The South Asian Life & Times - SALT   
 Summer 2015          



 Summer 2015


 Editor's Note

 Maharaja Duleep

 Nizamuddin Revived

 Nizamuddin Basti

 Sunder Nursery

 Humayun's Tomb

 Nizamuddin Dargah

 Gautam Gambhir

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 Darjeeling & Beyond

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Humayun's Tomb Complex

The imposing mausoleum of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, built in 1565 AD “established the paradigm for Mughal architecture in the context of scale, style, setting and craftsmanship.” It was the first garden-tomb, complete with causeways and channels, on the Indian subcontinent - an architectural feat of the highest order. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, “the mausoleum and its peripheral buildings were found to be in urgent need of conservation.”

Humayun’s tomb was built by his widow, Biga Begum (Hajji Begum), in 1569-70, fourteen years after his death. The architect was Mirak Mirza Ghiyath. It was later used for the burial of various members of the ruling family and contains many other graves.

Built on a high terraced platform, in the centre of a large garden, the sandstone and marble tomb took nine years to build. The main entrance is on the south side, but it is the west entrance that is used for visitors to the monument. The interior is a large octagonal chamber with vaulted roof compartments interconnected by galleries.

Humayun’s Tomb endured centuries of neglect - water seeped through the roof, the blue Persian tiles on the canopies were covered in dirt and grime, and the gardens were overrun with a dense overgrowth of wild bushes. The use of cement on the building in the early 20th century obliterated many artistic details. Thousands of kilos of cement deposits were removed from the roof alone.

“In 1997, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, a private development agency, took on the Humayun’s Tomb project, and in 2007 it partnered with Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, a philanthropic organization, and the Archaeological Survey of India to commence the restoration work on the structure.” It took 1,500 craftsmen six years to restore this magnificent structure. Master craftsmen from Samarkand were brought to Delhi to train local craftsmen in the art of tile-making.

Conservation works are still being carried out on the main mausoleum and other buildings within the complex such as the gateways, pavilions and other tomb structures – Isa Khan’s tomb, Afsarwala tomb, Barber’s tomb etc.

The Batashewala Complex, and Nila Gumbad, adjoining Humayun’s tomb, stand within the World Heritage Site buffer zone.  The monuments within the Batashewala Complex were built in the late 16th – early 17th century.  The structures known as Bara Batashewala and Chota Batashewala Mahals were actually tombs located within an, over 1000 m long, arcaded stone masonry enclosure wall. Since I950s the Batashewala Complex had been inappropriately used as a camp ground by Bharat Scouts. After decades of persistent requests by conservation groups the ownership was transferred by the Government of India to the Archaeological Survey of India in 2010, which made possible the start of conservation works on the monuments.

Nila Gumbad is the earliest Mughal period monument in Delhi. Its unique tilework covers the façade of the structure.


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