Suitcase and World: Mughal Beauty. Humayun's Tomb.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mughal Beauty. Humayun's Tomb.

This afternoon,we got to visit one of my favorite places in Delhi - Humayun's Tomb.  I will never forget my first impressions of this place.  Even though I had yet to stand before the incomparable Taj Mahal, this place evoked images of that grand mausoleum.

Nasir-ud-Din Muḥammad (1508 – 1556) better known by his royal name, Humayun, was the second emperor of the Mughal Empire, who ruled over territory in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1531–1540 and again from 1555–1556.

There is debate among historians as to how Humayun died but it was premature.  One story has it that Humayun, with his arms full of books, was descending the staircase from his library when the muezzin announced the Azaan (the call to prayer). It was his habit, wherever he heard the summons, to bow his knee in holy reverence. Trying to kneel, he caught his foot in his robe, tumbled down several steps and hit his temple on a rugged stone edge. He died three days later and was initially laid to rest in two other locations before being exhumed and reburied in this location.

His tomb was commissioned by his first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect chosen by her.  The tomb is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations including the Taj Mahal.

Humayun's Tomb aka his mausoleum stands in an extremely significant archaeological setting as well, centered at the Shrine of the 14th century Sufi Saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Since it is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint’s grave, seven centuries of tomb building has led to the area becoming the densest ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings in India.  In addition to Humayun's Tomb, the complex also  comprises the gateways, pavilions and attached structures pre-dating Humayun’s Tomb, as well as other contemporary 16th century structures.

From the entrance, we took the path leading us in to the complex, through a very well manicured garden.  Peaking over one wall was the dome of Isa Khan's tomb.  More about that later.

We passed through one entry gate.

Just past the gate, on our right was another gateway.  This one leading to Bu Halima's garden tomb.  I've not been able to find any information on exactly who Bu Halima was but the gate and garden tomb were both constructed around the same time as Humayun's Tomb.

Continuing on the path, this time through a garden, we made our way to yet another gateway. 

Peeking through the archway, I could see a glimpse of the facade of Humayun's Tomb.

As you pass through the final archway, the magnificent tomb stands before you.  Humayun’s Tomb is an example of the charbagh, a four quadrant garden with the four rivers of Quranic paradise represented, with pools joined by shallow water channels.

It's incredible how large this building is.  Originally, only Humayun was entombed here but its size allowed for 150 members of the Mughal family to eventually be buried here as well. 

The mausoleum itself stands on a high, wide terraced platform with two bay deep vaulted cells on all four sides. It is  surmounted by a 42.5 meter (140 feet) high double dome clad with marble flanked by pillared kiosks (chhatris).  The domes of the central chhatris are adorned with glazed ceramic tiles. The middle of each side is deeply recessed by large arched vaults with a series of smaller ones set into the facade.  Okay, forget all the architectural words.  I just have one word to describe this magnificent example of Mughal architecture - WOW!

A steep set of steps led up to the platform to the mausoleum itself.  We didn't have to take our shoes off here which was a bit of a surprise though I wasn't complaining.

Tombs are scattered about the terrace.  A few of the tombs were inscribed but most were just left plain.  I am guessing that the smaller ones belong to children.

Humayun's tomb itself sits in the center of a large octagonal chamber with vaulted roof compartments interconnected by galleries or corridors. This octagonal plan is repeated on the second floor which I don't think visitors have access to.

On my first visit to Humayun's Tomb, I was such a novice traveler at the time.  I walked around but I didn't really pay close attention to anything so I had forgotten a lot of what I had seen.  This time, I took effort to really take things in.  Taking a lot more photos will also help to recall this amazing monument to Humayun.  I am so very lucky to have been able to come back and see this place with the serious eyes and mind of a more seasoned traveler.

I retraced my steps back to the entrance gate, occasionally stopping to look back at the building.  I didn't take any photos....just let my eyes absorb the view and sear it into my brain.

Saw this interesting tree trunk in the garden.  I think it's actually a vine growing on the trunk.

The only other landmark we visited today was Isa Khan's tomb. 

Isa Khan Niazi (1453-1548) was a nobleman in the courts of Sher Shah Suri and his son Islam Shah Suri, of the Sur dynasty, who fought the Mughal Empire.  Isa Khan's garden tomb is octagonal in shape and has  distinct ornamentation in the form of canopies, glazed tiles and lattice screens, and a deep veranda surrounding it, which is supported by pillars.  The octagonal garden tomb considered the earliest example of an Indian sunken garden attached to a tomb. This concept influenced the design of Fathepur Sikir, the tomb of the third Mughal Emperor, Akhbar.

Adjacent to Isa Khan's tomb is his mosque.

Proof she was here :-)

By the time we left Humayun's Tomb, it was 2:30p and we hadn't even had lunch.  At least two people didn't notice they were hungry.....they were too fast asleep to hear their stomachs growling 😁

Our day of sightseeing is not yet over!