Delhi Series Part 1~ History Walk: Humayun’s Tomb

Delhi Series: Featuring stories, places of visit and pictures from my 3 years living in the capital of India, New Delhi


Delhi Series Part  1~ History Walk: Humayun’s Tomb

I lived in New Delhi for 3 years, as a student of History. Each year of my 3 year graduation program we visited a historical place of importance. This post features the Humayun’s Tomb.

Humayun’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. The Mughals ruled in the Indian sub-continent from 1526 (First Battle of Panipat) to 1857 (Revolt of 1857). The Humayun’s tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s son Akbar in 1569-70, along with Bahu Begum (Humayun’s widow). Akbar was one of the greatest Mughal rulers. The structure was designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect.It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and is located in Nizamuddin East, Delhi, India.

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Humayun’s Tomb Front Gardens and Entrance

Humayun’s Tomb was the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale. The tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and since then has undergone extensive restoration work.  Its believed that the Mughal emperor Shahjehan, built the Taj Mahal in white, keeping the Humayun’s Tomb in mind.

Besides the main tomb, several smaller structures and gardens adore the pathway leading up to the main tomb.

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Fountains

The Humayun’s Tomb was inspired by Persian architecture; and is first of its kind in India. The exterior dome is white marble and the  rest of the building is made up of red sandstone, with white and black marble and yellow sandstone detailing. The Humayun’s Tomb was the first ever garden style tomb to be constructed in India. The Tomb stands in the centre of Charbagh style of gardens complete with pools linked by channels. The main entrance of the tomb is from the south side, although there is another entrance from the west side as well.

Humayun’s body was initially buried in Purana Quila (also known as Dina-panah citadel, which was built by Humayun himself) at Delhi. Thereafter once this tomb was built the body was placed here.The burial chamber of the Emperor lies in an underground area, exactly beneath the upper cenotaph, accessible through a separate passage outside the main structure, which remains mostly closed to visiting public. This burial technique along with pietra dura, a marble and even stone inlay ornamentation in numerous geometrical and arabesque patterns, seen all around the facade is an important legacy of the Indo-Islamic architecture.

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Humayun’s Tomb

My Visit

I organized this trip along with 2 of my department members. We arrived in a bus in the morning.

It was a cold February morning. Delhi winters can be very harsh sometimes, with temperatures dropping below 8 degrees. We walked around the gardens and the fountains leading up to the main tomb. We had a tour guide with us.

After spending 30-35 minutes in and around the site, we entered the main tomb. The monument is beautiful inside with marble lattice or jaali. 

Marble lattice or jaali is one of my favourite characteristics of the Mughal architecture. Image is below.

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Jaali or Marble lattice screen in Humayun’s tomb. Image: Google Images

The Humayun’s Tomb served as an early example for other Mughal tombs which were built over time, such as the Akbar’s tomb in Sikander, the tomb of Ghiyas-ud-Din Tugluq at Tugluqabad, the tomb of Sikander Lodi in the Lodi Gardens and the Taj Mahal.

Apart from Humayun, the tomb is also the final resting place of his wife Hamida Bahu Begum, Shah Jahan’s son Dara Shikoh and other prominent Mughals from the royal family.

This historical monument should be on you “must-see” list if you visit New Delhi. In 2010, the US President Barack Obama visited this site, as part of his India Tour.

As mentioned above, massive restoration work was undertaken for this monument, which has been since completed. However due to a heavy storm which struck the city on 30 May 2014, the finial of the tomb was knocked off.

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  • Read more about Humayun’s Tomb here
  • The Humayun’s Tomb is open everyday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm IST
  • Great place for picnics, photo-shoots
  • UNESCO Site, great place to admire the Indo-Persian architecture
  • Entrance fee for SAARC Nation citizens is 10 rupees, Rs.250 (foreigners)(2016)
  • Guided tours available
  • Visitors usually spent 45 minutes to an hour at this heritage site
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