Humayun’s Tomb – The Garden of Tombs in Delhi

posted in: Asia, Cities, Delhi, Heritage, India | 55

Recently, I came across this article on India Then and Now which had a comparison between what some famous landmarks looked like in the past to what they now appear in the present. Among the many that I saw, I particularly was taken in by the picture of the famous UNESCO Site in Delhi – Humayun’s tomb. I suppose this must have struck me particularly owing to my recent visit to this monument. And even more so for the fact that this was my first visit to it.

Humayun's tomb in Delhi
Humayun’s tomb in Delhi

My first major visit to Delhi was as a teenager with my parents. While I did cover quite a few of those historical monuments, I had not visited the Humayun’s tomb. Simple reason – it was closed for it for restoration. It had been declared as a UNESCO heritage site around then and the place was in dire need for expert repairs. With what I saw this time, I could not have believed that it was in a disarray for the craftsmen under the UNESCO guidelines has done a fabulous job of making the monument timeless. However, with the article on famous landmarks, I also realized how the landscape around the monument had changed. I shall be sharing all that and more as I walk you through the Garden of Tombs at the Humayun’s tomb in Delhi.

History of Humayun’s Tomb

Built in the 1569 – 70 AD, Humayun’s tomb has a long and illustrious history. In fact, some of it even goes beyond this period. Note – I have called this place the Garden of tombs. There are two reasons for it – one being a part of its structure and the other being the fact that there isn’t just one tomb here. In fact, there are many tombs – some related to the famous  Humayun and some dated even before him to the time of Sher Shah Suri. For now, I will leave the predated tombs of this complex and will jump straight to the tomb of the 2nd Mughal Emperor of India – Humayun.

Humayun died quite young as he slipped a staircase of his palace, leaving behind a vast empire for his thirteen-year-old son Akbar – the Great. He was initially buried in the Purana Qila. His first wife Bega Begum had just come back from Haj and as a memorial for him commissioned this grand tomb structure. It took around 9 years to complete after which Humayun’s body was shifted here.

Humayun's tomb in Delhi
The final resting place of Humayun

What was interesting to note here is that after the grand garden tomb was done, it was neglected for quite some time for the capital of Mughals had shifted to Agra. Its vast ground was used for farming by people during the British rule. Later, during partition, the same grounds were used as a camp for the Muslim refugees for around 5-6 years, A lot of plundering and defacing took place with all this and naturally, it was quite in a derelict state until the ASI took over. Later, with the status of a UNESCO site, it was transformed back to its glory state and this is what I saw when I visited it.

Bu Halima’s Gateway to Humayun’s Tomb

Bu Halima Gateway at the Humayun's Tomb complex
Bu Halima Gateway at the Humayun’s Tomb complex

My visit to the Humayun’s Tomb happened on the eve of my departure for the Epic Indo- Nepal Trip. I happen to have an entire evening to myself and given that luxury of time, I hopped into a cab to reach this UNESCO site. The first thing that I encountered after I had been let in through those gates was this old, archaic gateway called the Bu Halima’s gateway.

Bu Halima's tomb at Humayun's tomb complex
Bu Halima’s tomb at Humayun’s tomb complex

The gateway leads to a garden with an unfinished tomb of a mysterious woman Bu Halima. You can well climb the stone structure in a quest to know more about this lady but except for her grave, you will not find anything. Some say that she was a noblewoman important to Humayun while some say she was her wet-nurse. Either way, this remains a story lost in time.

Arab Sarai Gate at Humayun’s Tomb

The Arab Sarai Gate at Humayun's Tomb
The Arab Sarai Gate at Humayun’s Tomb

I could have explored more of Bu Halima’s garden but I honestly, was quite keen to get to the main tomb before I could explore this one. So, on I went through to the next gateway that was way grander than the Noblewoman’s arch. Called the Arab Sarai Gate, this one was made as the residence of the craftsmen who built the actual Humayun’s tomb. The gate had apparently collapsed over time and after some effort, it was restored to its current form. You can see the pictures of the collapsed state on the signboard near the gate and while you are busy reading it, don’t miss the 6-sided star on the gates. A frequent occurrence from now to the end of the tour for this was the Islamic cosmic symbol.

