When it comes to talking about the Taj Mahal’s blueprint, people redirect you to the Humayun Tomb in Delhi. As people reach the Humayun’s Tomb Complex, they quickly walk past several structures trying to reach the main Tomb. In this hurry, they often ignore the fact, that Humayun’s Tomb Complex is actually a combination of 4 different complexes. With a series of monuments, some of which are totally hidden from general visitors.
Let me take you through these complexes in the order, in which they should be visited:
Kotla Isa Khan Niazi
As you enter the Humayun’s Tomb Complex from the ticket counter, on the right is Kotla Isa Khan Niazi, the oldest planned garden Tomb in India. It is an octagonal tomb with an octagonal boundary wall. The single entry/exit toward North is accessed via a flight of stairs. To the west is the 3 domed Mosque on the high platform. Right outside the mosque, on the platform, is a well-meant for ablution.
In the middle of the beautiful octagonal park is situated the tomb of Isa Khan Niazi. He was born in 1453 when Delhi was just taken over by the Lodhis. Soon he became popular amongst the ruling houses of Delhi. He belonged to a Pashtoon Family. In the final years of his life, he was hired by Sher Shah Suri. Who made him the governor of Multan bestowed him with the title of Azam-i-Humayu. Within a few years of his governorship, Isa Khan Niazi died at age of 95. And was brought to Delhi to be buried in this Tomb, which was built during his lifetime. This complex was built, roughly a decade before the death of Humayun.
Bu Halima’s Enclosure
As we step out of Kotla Isa Khan, we proceed towards Humayun’s Tomb through Bu Halima’s Enclosure. An interesting fact is that the only entrance to Bu Halima’s Enclosure is facing Humayun’s Tomb. And the Isa Khan’s Kotla is its back. However, much earlier the wall towards Kotla of Isa Khan was broken. British created a beautiful pathway through it, connecting Isa Khan’s Complex with Humayun’s Tomb via Bu Halima’s Enclosure.
While not much information is available about Bu Halima, the popular record states that she traveled with Babur to India. And served as wet nurse of Humayun. Due to her respected status in the Mughal family, she was buried right outside the Humayun’s Tomb. A proper garden tomb was built in her honor. This is an unusual tomb with no dome or chambers. Cenotaph is on the high platform. Ideally, there should have been the crypt with the original grave. It also appears that there is a huge chamber below the cenotaph. But the lack of access to the chamber leads to two hypotheses: a) It was never built, b) It was sealed during the course of time.
Arab ki Sarai Complex
As we cross Bu Halima’s Garden Tomb, the entrance to Humayun’s Tomb is just 140 meters further east. Connected to Bu Halima’s Gateway on South is the gateway to Arab ki Sarai. This magnificent complex comprises several untouched secrets. Starting from the huge gateway with rooms and a platform to sit, the inner lawns have random grave platforms. To the north is the Afsarwala (Officer’s) Tomb and Mosque, belonging to unknown nobles. 200-meter-long Arab Sarai Complex has a huge market down south. Commonly known as Mir Bhanu’s Market. The Market has a small entrance from lawns, often ignored by visitors to Monument. As you cross the secret slit in the wall, you find yourself in another huge complex (Mir Bhanu’s Market). With two majestic gates, a huge courtyard with rooms on both sides, a Baoli, and a small attached block for horses and caravan animals.
The gate on the west is permanently closed. While the gate on the east opens into Nizamuddin East colony is used by local residents only for their morning walks.
Humayun Tomb Complex – Places to visit in Delhi
After exploring the other three complexes, one can enter the main Humayun’s Tomb. The tomb has 2 entry gates, but only the west gate is open for visitors. Humayun’s Tomb is a fine example of a well-planned Mughal Charbagh. The Garden is divided into 4 parts, where each part is further divided into 8 sections. In the center, stands on a square platform, the majestic Humayun’s Tomb. Though the structure appears to be a square from a distance, upon closer observation one realizes that the Tomb is actually an octagon. The southern gate of this complex is most interesting with a small compound attached to it.
The compound is closed for the public as ASI uses it to store material used to maintain the lawns. It also has a small mosque with graves built with grey stone. In the southeast corner of the lawns, is situated Barber’s Tomb. People say that he was the loyal barber of Humayun. However, it cannot be said with 100% surety that he was the same person. The Barber’s Tomb contains two graves, probably of a barber and his wife.
Towards north and east, we have beautiful pavilions, one touching the Yamuna. Other having a huge well that might have had a Persian wheel in the past to lift water. And circulate for the garden fountains. Garden of Humayun’s Tomb has the earliest reference to water harvesting in Delhi.
The main tomb was constructed to be the graveyard of the Taimur family. In the center, rests emperor Humayun, son of Babur. The tomb is reached via four flights of stairs on each side. The high platform has numerous rooms on the lower level. The upper level has the main tomb with 5 chambers. The central chamber has the grave of Humayun alone. While other 4 chambers have several other family members of Humayun, including his wives and daughters. As the chambers got full, the outer courtyard was used to bury the Mughal royalty. While the grave of Humayun is situated inside the crypt below the main grave, the cenotaph is one of the most beautifully decorated.
Cenotaph of Humayun is a rare example where ‘Kalam’, used to denote a male grave is missing from this site. This chamber was originally decorated with beautiful drapes and a chandelier illuminating the entire complex.
Around the Humayun’s Tomb Complex
Not just Humayun’s Tomb Complex, but the wall around it also hides numerous secrets. The Khanqah and Chillah (residence) of Khwaja Nizamuddin Auliya (r.a.) of the Chisti order of Sufism were constructed much before Kotla of Isa Khan Niazi or any other structure in Humayun’s Tomb. The periphery of the complex has several other monuments including Sunderwala Burj, Sunderwala Mahal, Lakkarwala Burj, Chhota, and Bada Batashewala Mahal, a Mughal Tomb, Gurudwara Damdama Sahib, Nila Gumbad, Sabz Burj, Sayyid Yassin’s Tomb, and many graves, mosques, and small structures.
About the Author
This is a guest post by Vikramjit Singh Rooprai – a Heritage Activist and Founder of Youth for Heritage Foundation. His methods include promoting heritage through poetry, theater, photography, music, and discussions. His site www.monumentsofdelhi.com is the most authentic online source on Monuments, Rulers, and Cities of Delhi. Other heritage initiatives of the author include Delhi Heritage Photography Club and Heritage Durbar.
We at IndiTales thank Vikramjit for writing this expert heritage story on Humayun’s tomb. Guiding the readers of IndiTales to enjoy the whole of Humayun’s tomb complex and not just one popular monument in the complex.
Recommend these travel blogs on my Favorite Places to visit in Delhi.