Death has a funny way of scraping its butt end upon the living. We all die, of course, but since we are such narcissists, it is never enough for us to merely live. And if we can’t live forever, then we should definitely create something that will. This yearning for immortality, futile though it is the way it governs most our life-decisions, has led to the creation of buildings of such majestic proportions that we still find their creator’s shoes too big to fill in. So it is of no wonder that wherever one travels in this beautiful country, one is sure to be greeted by empty mausoleums filled with the cacophony of ordinary people. My spirited soul has found a temporary nesting place in the Capital; so I am going to unabashedly capitalise on that today and cover one of the more glamorous mausoleums of Delhi – the Humayun’s Tomb.
Mausoleums are boring!
You are probably right. Mausoleums, like some people, can be extremely boring; after all they are just made of brick and stone, isn’t it? Buildings don’t have life! But they do have stories. And this tomb in particular, has a very interesting one. It didn’t just shelter Humayun. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, sought refuge here while fleeing from the English troops during the mutiny. 100 years later, this mausoleum became the camping ground for thousands of muslims during the partition. Tread carefully. If you touch those red sandstone walls, chances are it will whisper back to you the tales you thought were bad dreams.
But the crowd must be crazy!
The ground is huge, covering several hundred acres of green, with well manicured lawns and clean pathways. It will take at least 2-3 hrs to just cover all the tombs. The crowd, unfortunately, is the same as everywhere else. Families trying to jostle their kids into behaving (or eating), foreigners being duped by self proclaimed guides, school students gossiping about the new teacher while trying to fall in line, couples fawning over each other at the slightest provocation – all these people take in the lofty view as they enter through the porch, clicking away “candid” shots in their camera phones – most of them being too busy to even notice the unmarked grave that they stepped over. Your best shot: visit on Tuesdays (or any other weekday) to avoid the locals.
Those who explore the exterior lawns can hardly hear the vague whispers of history sighing for the past. However, the main structure itself is a different thing altogether. The red sandstone gives way to while plaster, that has caught on the murky, dusty pollution of the city air. The interior is almost stripped of any detailing, except in a few domes here & there. Among these plain, unadorned walls, Death has a steadier hold. As soon as they enter the inner chamber, the exuberant laughter of the noisy tourists gets visibly subdued, as if they can already feel the presence of something numinous. Death demands respect, even if you were the most hated man alive*.
Please do not use picture without permission. Copyright @dlonelystoner.com
Why go to this Mausoleum:
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, well maintained in recent years and has got some really cool shades – that should be reason enough, as it is. But I know how much we Indian like bullets, so here we go, some more reason to list down:
- If you are a history buff
- If you have an interest in Persian architecture
- If you have got relentless kids with abounding energy and want a peaceful day out, without overstepping the budget
- If you’re new to the city and seek to explore everything the Capital has to offer
- If you’re a local and haven’t visited it yet
- If you want to show off India to your NRI cousin
Built in: 1569-70
Architect: Mirak Mirza Ghiyaz
Outstanding feature: Char bagh Garden
Number of tombs: 5
Location & Timings:
Opposite Dargah Nizamuddin, Mathura Road, New Delhi
Open: All days of the week, from 6 am to 6 pm
Best time to visit: Weekdays, Oct – March
*The remark is not directed towards any particular ruler.