Through the West Gate Entrance

The West Gate Entrance to Humayun's tomb
The West Gate Entrance to Humayun’s tomb

From the Arab Sari Gate, you can see another grand gate, the main entrance to the famed Humayun’s tomb. This was not really the main entrance back then at the time of the Mughals. At that point, it used to be the South Entrance but for now, it is closed. The interesting thing here is that the gate actually has rooms on its upper floors. I am not sure what they were used for but an educated guess would be possible for the guards of this enclave.

The first glimpse of Humayun's tomb through the West gate entrance
The first glimpse of Humayun’s tomb through the West gate entrance

It is from here that you get the first glimpse of that red-colored beauty – the grand Humayun’s tomb. Sitting high up there on a platform was the very monument that I wanted to see. Less than a tomb and more like a palace, this structure had me completely enraptured and for the next few minutes, my silence was only punctuated by the sound of my camera clicking.

Char Bagh – The garden of Humayun’s Tomb

The scene in front of me seemed familiar. It felt as if I had seen this somewhere until the source of familiarity struck me. It was the way the garden was laid out  – the manicured lawn is similar to what you will see at the famed Taj Mahal. In fact, as history goes, it served as a model for the wonder of the world. This was one of the Persian influences that descended into India and you will find many other Mughal monuments adopting it.

One part of Char Bagh as seen from Humayun's tomb
One part of Char Bagh as seen from Humayun’s tomb

Char Bagh – literally translates to “Four gardens” and its quadrilateral shape is what gives it this name. This particular garden had 4 different pathways at the center of which was the landmark tomb of Humayun. 2 perpendicular channels of water crisscrossed the entire quadrilateral into what seemed like 4 actual waterways. Each pathway led to one of the gates of the tomb enclave.

Humayun's tomb against the fountains of Char Bagh
Humayun’s tomb against the fountains of Char Bagh

This garden was one of the reasons why this entire landmark was termed as the Garden of tombs. The typical design of this garden was said to represent the imaginary Garden of Eden and truly, seeing it then did make me feel like I was in heaven!

The exteriors of Humayun’s Tomb

One of the white arched cells at the base of the main Humayun's tomb
One of the white arched cells at the base of the main Humayun’s tomb

As you walk closer and closer to the looming mausoleum, I bet you will start falling in love the red sandstone marvel. It is interesting how they have used white alcoves to contrast the red. At the base, you will see closed doors and if you are attempting to count them all, well, it is going to be a long walk! Around the entire base are 72 of those white arched cells, that possibly lead you to the graves of the other Mughal nobles here.

Climbing up to Humayun's tomb
Climbing up to Humayun’s tomb

A high flight of staircase takes you through the main arch of the base right to the top where you slowly see the white dome of Humayun’s tomb getting larger and larger.  This is one of those monuments that you need to behold from its boundary for the true beauty of it can be best seen from it. When you are along those latticed walls, look up beside the white central dome. You will see miniature blue umbrella-shaped balconies called Chhatris.

The front facade of Humayun's tomb
The front facade of Humayun’s tomb
The Blue Chhatri of Humayun's tomb
The Blue Chhatri of Humayun’s tomb

The Chhatris is an adaptation from the Rajasthani style of architecture and you will find them in all the major palaces and forts of Rajasthan including the beautiful Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur. Interestingly, it is this fusion of Persian and Rajasthani architecture that created another distinct style of art called the Mughal style.

Through the latticed windows - a glimpse of the grave at Humayun's tomb
Through the latticed windows – a glimpse of the grave of Humayun

Adding to the allure of the Humayun’s Tomb are the delicate lattice work windows that allow you a glimpse of the actual tombs within the chambers. I was particularly mesmerized by the play of light and shadows that made the entire room beautiful.

