The tomb of the second Mughal emperor, Humayun, one of the twenty-seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, was the first of the monumental mausoleums to be built in the country. The chahar-bagh, or four-part paradise garden, is the earliest existing example of the Mughal garden tomb. The Tomb and Garden are considered one of the precursors of the Taj Mahal.
The restoration of the Garden was the first privately funded restoration of a World Heritage Site in India and was completed in March 2003 through the joint efforts of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the Archaeological Survey of India under the aegis of the National Culture Fund. The objective of the project was to revitalize the gardens, pathways, fountains and water channels of the chaharbagh surrounding Humayun’s Tomb according to the original plans of the builders.
The Garden is laid out in a classical chahar-bagh pattern. It is divided Into quarters by raised causeways. The quadrants are divided, in turn, into eight plots, each with walkways. At the intersection of these walkways are octagonal or rectangular pools. Site works encompassed a variety of disciplines, including archaeological excavation, the application of conservation science and hydraulic engineering. Following the restoration of the Garden, visitor numbers increased tenfold. Building on the success of this project, in 2007 AKTC signed a ‘Public-Private Partnership Agreement’ to undertake the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb complex.
Emperor Humayun was the son of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire. His tomb was built over nearly a decade beginning in about 1565. Influenced by Persian architecture, the Tomb stands on a 120-square-metre platform and reaches a height of forty-seven metres. Built of rubble masonry, the structure is the earliest example of the use of red sandstone and white marble in such great quantities. Humayun’s Tomb complex and its surrounding areas cover almost twenty-four hectares of land and include several significant monuments, such as Isa Khan’s Tomb enclosure, Afsarwala Tomb and Mosque, the Arab Serai, Bu Halima’s Tomb and several monumental gateways.
The project vision is to link up the Tomb complex with the site where the Nila Gumbad, a seventeenth-century tomb, also restored by AKTC, is located, just outside the eastern enclosure wall, and Sunder Nursery, which the Trust is converting into a park. Together, this ensemble will create a vast area of monuments, green space, facilities and services.
Nanda, Ratish. "The Area of Humayun's Tomb". In Heritage of the Mughal World, edited by Philip Jodidio, 157-183. Munich: Prestel, 2015.
In 1526, after winning his battle for control of Hindustan at Panipat, Emperor Babur recorded his entry to Delhi in his journal: “On Tuesday, I circumambulated Shaykh Nizam Awliya’s tomb and camped beside the Jamuna directly opposite Delhi. That evening I toured the Delhi fortress...”" That Babur, the founder of the Mughal dynasty, would offer his reverence at the saint’s grave on his entry to Delhi and prior to even visiting the fortress he had just conquered demonstrates the spiritual signi+icance of the area to the Mughals. As it is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint’s grave, an abundance of tomb building occurred in the area beginning in the fourteenth century.
From The Area of Humayun's Tomb in Heritage of the Mughal World (Philip Jodidio, editor)