This impressive mausoleum was built 15 years after Humayun’s death. Until then, his body was, for the most time, buried in the Purana Qila.
After failing to recover from his fall in his library, Humayun dies on January 19th, 1556. He is buried in the Purana Qila, in his beloved city of Dinpanah. Later, when the Sur dynasty attacks the Mughal empire, his body is shifted to a temporary tomb in Sirhind. Only to be returned to the Purana Qila. This, when Emperor Akbar defeats the Surs.
9 years after Humayun’s death, his widow, Bega Begum, commissions the construction of this tomb. Due to her fondness of Persian architecture, the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas is asked to design the tomb.
Completed in 1571, this structure marks the beginning of the quintessential Mughal structures that can be seen in Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri and Lahore. The Humayun’s tomb is the first Mughal building to feature a double dome, an aspect prevalent in all the monuments from the Mughal era.
Though this structure is known to be Humayun’s tomb, this mausoleum also holds the graves of many other members of the Mughal dynasty, and also their attendants.
For most of their reign, the Mughals took great pride in their descent from Timur. So, it’s no surprise that the design of the radially symmetrical tomb too is derived from Timur’s tomb in Samarkand.
Interestingly, every aspect of the tomb, including the garden (charbagh) is designed to reflect the Islamic notion of ‘jannat’ or heaven. The water channels seem to disappear under the mausoleum and reappear along the same course on the other side-evoking Quranic verses describing the hidden rivers of paradise.
The central chamber is octagonal in shape with 8 surrounding rooms connected by passages, each representing a layer of heaven in Islamic cosmology.
The central dome is bulbous and covered with white marble. It lies on top of pavilions that are also inlaid with marble. The entire structure is built from red sandstone and marble, in coherence with Indian monuments in Delhi at the time.
- Tomb of Rahim
Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana, one of the most famous poets in India, was one of the Navratnas, the nine important ministers of Emperor Akbar’s court. His tomb is located at the south of the Humayun’s tomb complex.
- Nai ka gumbad
The Nai ka Gumbad, or Barber’s tomb, is believed to be the tomb of Emperor Akbar’s favourite barber. Barbers were held in high regard in by the Mughals.
- Nila Gumbad
Said to hold the grave of Fahim Khan, an attendant of Saint Rahim, this tomb lies outside the eastern wall of Humayun’s tomb.
- Chillah Nizamuddin Aulia
Remnants of this old house lie outside the north-eastern corner of Humayun’s tomb complex. It is believed to be the residence of Hazrat Nizamuddin, a renowned Sufi saint.
- Afsarwala mosque and tomb
just outside the southwest wall are these two structures, the Afsarwala mosque and the Afsarwala tomb. While the mosque was built for the noblemen in Akbar’s court, It is unknown as to whose grave lies in the tomb.
- Arab Sarai
This structure served as a resthouse to the hundreds of Arab and Persian workers who were employed to build Humayun’s tomb. Once a majestic building, today, most of the structure lies in a state of despair.
- Garden of Bu Halima
The main entrance to Humayun’s tomb is through the Bu Halima garden. At the centre of this garden, you can see the tomb of Bu Halima. Though her identity is still unknown, it is believed that she was Humayun’s wet nurse, and a noblewoman who was a part of Babur’s entourage to India.
- Tomb and mosque of Isa Khan Niyazi
Isa Khan Niyazi was a noble in the courts of the Sur rulers, Sher Shah Suri, and his son, Islam Shah Suri. Both the tomb and the mosque were built during the reign of Islam Shah Suri, over 20 years before the construction of Humayun’s tomb. It is said that the design of Humayun’s tomb is highly influenced by that of Isa Khan’s mosque.
During the uprising of 1857, the last Mughal Emperor was captured here, putting an end to the Mughal empire. Soon after, the tomb was plundered by the British and the Mughal gardens were converted to British style gardens in 1860. The tomb complex was also a refuge for those who were migrating to Pakistan in 1947.
As a part of Viceroy Curzon’s many restoration projects, most sections of the Mughal gardens were restored from 1903-1909. In 1993, the Humayun’s tomb was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site. Since then, it has been restored to its former glory.