Humayun's tomb with a Sun Flare
Humayun’s tomb with a Sun Flare

I was particularly in awe of the symmetry of the Tomb for from every angle, it looked as beautiful as the other. Even the silhouette it made against the evening sun, was just perfect.

The interiors of Humayun’s Tomb

Ceiling of Humayun's Tomb
Ceiling of the entrance hall of Humayun’s tomb

The interiors of Humayun’s Tomb was another story. For one, the high ceiling chamber was a huge relief from the sweltering heat outside. There is a central chamber that is visible from the entrance which has another 8 cells or rooms connected to it. The beauty of this entire structure lies in the fact that if you are standing at the entrance of one room, you can get a glimpse of the latticed windows of the room across the main chamber.

Humayun's Grave at Humayun's tomb
The Central chamber with its lamp hanging down on Humayun’s grave
The lamp in the main chamber of Humayun's tomb
The lamp in the main chamber of Humayun’s tomb

Check out the high ceiling of the central tomb which has this ancient lamp hanging from it. The ceiling here is actually the massive white dome that we had seen from outside. The fascinating thing is the way the architects have designed the lattice windows to light up the room. It was almost sundown and yet, this chamber had enough light.

A glimpse of one chamber from the opposite one across Humayun's tomb
A glimpse of one chamber from the opposite one across Humayun’s tomb

The grave of Humayun had inscriptions around it and symbolically lay in the North-South direction. They say that the body of Humayun too, is laid down this way as per Islamic norms and his head is turned to face Mecca. The body actually lies in the grave below this structure but no one is allowed to access the same.

Connecting chambers at Humayun's tomb
One of the connecting chambers at Humayun’s tomb

The connecting chambers have several other graves, none of which I could identify at that point. The lack of signage also, made it difficult. They say though that these are bodies of the royal Mughals including the wives of Humayun, his first grandson – Dara Shukoh and many more. In total, there are more than 100 such graves in the complex and this is what earns Humayun’s tomb the name – “The Dormitory of the Mughals”.

Other tombs in the Garden of Tombs

As I mentioned earlier, it is not just the Mughals who are buried here. The Garden of Tombs has some interesting structures, some which pre-date Humayun’s tomb. There is one called the Barber’s tom. They say that it belongs to a barber. And another one called the  Blue dome or the Nila Gumbad. That one was made by an officer for his servant who sacrificed himself for his Lord. Time was not enough for me to have seen these but the two other tombs that I did see include –

Afsarwala Tomb & Mosque

Afsarwala Tomb & Mosque at Humayun's Tomb Complex
Afsarwala Tomb & Mosque at Humayun’s Tomb Complex

This was added later for an officer of Akbar’s court. The tombstone here indicates that it was built around 1567 AD, just before the Humayun’s tomb was commissioned. The interesting thing about this is that there is a mosque next to it. The structure has red sandstone and also, some black marble. At one point, when I stood to take a picture of the whole structure, it was amazing to see how well the three-arched gateways of the mosque and the tomb were aligned.

Isa Khan’s Tomb

Isa Khan's tomb at the Humayun's tomb complex
Isa Khan’s tomb at the Humayun’s tomb complex

This stunning structure had caught my eye just as I had entered the Humayun’s tomb complex. I chose to return to it on my way out and I can only thank the guard for giving me those few extra minutes to capture this beauty. An octagonal blue structure, this had a tomb and a mosque. The entire structure was built at least 20 years before Humayun’s tomb.

The blue glazed chhatris of Isa Khan's tomb at Humayun's tomb
The blue glazed chhatris of Isa Khan’s tomb at Humayun’s tomb

The most remarkable thing about this tomb was its blue glazed chhatris that stood out from any angle. This structure was typical of Sher Shah Suri and the Lodhi dynasties that ruled Delhi before Humayun. It was made for a courtier Isa Khan who was a part of Sher Shah Suri’s court and had fought against the Mughals. His entire family was buried here.

The last glimpse of Isa Khan's tomb at Humayun's Tomb
The last glimpse of Isa Khan’s tomb

I would have loved to see this from inside but I could not impose on the generosity that the guard here had shown me. It was indeed a few minutes past the closing time and with one last picture of Isa Khan’s resting place.

