The spellbinding mausoleum is the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and has inspired several architectural innovations including the Taj Mahal.

Humayun’s tomb

close-up of Humayun’s tomb 

The tomb incorporates Persian and Mughal architectural elements and is the result of a wife’s love for her deceased husband. It was the idea of Haji Begum, the Persian wife of the king, to build the tomb.

intricate lattice work in the tomb close-up of the jali work in the tomb

The structure of red sandstone adorns lattice works, pietra dura floors, and attics along with double domes of white marble. The tomb was built under the patronage of the Mughal emperor Akbar and has been worked upon by both the Indian as well as Persian craftsmen.

The mausoleum: ninefold arrangement amid the irregular octagon!

the interior of the main tomb

the main tomb

The mausoleum is laid out in an octagonal shape with four long sides and chamber edges. The octagonal fit is irregular while the mausoleum is surmounted by a high double dome. The irregular octagon is often referred to as the Baghdadi octagon. The marble on the dome is flanked by pillared kiosks, called chhatris. The domes of the central chhatri are glazed with ceramic tiles while the middle of each side is recessed by large arched vaults. Graceful arches encircle the lower tier of the building giving it an iconic look. The lower tier thus features arched windows inlaid with marble. The entire mausoleum is arranged in a ninefold scheme with a square that holds an edge of 45m.

Chambers, ancillary spaces, and the interconnecting passages!

The interiors of the mausoleum hold vaulted roof compartments above a large octagonal chamber. These compartments are interconnected by galleries and corridors while the octagonal plan extends to the second tier. There is a system of passages within the mausoleum that connects the chambers with the ancillary spaces and the exterior along with a radial arrangement of ancillary spaces around the domed chamber. It is believed that such an arrangement is meant to evoke the eight paradises of Islamic cosmology.

Screens, six-pointed stars, pillared pavilion, and marble works

six pointed stars at the arched doorway

close-up of the six pointed stars at the doorway to Humayun’s tomb

inlaid marble work

marble work on red sandstone

Red sandstone with black and white inlaid marble borders adds to the beauty of the chambers. The western wall of the mausoleum has three screens that are arranged in such a way that light enters the room. One marble screen is flanked by two sandstone screens in the adjoining corner rooms. Huge six-pointed stars mark the major entrances of the mausoleum. It is believed that the emperor was fascinated with astrology and these stars indicate the same. But other stories center around the same. Apart from this, the premises of the tomb hold the pillared pavilion, baradari, and the bath chamber, hammam.

pillars supporting the mausoleum

close – up of the massive pillars in the structure

Did you know?

The Mughal emperor Humayun matched the color of his robe to the colour of the planet associated with each day!

The dormitory of Mughals

a world heritage monument

a stonepost telling that the tomb is world heritage monument

The spellbinding mausoleum is 47m high and 91m wide with a dome height of 42.5m. The garden tomb is also called the dormitory of the Mughals, it has several cells where around 150 Mughal family members are buried. It is centered at the shrine of the 14th century Sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. It is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint’s grave and therefore the area is the densest ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings in India. The tomb was declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1993.

The symmetrical facades:

The facades of the mausoleum reflect the symmetry of the structure. Adorned with red sandstone and white marble, each facade is punctuated by vaulted openings that culminate in the chambered corners. To the edges lie niches that decorate the same while there are other architectural elements like a central pishtaq in a few of them.

Other attractions within the estate:

 The 27.04-hectare estate is lined up with Nila Gumbad, Isa Khan, Bu Halima, Afasrwala, and the barber’s tomb. The complex that housed the craftsmen that were involved in the making of the tomb, Arab Serai, is also a part of the garden tomb. The barber’s tomb is the tomb of Humayun’s favourite barber and is profoundly called Nai ka Gumbad. This particular tomb is enclosed by Chahar Bagh, the Persian-style symmetrical garden that is enclosed by rubble walls on three sides and the Yamuna river on the other side. The Nila Gumbad lies outside the complex boundary and is adorned by bright blue glazed tiles, hence the name. The gumbad holds an octagonal exterior and a square interior with painted plaster walls.

Chahar bagh

chahar bagh

garden view of the tomb

The garden is laid out in geometric patterns with four symmetrical squares and four walkways. The garden is dissected twice by a water body while each square is further subdivided into 36 smaller squares. Isa Khan Niazi was the court noble of Sher Shah Suri. His tomb is quite remarkable as it is flanked by an octagonal garden that predates the main tomb by twenty years. 

symmetrical arches at the base of the tomb

arches at the base of the tomb

With it’s graceful arches, embellished jali work, domes, and facades, the Maqbara -e -Humayun continues to delight its visitors. The tomb has undergone renovation by the Archaeological Survey of India and is quite significant when it comes to Mughal architecture.

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