The Rush of Humayun’s Tomb

By UrbanAnthropod, May 5, 2010 8:14 am

Eclipsed by the Taj

Baby Taj Everyone knows about the Taj Mahal. Fewer know that it is in Agra, where the Mughal Empire moved their capital. The beauty of the marble structure is a testament to the romantic impetus underlying the erection of the building and surrounding complex. A mourning husband, Shah Jahan, commissioned the mausoleum when his wife (Mumtaz Mahal) died during childbirth and erected one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Prior to the Taj Mahal, Mughal architects created other structures of intricate beauty. In old Agra, the grandfather of Mumtaz is entombed in what is known as the baby Taj. Serving as a prototype for the technologies that would be used in construction of the Taj Mahal, the Baby Taj features intricate marble with pietra dura inlay to garner it with a second nickname — The Jewel Box.

Humayun and his tomb

Humayun's Tomb Humayun was born in Kabul and ascended to the throne as the second Mughal Emperor of India. While losing many northern territories of India to the Afghan noble Sher Shah Suri, he eventually regained them and expanded his empire before death. His tomb sits on a complex in southern Delhi. His tomb was influenced by Persian architecture and is regarded as a predecessor to the Taj Mahal. The domed structure, made of red sandstone instead of marble, lacks the minarets of the Taj Mahal. While the Taj Mahal is known to be built by a grieving husband for his wife, Humayun’s tomb was built by a grieving wife.

Humayun's Tomb
I mentioned that our visit to Delhi was disappointingly brief. The vague itinerary indicated that we would arrive in Delhi in the afternoon and would have it free. Unfortunately, we would arrive in the vast NCT to drop off half the bus for their onward flight to Cochin. Then barreling our way through Delhi traffic, we arrived at a hotel at 5 PM, where day rooms and an eventual dinner awaited us before the rest of the bus would be brought back to the airport for their return trips. This marked the halfway point for my trip, since I would be off to Kathmandu the next day. I couldn’t leave Delhi without seeing how Persian architecture influenced the Mughals on their way to building the Taj Mahal.

The complex

Entrance to Isa Khan Niyazi's Tomb Our guide had summoned a cab to meet us at the hotel. We were soon off across town, seeing parts of Delhi we couldn’t imagine existed. After our brief encounter, we were certain that Delhi was an overpopulated metro area. To our surprise, we drove through moderate traffic through a garden-like suburb. In fact, we passed the Lodhi Gardens. We rushed out of the cab upon arrival since we had about 40 minutes to make our way through the complex. It was quite pleasant since it was probably only 90°F in the late day and the grounds were being visited by only a small handful of people.

Immediately upon entry, we saw the tomb for Isa Khan Niyazi. Passing through a doorway in the wall, we entered the garden complex of the tomb itself. Interestingly, Isa Khan Niyazi’s tomb was for a nobleman serving Sher Shah Suri. This tomb was built during his lifetime before Humayun recaptured Delhi.
Isa Khan Niyazi's Tomb

Worried that we were running out of time, we hurried towards the main attraction to the far East of the complex. Humayun’s tomb was everything I had imagined. After fighting off the heat and the crowd’s in Agra, this site was quiet, relaxing and beautiful. If not for the time constraints, this would’ve been the perfect tourist excursion.
Humayun's Tomb at dusk

Humayun’s singular cenotaph lay within the main chamber of the large mausoleum.
Humayun's Tomb chamber

Humayun's tomb

Humayun's tomb

The Persian style garden and surrounding grounds was full of wildlife, including abundant wandering peafowl. One dark chamber of Humayun’s tomb was also filled with bats! The tomb complex had it all, architecture and nature! Despite the rush, Humayun’s tomb was certainly worth the trip. If there was anything worth seeing in Delhi, it was the southern end and this complex of tombs (we also visited the nearby Khan market for some shopping). While I didn’t get to see everything, the mausoleum surpassed my expectations. Anyone visiting the Taj Mahal should definitely make their way to Humayun’s tomb in order to better appreciate the evolution of the architectural styling and history of the Mughals.


Download the GPX file of my stroll through the complex (represented as the squiggle on the map below) or the KMZ file for a virtual tour of the stroll in Google Earth.

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