The changing landscape of Humayun’s Tomb

It is interesting to note that the Yamuna river flowed right behind the walls of Humayun’s tomb. However, today you do not see any trace of it. I got a glimpse of it in the article that I was reading about India Then and Now. The river changed course with time and now all you see is a concrete jungle. Interestingly, in the same picture, you see the evidence of how the paradise gardens – Char Bagh were neglected . In some ways, things are better now and yet in the others, we seem to have lost a few. However, there is no denying how mesmerizing the Humayun’s tomb looks in its present state. So, if you are headed to Delhi, make some time and go see this timeless Garden of Tombs.

Humayun's tomb

Getting here

  • Getting into the capital of India is easy given its easy connectivity by flight, rail and road to not just the major cities in India but also, the world.
  • Once in Delhi, you can opt for a Metro ride to Jorbagh or Race Course stations. From here, you can take a bus or taxi to reach Humayun’s tomb. There are plenty of tourist buses too, that take you to this place.
  • You can even take a train to Nizammudin station and walk to the place from there.
  • Click here to load the exact location of Humayun’s tomb.

Travel Tips

  • This is the official website of Humayun’s tomb. The place is open from Sunrise to Sunset every day.
  • The ticket prices are not updated on the website. You need to pay INR 30 as an Indian or INR 500 if you are a foreign resident. There are no camera charges but if you have a video camera, you will be charged INR 25.
  • There are very few restrooms within the premises.
  • A few food stalls are available at the entrance.
  • Comfortable cotton clothes if summer or warm woolens for winter is advised
  • Carry plenty of water as there is a lot of walking to be done. Comfortable flat shoes are the best for this place.
  • Keep aside at least 2- 3 hours for this monument.
  • Beware of pickpockets and monkeys.

 

Share the Thrill of Travel

55 Responses

  1. Ramya Abhinand

    Ami your clicks are awesome. Humayuns tomb is indeed a beautiful site, and come Delhi winters, and all that one has to do is sit on the beautifully manucured lawns, and gaze up at the majestic structure in front!!!

    • Ami

      Thank you Ramya. I bet it is lovely then. I happened to do this on a crazy summer evening when it even rained but it still was lovely

  2. Megan Indoe

    Whoa these are tombs?! Absolutely beautiful architecture and what great photos you took to capture Humayun’s Tomb! My hopes is that we will make it to Dehli one day, we will have to visit here when we do!

    • Ami

      You bet these are tombs . So majestic right? I do hope you visit soon Megan. Thanks for stopping by

  3. Nisha

    Gorgeous pictures Ami! And Crisp description of the place. The tomb is renovated recently. Looks very refreshed. I have been to Humayun’s tomb many years ago. Had almost forgotten how the gardens look like. Your post fondly took me there again. 🙂

  4. Yukti

    I have visited Humayun’s tomb in my childhood and so I have blurry images of this place. You have refreshed those memories with your beautiful photography and nice description. It is good Humayuns tomb is renovated and preserved. Hopefully in future also great care of this place must go on.

    • Ami

      Thanks Yukti. It is quite worthwhile now and you should definitely visit when you are in Delhi next. Cheers

  5. thesecretlifeofanactress

    Such beautiful pictures! The buildings in India are so amazing. All the detail & the colors… I particularly like the Isa Khan’s tomb, with the light blue domes!

  6. Abhinav Singh

    Have been to Humayun’s Tomb so many times that I don’t even click it anymore. The architecture is amazing and similar to so many other ruins of New Delhi. Winter is the best time to explore it.

  7. zestinatote

    Agha Khan Trust has done a stellar job in its restoration. It is one of the must-visits sights in Delhi for anyone interested in history and architecture.

  8. Paige

    What a sad fate to slip down the stairs. I’m sure that was so much pressure for his young son as well. It’s an absolutely stunning tomb. What an amazing tribute. Isa Khan’s is so beautiful – I think it’s my favorite.

