What is Humayun's Tomb?

Brendan McGuigan

Humayun’s Tomb is a group of buildings in India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been since 1993. Humayun’s Tomb consists of the tomb itself, and a number of supporting structures.

Humayun's tomb, a major attraction for tourists and a World Heritage Site, is located in New Delhi in the north of India.
Humayun's tomb, a major attraction for tourists and a World Heritage Site, is located in New Delhi in the north of India.

Humayun’s Tomb was built during the Slave Dynasty, in the late-16th century, to enshrine the ruler Humayun. It was built fourteen years after Humayun actually died, by his widow, Hamida Banu Begam. Humayun was the second Emperor of the Mughal Empire, and Humayun’s Tomb is generally looked upon to be the first great example of the true Mughal architectural style.

Humayun’s Tomb draws on a number of the visual aspects of the Gur-e Amir, but it took the style quite a bit further. The same style, with the large visible dome and ornate decorations, would eventually culminate in the construction of the Taj Mahal. Although Humayun’s Tomb is not as visually striking at first glance, however, its innovative use of materials makes it in many ways equally impressive. Both the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s Tomb were built for similar reasons, as a way for a loving spouse to show their love and devotion to their deceased partner. The Taj was built by a husband for his dead wife, and Humayun’s tomb was built by his wife for him.

Humayun was the ruler of the Mughal Empire, and as such controlled much of Northern India from 1530 to 1540. He eventually was forced out, and retreated to Persia. While in Persia he took in much of the local architectural style, coming up with a sensibility that drew on both Indian and Persian motifs. When he returned to India to reclaim his land in 1555, it is likely that he set to work designing a number of buildings, including his future tomb.

Ultimately, his widow hired a Persian architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, to design Humayun’s Tomb, ensuring Persian styles would play heavily in its visual aesthetic. The structure took nine years to complete, and cost over 1.5 million rupees.

The tomb itself is in a large garden, with small waterways running their corners. The mausoleum contains a bath, a gathering space, and the central grave. Various chambers to the sides contain graves of Humayun’s family members, and various stories are told on the walls.

Humayun’s Tomb is located in New Delhi, and many people are impressed by the contrast between the hustle and bustle of the city and the relative tranquility of the complex itself. There is an entry fee to visit the site, around $5 US Dollars (USD), but that entry fee covers full access. Most people find they need at least a few hours to truly take in the tomb itself and the surrounding structures.

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