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Humayun's Tomb, Delhi


Built in the mid 16th century by Haji Begum, senior wife of Humayun, the second Mughal emperor, Humayun's Tomb is an early example of Mughal architecture built in Delhi. A rose petal sandstone mausoleum built in proper Mughal style is a beautiful memorial to the poet king. Octagonal in shape, raised on a plinth, with double domes, high arches, laid in the centre of a large walled enclosure, the monument is an imposing structure. A baradari (pavilion) occupies the centre of the eastern wall and a hamam (bath chamber) the centre of northern wall.

The tomb of Timur (Tamerlane) in Samarkand is also said to be the source of inspiration for the Mughal architecture in India. Humayun's tomb is found in the list of UNESCO Heritage buildings and was the first Indian building to use the Persian double dome. Its harmonious proportions are undoubtedly the work of skilled craftsmen. Set upon a platform, it exhibits certain Indian architectural features too such as the small kiosks or 'chhatris' on the roof. The attractive inlaid tile work is carved intricately using Indian and Persian patterns and elements and its carved stone screens are praiseworthy for their delicate look.

Approached from four sides by paved stone paths which divide the garden into four squares, the mausoleum also has the distinction of having several of the Mughal rulers buried here. Besides Bega Begum herself, Hamida Begum (Akbar's mother), Dara Shikoh (Shah Jahan's son), Bahadur Shah II (the last Mughal Emperor) and many others. Humayun's wife is also buried in the red and white sandstone, black and yellow marble tomb. The garden at this tomb has been laid out in the Persian style of a Chahr Bagh, with paved stone avenues and narrow water channels. It is still maintained in its original grandeur.

The passage to the tomb is long and one has to cross through three gardens and two lofty double-storeyed gateways, one on the west and the other on the south. The gardens measure 348 sq. meters and are divided into 36 squares by a network of water channels and fountains. The architecturally beautiful mausoleum, built of red sandstone and red and white marble, is located in the center of the enclosure on a large platform and has a series of cells with arched openings.

The central octagonal chamber has the cenotaph of Humayun, which is encompassed by octagonal chambers at the diagonals. It also has arched lobbies on the sides and their openings are closed with perforated screens. Three emphatic arches dominate on each side, of which the central one is the highest. The second storey also has a similar design, with a roof surmounted by a 42.5 meters high double dome with marble and pillared kiosks or chhatris placed around it, which occurs here for the first time in India. This architectural design is known as hasht bihisht (Eight Paradise) and is typical of Iranian buildings from the time of Timur the Lame.

The stone windows are placed in such a way on all the floors that they allow light to stream into the central hall throughout the day. In the vaults below the platform in the mausoleum, lie the graves of several rulers of the Mughal dynasty. These include the graves of Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan's favorite son and Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal emperor of Delhi, who took shelter in Humayun's tomb and was later captured here by Lieutenant Hodson during the Revolt of 1857. There are so many graves here that the tomb is also called 'The Dormitory of the House of Timur'.

Humayun's Tomb can be said to be a monumental landmark in Indo-Islamic architecture. The beautiful gardens, imposing high arched entrances, the bulbous round dome and the mausoleum, make the tomb a perfect synthesis of Persian architecture and Indian traditions.

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