Located in the Indian capital New Delhi, the Tomb of Humayun is a mausoleum constructed in 1569-1572 for the second Mughal Emperor Humayun. The tomb was the first of its kind, in fact it was the first tomb surrounded by gardens, ever constructed on the Indian Subcontinent by the Mughals. The architect of the tomb was Mirak Mirza Ghiyath and built by Biga Begum (also known as Hamida Banu Begum) after the death of her husband. The Persian architect was specially brought from Herat in Northwest Afghanistan who incidentally died before he could complete the monument and was completed by his son instead in 1572.
This construction marks the beginning of the Mughal architectural style which will reach its zenith in the construction of Taj Mahal. It also marks the first time when red sand stone was used on such a grand scale. UNESCO currently designates the tomb as a World Heritage Site.
History of Humayun’s Tomb
The story is that when Humayun died, he was buried at his palace at Purana Quila (Old Fort) at Delhi. It was at this time during the battles to capture Delhi, the Hindu king “Hemu” had defeated the Mughals in Agra and Delhi in 1556 and had captured Purana Quila. It was thought that he would damage the tomb so before the battles began, his body was taken to Sirhind in Punjab. However this did not happen and hence it was decided that he would be buried in a special tomb. Hence a tomb was built and his body was brought back and reburied at the purpose built mausoleum. The construction of the tomb of Humayun began in 1569 and was completed in 1572, 9 years after the death of Humayun where his body was finally laid to rest.
The tomb is a complex, comprising of several buildings. There are several tombs (including of Humayun’s father and the first Mughal emperor Babar), mosques, a large garden (Bu Halima garden), and a lodging place for Arab Mullahs (Arab Sarai) and around 150 graves belonging to various members of the Mughal royal family. In all, the complex contains these important buildings other than the Humayun’s tomb: Tomb of Babar, Nila Guband (tomb of a close associate of the Mughal family), Chillah Nizamuddin Aulia (Shaik Nizamuddin Aulia is believed to have lived there), Afsarwala Mosque, Arab Sarai, Bu Halima, Tomb of Isa Khan and Mosque of Isa Khan.
Architecture of Humayun’s Tomb
The complex consists of a large garden laid out in four-fold style. There are several pools in the garden which are all joined by channels. There are two entrances to the tomb – the main is in the south of the complex and the other one is on the west. Along the northern and eastern walls are a pavilion and a bath. The mausoleum is constructed on a terraced platform with arched cells along the sides.
It is an octagon with four long and four short sides. Atop this irregular octagon is a pair of 42.5 metre high domes which themselves are surrounded by pillared kiosks. At the middle of each side, huge arched vaults are to be found and a number of smaller ones. Inside there is an octagonal chamber. Overlooking the chamber are interconnected vaulted roof compartments. An intricate web of corridors and galleries connects them all. Above this is another chamber in which is a carbon copy of the camber on the ground floor. The outer walls of the structure are constructed in red sandstone; blank and white marble mark the borders.
The original plan was so good and the construction materials used of such a high quality that there have been only minimal architectural interventions in the original structure since then.
Impact of this tomb on Mughal architecture
The Humayun’s Tomb marks the beginning of a new chapter in the history of sub-continental and Islamic architecture in India. After this, a series of tombs were constructed for Kings and Nawabs.
Humayun was the first Mughal Emperor to have been born in India. Still he knew extensively about Persia and the Islamic world. He travelled to Central Asia, Persia and Arabia and brought back some very exciting new ideas in every field of human endeavour. His wife applied some of them in the construction of this mausoleum which even after three centuries stands erect with minimal help from current technology to preserve it.
Tour of Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi
Getting to the Tomb of Humayun
The exact address is
Bharat Scouts and Guides Marg, Nizamuddin East
Phone number: 011 2435 5275