The two-storeyed tomb of Safdarjang was the very last of India’s great Mughal garden tombs. Built between 1753 and 1774, it dates from the period after Nadir Shah’s sacking of the city, by which time the empire was reduced to a fraction of its former size and most of the capital’s grander buildings lay in ruins. Safdarjang was the Mughal nawab (governor) of Avadh who briefly became vizier before being overthrown for his Shi’ite beliefs. Emblematic of the decadence and degeneracy that characterized the twilight of the Mughal era, the mausoleum sports an elongated, tapered dome and absurdly ornate interior filled with swirling plasterwork. In City of Djinns, William Dalrymple aptly describes its quirky design as “blowzy Mughal rococo” typifying an age “not so much decaying into impoverished anonymity as one whoring and drinking itself into extinction”. Facing east, it’s at its most photogenic in the morning.
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