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Humayun’s Tomb

Close to the medieval Muslim centre of Nizamuddin and 2km from Purana Qila, Humayun’s Tomb stands at the crossroads of the Lodi and Mathura roads, 500m from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station (one stop from New Delhi Station on the suburban line), and easily accessible by bus, or by pre-paid auto from Connaught Place. Late afternoon is the best time to photograph it. Delhi’s first Mughal mausoleum, it was constructed to house the remains of the second Mughal emperor, Humayun, and was built under the watchful eye of Haji Begum, his senior widow and mother of Akbar, who camped here for the duration, and is now buried alongside her husband. The grounds were later used to inter several prominent Mughals, and served as a refuge for the last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, before his capture by the British in 1857.

The tomb’s sombre, Persian-style elegance marks this as one of Delhi’s finest historic sites. Constructed of red sandstone, inlaid with black and white marble, on a commanding podium looking towards the Yamuna River, it stands in the centre of the formal charbagh, or quartered garden. The octagonal structure is crowned with a double dome that soars to a height of 38m. Though it was the very first Mughal garden tomb – to be followed by Akbar’s at Sikandra and of course the Taj Mahal at Agra, for which it can be seen as a prototype – Humayun’s mausoleum has antecedents in Delhi in the form of Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq’s tomb at Tughluqabad, and that of Sikandar Lodi in Lodi Gardens. From the second of those it adopted its octagonal shape and the high central arch that was to be such a typical feature of Mughal architecture – you’ll see it at the Taj, and in Delhi’s Jama Masjid, for example.

Within the grounds southeast of the main mausoleum, another impressive square mausoleum, with a double dome and two graves bearing Koranic inscriptions, is that of Humayun’s barber, a man considered important because he was trusted with holding a razor to the emperor’s throat. Nearby but outside the compound (so you’ll have to walk right round for a closer look) stands the Nila Gumbad (“blue dome”), an octagonal tomb with a dome of blue tiles, supposedly built by one of Akbar’s nobles to honour a faithful servant, and which may possibly predate Humayun’s Tomb. On your way round to the Nila Gumbad (depending on your route), you pass the tomb of Khan-i-Khanan, a Mughal general who died in 1626; unfortunately, the tomb looks rather ragged as the facing was all stripped for use in Safdarjang’s tomb, and the garden that surrounded it has mostly gone. The blue-domed structure in the middle of the road junction in front of the entrance to Humayun’s tomb is a seventeenth-century tomb called Sabz Burj – the tiles on its dome are not original, but the result of a recent restoration.