The architectural austerity practiced during the Tughluq dynasty was relaxed under Sayyid rule. Ornamental details were once again incorporated into architectural expression, though the utilization was still prudent. Due to the inheritance of greatly diminished state coffers, the Sayyid's could not commission monumental buildings. As a result, their architectural legacy manifested in small tombs and mausoleum built throughout Delhi. The city became a veritable necropolis leading this period to be known as the 'macabre' reign, a word perhaps derived from 'maqbara' (cemetery) in Arabic. Also during this period came a renewed interest in melding Hindu and Islamic art traditions and motif.
The tomb of Muhammad Shah IV, the third ruler of the Sayyid dynasty, is one of the larger tombs surviving from this period. It is located within the Lodi Gardens that was designed by the Sayyids and Lodis in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. It is based on a configuration used mostly for royal tombs-an octagonal chamber ringed by an outer arcade, while square tombs were for high-ranking members of society. The width of each of the octagonal faces of the arcade is 32'-9" (10m), equivalent to the height that includes the base and the corner pinnacles (guldasta). Each face is pierced by three arched openings with a running 'chhajja' (overhanging eaves supported by stone corbels) above. The corner of the octagon is reinforced by a sloping buttress.
The central dome sits on a sixteen-sided high drum, giving the tomb greater verticality. Hindu influence is reflected in the eight 'chhatris' that ring the dome, each centered and in line with a face of the octagon. The dome of each 'chhatri' is a smaller version of the central dome, each capped by a lotus finial with a decorative band around the base.
The tomb chamber is an octagon measuring 26'-3" (8m) in diameter. The ceiling is decorated with carved stucco using circular designs with arabesques and calligraphic motifs. The main entrance is through the south, though each side of the chamber has a beam and lintel doorway. There are eight graves inside, the central one is believed to be that of Muhammad Shah.
The tomb is considered a refinement of the tomb built for Mubarak Shah, father of Muhammad Shah. Muhammad Shah's tomb is more compact in plan with a higher dome that lends it better proportionality and is more pleasing visually.
Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 53.
Chatterji, Nandalal. The Architectural Glories of Delhi. Calcutta, Alpha Publishing Concern, 1969. 41.