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Humayun's Tomb

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September 30, 1665
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Mirza Firuz Shah
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Architectural and Building
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Jahangir 1605–1627

Humayun's Tomb

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Humayun's tomb (Hindustani or Urdu: Maqbara-i Humayun) is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, India. The tomb was commissioned by Humayun's first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum), in 1558, and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid Muhammad, Persian architects chosen by her. It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent, and is located in Nizamuddin East, Delhi, India, close to the Dina-panah Citadel, also known as Purana Qila (Old Fort), that Humayun found in 1533. It was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale. The tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, and since then has undergone extensive restoration work, which is complete. Besides the main tomb enclosure of Humayun, several smaller monuments dot the pathway leading up to it, from the main entrance in the West, including one that even pre-dates the main tomb itself, by twenty years; it is the tomb complex of Isa Khan Niyazi, an Afghan noble in Sher Shah Suri's court of the Suri dynasty, who fought against the Mughals, constructed in 1547 CE. The complex encompasses the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun, which houses the graves of Empress Bega Begum, Hamida Begum, and also Dara Shikoh, great-great-grandson of Humayun and son of the later Emperor Shah Jahan, as well as numerous other subsequent Mughals, including Emperor Jahandar Shah, Farrukhsiyar, Rafi Ul-Darjat, Rafi Ud-Daulat, Muhammad Kam Bakhsh and Alamgir II. It represented a leap in Mughal architecture, and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden, typical of Persian gardens, but never seen before in India, it set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture. It is seen as a clear departure from the fairly modest mausoleum of his father, the first Mughal Emperor, Babur, called Bagh-e Babur (Gardens of Babur) in Kabul (Afghanistan). Though the latter was the first Emperor to start the tradition of being buried in a paradise garden. Modelled on Gur-e Amir, the tomb of his ancestor and Asia's conqueror Timur in Samarkand, it created a precedent for future Mughal architecture of royal mausolea, which reached its zenith with the Taj Mahal, at Agra. The site was chosen on the banks of Yamuna river, due to its proximity to Nizamuddin Dargah, the mausoleum of the celebrated Sufi saint of Delhi, Nizamuddin Auliya, who was much revered by the rulers of Delhi, and whose residence, Chilla Nizamuddin Auliya lies just north-east of the tomb. In later Mughal history, the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar took refuge here, during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, along with three princes, and was captured by Captain Hodson before being exiled to Rangoon. At the time of the Slave Dynasty this land was under the 'KiloKheri Fort' which was capital of Sultan Qaiqabad, son of Nasiruddin (1268–1287). The Tombs of Battashewala Complex lie in the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site of the Humayun Tomb Complex; the two complexes are separated by a small road but enclosed within their own separate compound wall.


 History


After his death on 27 January 1556, Humayun's body was first buried in his palace in Purana Quila at Delhi. Thereafter it was taken to Sirhind, in Punjab by Khanjar Beg and, in 1558, it was seen by Humayun's son, the then Mughal Emperor, Akbar. Akbar subsequently visited the tomb in 1571, when it was about to be completed. The tomb of Humayun was built by the orders of his first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum (also known as Haji Begum). Construction began in 1565 and was completed in 1572; it cost 1.5 million rupees, paid entirely by the Empress. Bega Begum had been so grieved over her husband's death that she had thenceforth dedicated her life to a sole purpose: the construction of a memorial to him than would be the most magnificent mausoleum in the Empire, at a site near the Yamuna River in Delhi. According to Ain-i-Akbari, a 16th-century detailed document written during the reign of Akbar, Bega Begum supervised the construction of the tomb after returning from Mecca and undertaking the Hajj pilgrimage. According to Abd al-Qadir Bada'uni, one of the few contemporary historians to mention construction of the tomb, it was designed by the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas (also referred to as Mirak Ghiyathuddin), who was selected by the Empress and brought from Herat (northwest Afghanistan); he had previously designed several buildings in Herat, Bukhara (now Uzbekistan), and others elsewhere in India. Ghiyas died before the structure was completed and it was completed by his son, Sayyed Muhammad ibn Mirak Ghiyathuddin. An English merchant, William Finch, who visited the tomb in 1611, describes rich interior furnishing of the central chamber (in comparison to the sparse look today). He mentions the presence of rich carpets, as well as a shamiana, a small tent above the cenotaph, which was covered with a pure white sheet, and with copies of the Quran in front along with Humayun's sword, turban and shoes. The fortunes of the once famous Charbagh (Four-gardens) made of four squares separated by four promenades, radiating from a central reflection pool. It spread over 13 hectares surrounding the monument, changed repeatedly over the years after its construction. The capital had already shifted to Agra in 1556, and the decline of the Mughals accelerated the decay of the monument and its features, as the expensive upkeep of the garden proved impossible. By the early 18th century, the once lush gardens were replaced by vegetable garden of people who had settled within the walled area. However, the capture of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 together with the premises, and his subsequent sentencing to exile, along with execution of his three sons, meant that the monument's worst days lay ahead, as the British took over Delhi completely. In 1860, the Mughal design of the garden was replanted to a more English garden-style, with circular beds replacing the fours central water pools on the axial pathways and trees profusely planted in flowerbeds. This fault was corrected in the early 20th century, when on Viceroy Lord Curzon's orders the original gardens were restored in a major restoration project between 1903–1909, which also included lining the plaster channels with sandstone; a 1915 planting scheme added emphasis to the central and diagonal axis by lining it with trees, though some trees were also planted on the platform originally reserved for tents. In 1882, the official curator of ancient monuments in India published his first report, which mentioned that the main garden was let out to various cultivators; amongst them till late were the royal descendants, who grew cabbage and tobacco in it. in Ronaldshay’s biography of Lord Curzon a letter is quoted from Lord Curzon to his wife in April 1905: “You remember Humayun’s tomb? I had the garden restored, the water channels dug out and refilled and the whole place restored to its pristine beauty. I went to England last summer and, the eye of the master being away, the whole place has been allowed to revert. The garden has been let to a native and is now planted with turnips and the work of four years is thrown away! I shall drive out there, and woe betide the deputy commissioner whose apathy has been responsible.” During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila together with Humayun's Tomb, became major refugee camps for Muslims migrating to the newly founded Pakistan, and was later managed by the government of India. These camps stayed open for about five years, and caused considerable damage not only to the extensive gardens, but also to the water channels and the principal structures. Eventually, to avoid vandalism, the cenotaphs within the mausoleum were encased in brick. In the coming years, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), took on responsibility for the preservation of heritage monuments in India, and gradually the building and its gardens were restored. Until 1985, four unsuccessful attempts were made to reinstate the original water features. An important phase in the restoration of the complex began around 1993, when the monument was declared a World Heritage Site. This brought new interest to its restoration, and a detailed research and excavation process began under the aegis of the Aga Khan Trust and the ASI. This culminated in 2003, when much of the complex and gardens were restored, with the historic fountains running once again after several centuries of disuse. The restoration has been a continuous process ever since, with subsequent phases addressing various aspects and monuments of the complex. 


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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.

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