Humayun’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. The tomb was constructed by his son, the great emperor Akbar in 1569-70. Located in Nizamuddin East, Delhi, it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It was said to be the first structure which made use of red sandstone at a grand scale. Besides the main tomb enclosure of Humayun, several smaller monuments comes in the pathway leading up to it, from the main entrance in the West. Inspired by Persian architecture, the tomb reaches a height of 47 metres and is 91 metres wide, which was the first Indian building to use the Persian double dome on a high neck drum.
History of Humayun Tomb at Delhi
Humayun died on 20 January 1556. His body was buried in his palace which was situated inside the Purana Quila at Delhi. The tomb of Humayun in its contemporary shape was built under the supervision of Humayun’s first wife and chief consort. The construction begun in 1565, which was almost nine years after his death. The tomb was completed in 1572 AD. It is said that construction of the tomb had costed about 1.5 million rupes at the time. One unique thing was that the cost for building the mausoleum was paid entirely by Empress Bega Begum.
It is also said that When Humayun had died in 1556, Bega Begum was so grieved over her husband’s death that she dedicated her life thenceforth to a sole purpose: the construction of the most magnificent mausoleum in the Empire, at a site near the Yamuna River in Delhi for the memorial of the late Emperor. According to historical journal of the then time, Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th-century detailed document was written during the reign of Akbar, Haji Begum supervised the construction of the tomb after returning from Mecca and undertaking the Hajj.
Architecture of the Humayun Tomb
The architect of the tomb was assigned to the Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas who and had earlier designed several buildings in Bukhara, and India. Ghiyas, to whom the mausoleum’s exquisite design is attributed was chosen to be the architect by Empress Bega Begum. Unfortunately, before the structure’s completion, he died and so his son Sayyed Muhammad ibn Mirak Ghiyathuddin completed his father’s design in 1571, with equal zeal and dedication.
An English merchant, William Finch, who visited the tomb in 1611, describes the rich interior furnishing of the central chamber. He mentioned the presence of rich carpets, and a shamiana, a small tent above the cenotaph, which was covered with a pure white sheet and with copies of the Quran in front along with his sword, turban and shoes.
The fortunes of the once famous Charbagh (Four-square) gardens, which spread over 13 hectares surrounding the monument, changed repeatedly over the years after its construction. The capital had already shifted to Agra in 1556, and the decline of the Mughals accelerated the decay of the monument and its features, as the expensive upkeep of the garden proved impossible. By the early 18th century, the once lush gardens were replaced by vegetable garden of people who had settled within the walled area.
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However, the capture of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 together with the premises, and his subsequent sentencing to exile, along with execution of his three sons, meant that the monument’s worst days lay ahead, as the British took over Delhi completely. In 1860, the Mughal design of the garden was replanted to a more English garden-style. Though Viceroy, Lord Curzon’s orders the original garden were restored in a major restoration project between 1903–1909, which also included lining the plaster channels with sandstone; a 1915 planting scheme, added emphasis to the central and diagonal axis by lining it with trees, though some trees were also planted on the platform originally reserved for tents. The 1882, the Official curator of ancient monument in India, published his first report, which mentioned that the main garden was let out to various cultivators, amongst them till late were the royal descendants, who grew cabbage and tobacco in it.
During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila together with Humayun’s Tomb, became major refugee camps for Muslims migrating to the newly founded Pakistan, and was later managed by the government of India. These camps stayed open for about five years, and caused considerable damage not only to the extensive gardens, but also to the water channels and the principle structures. Eventually, to avoid vandalism, the cenotaphs within the mausoleum were encased in brick. In the coming years, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), took on responsibility for the preservation of heritage monuments in India, and gradually the building and its gardens were restored. Until 1985, four unsuccessful attempts were made to reinstate the original water features.
An important phase in the restoration of the complex, started around 1993, when the monument was declared a World Heritage Site. This brought new interest to its restoration, and a detailed research and excavation process began under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust and the ASI, culminating in 2003, when much of the complex, and gardens were finally restored, with its historic fountains running once again after several centuries of disuse. The restoration has been a continuous process ever since, with subsequent phases addressing various aspects and monuments of the complex.
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