humayuns tomb, delhi, mughal, architecture, heritage, design

72 hours in Delhi. Part 2: Humayun’s Tomb

The tomb or maqbara for the Mughal emperor Humayun was built in 1565, nine years after his death, by his widow empress Hamida Bega Begum who decided to create the most beautiful mausoleum for her husband. The construction lasted 7 years and was finished in 1572.

Humayun’s Tomb: Significance and Architecture

Humayun’s Tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. It is the first important example of Mughal architecture in India, a grand symbol of one of the most powerful dynasty that ruled the sub-continent. It is significant because it inspired several architectural innovations culminating in the design of the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. So you know it all started here.

humayuns tomb, delhi india, mughal architecture, design, garden, char-bagh, history, monument
Humayun’s garden-tomb is built on a monumental scale. In the Islamic world, it was the first mausoleum to use such a grand design. The design uses an important architectural innovation- the ‘charbagh’. Charbagh is a  quadrilateral garden layout based on the four gardens of paradise mentioned in the holy Quran. The quadrilateral garden is divided by walkways or flowing water into four smaller parts.
humayuns tomb, delhi india, mughal architecture, design, garden, history, monument
Built primarily in red sandstone and white marble, the monument is a perfectly symmetrical structure. In Islamic design, geometry is considered a representation of the sacred and spiritual and symmetrically repeated patterns express the infinite.

humayuns tomb, delhi india, mughal architecture, design, history, monument

humayuns tomb, delhi india, mughal architecture, design, doorway, history, monument
The tomb was designed by Persian architects, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid Muhammad. It has influences of Persian, Turkish and Indian styles. It is often regarded as the first mature example of Mughal architecture.

Things to observe at Humayun’s Tomb: Mughal Art, Architecture and Design

Symmetry: Notice that everything is symmetrical. The entire structure with the ‘Char-bagh’ garden layout is perfectly symmetrical. Just pause and think how much of planning went into achieving this core principle of Islamic Design.

Merging of Styles Notice how architectural styles are merging – you will see influences of Persian, Turkish and Indian architecture in the structure. It’s an interesting game to play – try to guess which element belongs to which style.

No Sculpture: Notice that you do not see sculpture or paintings of people- Islam does not believe in portraying the physical form of things but their true essence.

Sacred Geometry: Geometry is considered the language of the universe. You will notice a common feature of Islamic art – many geometric patterns used in repetition- this is meant to represent the infinite.

Humayun’s Tomb: Interiors

humayuns tomb, delhi india, mughal architecture, design, interiors, ceiling, history, monument
The symmetrical and bold designs on the exterior is in sharp contrast with the complex interior floor plan and the intricate ceiling and jaalis.
humayuns tomb, mihrab, delhi india, mughal architecture, design, interiors, jaali, history, monument
Inside the main chamber of the tomb, was the mihrab that indicates the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. Traditional mihrab designs, are a niche in the wall with inscriptions from the Quran. But this has a jaali that allows light to enter directly into the main chamber of the tomb. We reached just before sunset and to see the light streaming into the main chamber creating this exquisite pattern was absolutely divine. I tried hard to capture it in a frame.

humayuns tomb, delhi india, mughal architecture, design, interiors, jaali, history, monument


Humayun’s Tomb Complex: Isa Khan’s Tomb

Humanyun’s tomb is situated near the shrine of the 14th century sufi saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. It is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint’s grave and hence you can find many other tombs around this area – making this a tomb complex.

humayuns tomb, isa khan tomb, mughal architecture, garden
Isa Khan’s tomb was another tomb we visited within the complex. Isa Khan was an Afghan noble in Sher Shah Suri’s court. His tomb was built two decades before Humayun’s and is also considered the earliest example of a sunken garden design in India. This concept was further refined in Mughal architecture.
isa khan tomb, arches, mughal architecture, arches
Isa Khan’s tomb stands at the entrance for Humayun’s tomb and it was a good idea to visit it first. Not as grand or well-preserved as Humayun’s tomb but one can start seeing how the architecture and design evolved with each monument, over the years.

humayun tomb, ceiling, mughal architecture, detail

In the end, when we were leaving we were lucky to witness a beautiful sunset at this magnificent tomb. I could not help but get poetic and remember what the Persian poet, Rumi said about death…

humayuns tomb, delhi india, sunset, mughal architecture, design, history, monument


yellow periscope, humayun's tomb, delhi, quote, rumi, death


If you have more time do visit the other tombs in the complex. And like we did, walk to the Nizammuddin dargah right across the road. Read about what we discovered in Nizamuddin basti in our post: 72 hours in Delhi. Part1: Streets of Delhi – Eat, Walk, Metro


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.