"...The tomb of Humayun is the first of the grand dynastic mausoleums that were to become synonyms of Mughal architecture. Here for the first time the monumental scale is attained that was to become the characteristic of Mughal imperial projects."
Prof. Ebba Koch, Mughal Historian
Humayun’s garden-tomb is built on a monumental scale, with no precedence in the Islamic world. The garden-tomb truly represents Mughal innovation with its monumental scale, and its garden setting representing the Quranic ideal. The monumental scale achieved here was to become the characteristic of Mughal imperial projects, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal. Within the complex also stand seven Mughal era garden-tombs which together form a unique ensemble of 16th century garden-tombs.Read more about the architecture of Humayun’s Tomb
Humayun’s Tomb has had immense significance for the Mughals, and the tomb was also accorded the status of a place of pilgrimage, often visited together with the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Emperor Akbar made nine recorded visits, Emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan continued the tradition of pilgrimage to the tomb. Six of the later Mughal emperors were eventually buried at Humayun’s Tomb—amongst the 160 graves of Mughal family members found here. The last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar, facing imminent arrest by the British forces, chose to find sanctuary here thus establishing the relevance and high regard Mughals had for Humayun’s Tomb till the end of the dynasty.
The monumental scale and geometric perfection achieved at Humayun’s Tomb by the Mughal builders was meant to instill a sense of awe in a manner mega architectural projects continue to do the world over. In the process, the 16th-century builders assimilated regional architectural styles and elements. Though grand beyond comparison, the builders did not ornament the mausoleum; they instead chose to employ a red-white contrast of building material as the most striking feature. Significantly, several structures built in the immediate setting of the Humayun’s Tomb during the early Mughal era continued to employ this ‘red-white’ contrast. The Tomb’s immediate garden setting was another innovation and it is the earliest surviving perfect char-bagh or garden with four almost equal quadrants.
Since the early-14th century when the revered Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya chose to live in this area, now known after him, it has been continuously inhabited and monumental structures have been built—predominantly mausoleums but also mosques, garden pavilions, stepwells, bazaars, serais, gateways, etc. With the building of Humayun’s citadel—Purana Qila—in the vicinity, as well as several significant Humayun-Akbari era structures, the Nizamuddin area should rightfully be recognized as the earliest Mughal city. In later years, building activity continued in the urban area surrounding Humayun’s Tomb.
Since 2007, Humayun’s Tomb and its attached structures, including the gateways, pavilions and enclosure walls, have required major conservation works to restore the architectural integrity. With the Mughal details uncovered, conserved, restored where these had been obliterated by 20th century repairs, the Mughal grandeur has been once again revealed in parts. Similarly, major works have been undertaken to halt the accelerated deterioration that had set in as a result of past repairs with modern materials.
Humayun’s Tomb garden restoration ‘is of course, the first privately funded restoration of a World Heritage Site in our country. The project has indubitably been an unqualified success, with the gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the chahar bagh having been brought close to their original perfection.’
- Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, 27 November 2004
The restoration of the garden at Humayun’s Tomb was a gift of His Highness the Aga Khan on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of India’s Independence.
The objective of the garden restoration project was to revitalise and revive the gardens and its pathways, water channels, pools and fountains as per the original design. This necessitated the conservation, repair and rebuilding of the water channel system and the repair, extension and reactivation of the irrigation system to ensure that water flows naturally through the watercourses and fountains. It also entailed the establishment of renewable water sources using rainwater harvesting to recharge groundwater and historic wells.
Following the successful garden restoration undertaken in 1999-2003, AKTC commenced conservation works on the tom b in 2007 with co-funding from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and in partnership of the Archaeological Survey of India.
Working on a World Heritage Site where integrity and authenticity had been compromised by past repairs posed a significant challenge as did the need to reconstruct collapsed portions of structures that had been left unattended for a century. Conservation works have aimed at enhancing the cultural significance of the World Heritage Site by restoring the architectural integrity and authenticity of craftsmanship.
With the Mughal details uncovered, conserved, restored where these had been obliterated by 20th century repairs, the Mughal grandeur has been once again revealed in parts. Similarly, major works have been undertaken to halt the accelerated deterioration that had set in as a result of past repairs with modern materials.
Following a decade-long revitalization efforts undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which included the conservation of monuments, restoration of parks and gardens and related socio-economic projects in neighbouring districts, the Humayun’s Tomb Complex now receives almost two million visitors annually, over 500,000 of them are school children. A greater number of pilgrims – from across the world and of many faiths – visit the adjoining Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the 14th century Sufi saint who continues to be revered seven centuries after his death.
An interpretation centre is being built by AKTC at the entrance of the World Heritage Site to enhance visitor experience; allow a better understanding of Mughal architecture and building craft traditions; shed light on the development of the Nizamuddin area over a millennium; and, most significantly, explain the pluralist Sufi cultural traditions that defined Hindustani culture for at least five centuries.
The Interpretation Centre aims at enhancing visitor experience and provides an opportunity to host collections on Mughal art, architecture and culture and become a model for other such facilities across the country.
In keeping with the agreement that the “ASI would be responsible for ... compliance with all regulations and heritage norms and necessary safeguards for the conservation work to the protected monuments under the project,”7 the project was supervised with periodic formal reviews by the leadership at ASI. The ASI Core Committee has held 43 reviews in which 41 individual ASI officers inspected ongoing works and provided instructions to the project team.Read reviews Core Team meetings