Delhi up close: Humayun’s Tomb

THE best time to visit Humayun’s Tomb, on the banks of the Yamuna River in Delhi’s old quarter, is in the dying light of the day.

Pic: Shutterstock.com

The huge sandstone mausoleum of the second Moghul emperor explodes with glowing red colour in the evening sun, the gorgeous Persian-style building picked out in white marble.

The tomb is surrounded by a lushly green Char Bagh, or paradise garden, that is an oasis from the noises and smells of crowded Delhi.

A group of young women in brightly coloured Salwars parade, giggling, around the fountains that feed water courses that represent the four rivers of the Islamic paradise.

A descendant of Babur and Timur, Humayan lost the kingdom to Sher Shah Sur and regained it from Sikander (Alexander the Great) with help from a Persian army just before his death in 1564.

His death was not such a heroic one – he fell off a library ladder – but his wife Hamida Banu Begum certainly commissioned a beautiful memorial to her husband. She is also buried here, along with various other Mughal luminaries.

Inside the main mausoleum is a complex series of domed chambers, burial rooms and latticed mihrab windows.

The four sections of the traditional Islamic garden originally spread over 120,000 square metres and is scattered with other tombs, mosques and monuments.

Pic: Shutterstock.com

Paths cut through the somewhat overgrown vegetation and I wandered, seeking different angles on the mausoleum.

Many of the other structures are sadly dilapidated, in contrast to Humayun’s Tomb, but the courtier’s tomb known as Nila Gumbad still has brilliantly blue glazed tiles glittering on its dome. The simple octagonal design is unusual and houses a square interior chamber.

The Tomb of Humayun is a Unesco World Heritage site, reflecting the beauty of the architecture and the significance of the inhabitant.

But nestled in the grounds is another mausoleum, one that would be large by any other standards but is dwarfed by Humayun’s Tomb. It’s the last resting place of the emperor’s barber.