    • Ami

      It definitely is a sad thing to know how he fell down. Isa Khans’s tomb was a surprise and a lovely one too. Thanks for stopping by Paige

  9. David Meldrum

    What a beautiful place. The architecture is incredible. Somewhere I will need to visit. Such a sad end to live by falling down the stairs. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ami

      Thanks Anne. A lot of people do seem to miss this one out and that is a pity considering it is so pretty.

  10. Cat

    What a fantastic site to visit! Both the architecture and the history are fascinating. I love all the details at the Humanyun’s tomb, especially the exterior and the ceiling!

  11. Sophia Grace

    I have been at this tomb when I visited in India. It was good experience with this Tomb. I do not remember right history behind this tomb but someone told me.

  12. abhibishnu

    Lovely pictures and interesting angles of take.I had the chance to photograph this tomb in the spring of 2007 during my Delhi days. It was magnificient then, and actually looks lovely now, after the ASI takeover I guess.

    • Ami

      Actually more owing to Unesco and its new status. The Aga Khan trust I believe has been instrumental too. Thanks for stopping by Abhibishnu

  13. abcdefghizzy

    Humayuns Tomb! This was the first site I visited in Delhi during my visit in October 15 and I believe it stacked up to the grandeur of the Taj Mahal. As the inspiration behind the Taj Mahal’s design, I completely get why Shah Jahan was compelled to build a monument of his love in such a manner.

    • Ami

      Glad you liked it and can see why it was an inspiration for Shah Jahan . It sure is a lovely monument. Thanks for stopping by

  14. Bee

    great travel info on this site, The Humayuns Tomb is a place i never heard of until now. I can see why it s a heritage sites, as it;s design and architecture is so beautiful and the stories are rich and amazing. it def looks like a wonderful place to visit. India is always full of these rich historic surprises!

    • Ami

      Thanka Bee, there is so much in India to see that even we seem to fall short of time and days. Hope you can visit us soon

  15. xyuandbeyond

    A real feast for the eyes and for an architecture lover this is fantastic. It is very reminiscent of the Al Hambra in Spain it has that same sense of beauty and glory and the gardens look like a lovely place to wander and refresh yourself.

  16. kittytocity

    The architecture on his tomb is stunning. What a way to leave this world…falling down in your own palace. Thanks for sharing the pictures and history.

    • Ami

      Indeed, it is quite a dramatic end to an epic tale – the death in your own palace. Am glad he has a beautiful resting place though.

  17. Debbie | Travel + Podcast

    Wow this place looks so amazing! It’s incredible all the sites in India. I would really love to visit one day!

  18. Familyearthtrek

    A really capturing pictures and writing bringing me there on place. Felt like a guided tour! We were there in 2014 and I remember it was really beautiful but our stay was short because my husband had a stomach flue so I hope to visit it again someday!

    • Ami

      So sorry to hear about that but am glad that you still managed to see the place. Thanks for stopping by

  19. Adrenaline Romance

    Wow! I never thought that tombs can be as beautiful as these. Very nice place to visit and meditate. We have a similar place called Temple of Leah right here in Cebu, Philippines although it is nowhere as big as Humayun’s Tomb.

  20. Marlies

    This is so interesting! So sad how he died and for his son, such a young age. Beautiful Tomb’s, hope to visit it one day.

  21. Sherrie Fabrizi Allbritten

    This is so interesting! I love to see and hear about history being preserved, it is so important. These tombs are a great example of why we need to help preserve all our historic buildings throughout the world. Love your photography!

    • Ami

      Thank you Sherrie. Glad you liked the place and like you, am happy that they are making considerable effort keeping this treasure.

  22. Harsh

    Well living in Delhi it comes to us naturally that we visit this gorgeous fort every once in a month or two. Everything about Humayuns tomb is just so beautiful and atmospheric. We love spending most of our time on the top!

  23. Dee GoGo

    Lots of great information and history in this blog! I can see some fabulous architecture in your pics and it really tells a story!
    Thanks for sharing!

Would love to know what you think