Travel | Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi, India | Facades and Nuances: Travel | Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi, India

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Travel | Humayun's Tomb, New Delhi, India

            Most sane people look for ways to avoid the summer heat of New Delhi much less go sight-seeing. I was not one of them. Traveling and exploring historical sites are my favorite things to do, and heat or no heat, I was going to see at least one thing. Thinking that a cloudy day means it will be less hot, armed with only one water bottle, and based on the recommendations from New Delhites, I decided to visit Humayun's Tomb.

            To be perfectly honest, I don't know too much about Indian history (in history class, we always seemed to learn about the Native Americans and King Henry VII). All I knew was that Humayun was the father of Akbar the Great. And if that doesn't ring a bell, Humayun was also the great-grandfather of Shah Jahan, the man who made the Taj Mahal.

            These three men were part of the Mughal Empire in India. An empire of Turkic-Mongol origin which spanned from about 1526 to 1707 over most of the Indian subcontinent. The dynasty began with Babur, a prince from modern day Uzbekistan who claimed to be descended from Genghis Khan's second son Chagatai Khan from his mother's side and Timur from his father's side. Babur invaded and gained control over most of northern India and reigned from 1526 to 1530 when the rule was passed to his son, Humayun.

            Humayun ruled over the Mughal Empire from 1530 to 1540 and 1555 to his death in 1556. His rule was interrupted when he lost the empire to the Afghan Sur dynasty. His son, Akbar, defeated them and reestablished the empire.
A passageway towards Humayun's Tomb

A passageway towards Humayun's Tomb

The gateway to the grounds of Humayun's Tomb

The gateway to Humayun's Tomb

Walls surrounding the garden-tomb

Walls surrounding the garden-tomb

            Humayun's tomb was constructed after his death by his first wife, Bega Begum, from 1569 to 1572. She commissioned the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas to design it on the banks of the Yamuna river which has shifted since then. Mirak Mirza Ghiyas constructed Humayun's tomb in a style that was similar to Timur's tomb in Uzbekistan making it the first garden-tomb in India. This same type of architecture would be used to construct the Taj Mahal.

And the tomb is beautiful.

            Looking back, I wish I had taken more pictures, but in accordance with local Indian standard time, I got there late and only had about 45 minutes to explore. Thankfully, the summer heat had deterred people from coming. Despite being located in the constantly bustling second most populated city in the world, Humayun's Tomb is a place of quiet and serenity.  Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is well maintained and is constantly undergoing restorations. I was impressed.  India has a rich and vibrant history filled with tales of rulers and conquerors, but not all of the sites they left behind are well maintained.

The gardens of Humayun's Tomb


View of the water canals and the gateway from Humayun's Tomb

View of the gateway and the water canals from Humayun's Tomb
        Humayun's tomb was constructed with a blend of Persian and Rajasthani architecture, red and yellow sandstone, and black and white marble. The six-sided stars (which I was surprised to see) were not related to Judaism and were only used as ornamental symbols. 
Detail of Humayun's Tomb

Detail of Humayun's Tomb

Arches of Humayun's Tomb

Details of Humayun's Tomb

Humayun's Tomb featuring a pigeon!

       Humayun's cenotaph is located in the main chamber of the tomb. The cenotaphs of other members of the royal family, including Bega Begum, are in the chambers surrounding the main chamber. Interestingly, many of these cenotaphs are unnamed which has led it to be called the "Dormitory of the Mughals". The actual graves are located in an underground chamber below. The grounds also contain some other structures like the tomb of Isa Khan, an Afghan noble, and the Tomb of barber which contains the cenotaph of an unknown person.

Tomb of Isa Khan

            The Taj Mahal is synonymous with Indian art but there are many gems throughout India that are definitely worth checking out.  Humayun's tomb is one of them. 

          What sites/places, other than the Taj Mahal, have you or would like to visit in India? 

Let me know in the comments below!

I will be sharing more stories from my times in India, so stay tuned! Follow me on any of my platforms for my updates!

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