Nila Gumbad is possibly the earliest Mughal era building in Delhi, even pre-dating Humayun’s Tomb. The architecture of Nila Gumbad – the tile pattern on the northern façade, the shape of the dome, and the polychromy of brick patterns – suggests that Nila Gumbad was one of the earliest buildings built during the Mughal reign, before Mughal architecture became influenced by local styles. It seems Miyan Fahim was later buried in the structure by Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana who was the son of Bairam Khan, a coutier in the royal courts of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
The enclosure wall of the Humayun’s Tomb has internal arches facing the Humayun’s tomb, whereas the external façade is plain, except for the portion of the wall shared with the Nila Gumbad where there is an arcade on both sides of the wall. This direct connectivity with the Humayun’s tomb of the Nila Gumbad depicts the high historical associational significance of the monument and suggests the Humayun’s Tomb enclosure incorporated the Nila Gumbad enclosure wall.
Nila Gumbad enclosure originally stood on a raised island on the river Yamuna, the course of which has since shifted further eastwards. In the 19th century when the train networks were laid out by the then British government, the eastern half of the Nila Gumbad garden was lost under the Platform 1 of Hazrat Nizamuddin Railway Station.
Unfortunately, this linear stretch is further split into two narrow strips by a narrow service road in the north-south direction. Excavations carried out in 2008 have revealed the original extend of the northern enclosure wall as well as the ramps leading to river – that were probably used to bring in stone for the construction of Humayun’s Tomb. The connecting staircase from the eastern enclosure wall of Humayun’s tomb is also locked and partially broken. Eastern and south enclosure walls of the Nila Gumbad have completely disappeared.
Nila Gumbad being a ‘river island’ tomb was only accessible from the Humayun’s Tomb garden enclosure. The blocking of this access has led to significant monument decay and with neglect, its setting considerably disfigured. With the present agreement with the railways we now have an opportunity to once again restore Mughal era linkages and allow millions of visitors to enjoy this additional attraction on their visit to Humayun’s Tomb and thereby significantly enhancing the historic character and restoring the urban setting of the World Heritage Site.
The Nila Gumbad, abutting the Humayun’s Tomb on the east, stands within one of the densest ensembles of medieval Islamic buildings in India and located within a World Heritage Site buffer zone with a potential for inclusion within the WHS on the completion of conservation works.
The plan includes the implementation of a sensitively designed landscape scheme and relocation of the existing road bifurcating Humayun’s Tomb- Nila Gumbad sites. The proposal to re-site the existing road along the eastern edge of the park would facilitate access for visitors from Humayun’s Tomb to Nila Gumbad, and allow vehicular access to Nizamuddin Railway Station while ensuring an adequate green buffer zone around the World Heritage Site.
The proposed conservation works will not only ensure that urgently needed conservation works are carried out on this significant 16th century building and its survival is ensured for future generations but also create a much required green buffer on the east of Humayun’s Tomb between the archaeological zone and the railway corridor.
Nila Gumbad was originally part of the royal Mughal necropolis of Humayun’s tomb and included significant other archaeological remains such as arcades, ramps leading up from the river to lift building material and enclosure walls. Abutting the Humayun’s Tomb World Heritage Site, Nila Gumbad originally stood within a walled garden enclosure, and was directly accessible from Humayun’s tomb through an arched opening on the eastern wall.
Conservation works will be guided by national and international charters and employ the use of traditional materials and craftsmanship and ensure adequate process documentation. Operating guidelines of the World Heritage Convention will be adhered to in order to plan the eventual inclusion of this area within the WHS as a result of the conservation
The conservation work will be coupled with sensitive landscaping of the area on the basis of a study of archival materials and an understanding of Mughal gardens. Significantly, this will also restore the historical linkages with adjoining complexes and make Nila Gumbad accessible for the million annual visitors to Humayun’s Tomb.