Nine years after her husband’s death, Hamida Banu Begum hired a Persian architect to build a grand mausoleum in honor of her husband, Humayun, the second Mughal emperor. Why it took her almost a decade to come up with this decision, I’m not sure. But this 450-year-old Mughal monument (and a Unesco World Heritage Site) is the first garden-tomb on the Indian Subcontinent.
In contrast, Emperor Babur, founder of the great Mughal dynasty and father of Humayun, had requested out of piety that he be buried in a garden.
I guess none of the other emperors that succeeded him shared the same piety.
Anyway, so this is the first of the two gates…
Do not ever visit this place in summer. Do not be fooled by the lush green trees lining the pathway; they provide shade from the sun, but you’ll still perspire like you’re sitting in the middle of a desert. Do not assume that the tourists shown above are discussing the lovely weather. In short, do not visit Delhi in summer.
But the entrance to the garden is grand, nevertheless.
And here is a photograph from the second gate…
One look at Humayun’s mausoleum and one can immediately see where his great, great grandson, the famous emperor Shah Jahan, took his Taj Mahal inspiration from (except that he made it even grander so that it eventually became one of the World’s wonder).
Emperor Humayun’s story is a sad one.
Only 10 years after succeeding his father, Humayun faced resistance from the hands of an Afghan ruler, was defeated and driven out of Delhi in 1540 AD. Humayun took shelter in Iran and witnessed a series of hardships for nearly 15 years in exile during which period his son Akbar also was born. Humayun returned ultimately with a borrowed Persian army and defeated the son of the Afghan ruler who defeated him.
However, he died the following year after falling from his library stairs.
Not learning from this tragedy, the succeeding Mughal emperors continued building such wide, heart attack-inducing concrete stairs. No other emperor has been reported to have fallen off the stairs after Humayun, but it remains fatal to visitors like us. I mean, just look at those guys in the picture above…you can clearly hear their hearts beating violently against their chests miles away. Notice that each one of them carries a life-saving device—a bottle of water.
“I will not climb that in this weather!” Masood refuses flatly. But his lovely wife needs to go up there and take photographs; it’s not like she visits this place everyday. And being the wonderful husband that he is, Masood delightfully and ecstatically obliges. “Sure,” he says, “I can’t wait to climb up those magnificent, royal steps!”
Humayun’s garden is huge. And there are several other structures within these gardens that take us to another era. The details of these structures are a joy to photograph. But here’s the reality: it’s two in the afternoon, the heat is such that we could boil an egg in Humayun’s pool, our blood’s running low on potassium and chlorides, and our water bottle is already empty. In short, we didn’t want to be buried next to Humayun.
But I’d definitely visit this place again during the cooler months. I would say it will easily take a couple of hours to see everything.
Oh, and restoration works are currently under way at Humayun’s tomb. Architect Farkhod Bagirov from Uzbekistan is hired to do it. But why the Uzbeks, you wonder? Well, because the tile work is a complex, traditional art form in Uzbekistan, passed down generations. And although samples for physical and chemical analysis were sent at different laboratories worldwide including Oxford University, Barcelona, IIT Roorkee, Iran and Uzbekistan, the technique in Uzbekistan was found to be the closest to the original process. The Uzbek architect and his team have picked up the skill from their forefathers and have over 40 years of experience in traditional tile-making.
Humayun’s Tomb and Gardens
Timings: Open from sunrise to sunset
Location: Mathura Road, near the crossing with Lodi Road (every Delhiite knows this place)
Entrance Fee: Citizens of India and visitors of SAARC (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives and Afghanistan) and BIMSTEC Countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar) – Rs. 10 per head. Others: US $ 5 or Indian Rs. 250/- per head (children up to 15 years free)
Camera Fee: Rs. 25
Parking Fee: Rs. 10 for 4 hrs.