomb by twenty years. The main tomb is modelled on Gur-e-Amir, the tomb of his ancestor and Asia’s conqueror Timur in Samarkand. It is believed to be the precedent for future Mughal architecture of royal mausolea, which reached its heights in the Taj Mahal.
Humayun’s tomb is located close to the Nizamudding Dargah, the mausoleum of the celebrated Sufi saint of Delhi, Nizamuddin Auliya.The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafat took refuge at this site, in 1857. It was from here that he was captured by Captain Hodson and exiled to Rangoon.The tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, and since then has undergone extensive restoration work, which is still underway.
The restoration work itself is a subject of great interest. This was the first privately funded restoration of a World Heritage Site in India and was done through the joint efforts of the The Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the aegis of the National Culture Fund. The project has now been expanded and the Humayun’s Tomb – Sunder Nursery – Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Project combines a cultural heritage project with socioeconomic initiatives. The gardens have been restored and the pathways, fountains and water channels of the chahâr-bâgh, or four-part paradise garden, surrounding Humayun’s Tomb remade according to the original plans of the builders. It is wonderful to see the water in the water channels, as these w are dry in many other gardens. The project has involved the local residents of the Nizamudding Basti by conduction sensitization classes and training young volunteers to become guides. The Basti itself has been renovated, as I learnt from the very nice photo exhibition of the project put up at the site. The restoration efforts are evident and has received kudos from many quarters. However, we did not venture across the street to the Dargha and Basti, an outing for another winter day!