My husband and I are what you call a “monumental-ly” crazy couple – rain, hail, sun or very hot sun, not much can deter us from visiting places of historical note when we have the time. Thus, soon as our son learnt to recognize us as his crazy parents, we wanted to introduce him to our shared historical hobby – to be one with history, capture it and immediately plan for the next weekend. “Historia” will be a series of informal articles on various forts, palaces and monuments we have visited over our years together. Our idea is to simply share our experience and knowledge of the place, pin-up some frames and sign-off with a few traveller tips. Bite-sized History, for quick and easy consumption!
History is in danger in Delhi – in danger of being taken for granted, immensely. That’s because it’s everywhere! You cannot climb to the 4th floor of your building, look into the skyline and not see a dome peeping back at you or a spire raising it’s hands to catch your attention. Red lights turn green at intersections made around gumbads standing in quiet testimony to a distant past. People live in Qutub Enclave, shop in Red Fort market, picnic in Lodhi Gardens and eat ice creams at India Gate. Roads are named after emperors of yore and forts are used as commonplace landmarks for guiding the wayfarer. History in Delhi is inescapable, and as alive as a living being.
If you are anywhere near the heart of the city, you will suddenly notice all roads leading to Humayun’s Tomb. And rightly so! This resplendent monument adorned by gorgeous lawns on all sides is not just historically significant but a feast for the eyes. Built by Humayun’s first wife Bega Begum, nine years after his death, the monument cost 1.5 million Rupees to complete. (Yes, you read that right!)
|This was the first structure to use red sandstone at such a massive scale, which was maturely balanced with white marble - a precedent setting genius for later Mughal Architecture.
|The building style was a combination of Persian architecture and indigenous architectural styles.
Humayun's Tomb was the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent. The Charbagh Gardens that surround it are typically Persian in design too and were to be appropriated for many structures for many years to come. An intricate network of water channels and fountains adorn the symmetry of the garden. The main tomb alone took over 8 years to build.
|The dome of Humayun's Tomb shines, as we walk towards the second entrance gate
The complex also houses many other tombs, including the famous royal Barber's Tomb, the tomb and mosque of Isa Khan (recently opened for public after years of restoration and renovation), Afsarwala Tomb, Bu Halima's Tomb and an Arab Sarai - a rest house for the Arabs.
|Conference - between History, Nature and Man
History books tell us how, during the partition of India in August 1947, Humayun's Tomb became a major refugee camp for Muslims migrating to the newly founded Pakistan. It later came to be managed by the government of India. These camps stayed open for 5 years and caused considerable damage to the structure. Later, the government took over the upkeep of the the tomb premises.
|First of the two lofty double-storied entrance gates
|This visitor just did not want to leave
Here's what we have to share:
1. Humayun's Tomb is one of the most well-maintained historical sites in Delhi. Some maintenance work is always under way in some part or the other (may seem an intrusion for photography, but we know it's essential).
2. It is located right in the heart of the city. It opens it's doors at 6 am and welcomes visitors till late evening. So, from joggers to photographers to those looking for some peace, the place is easily accessible and that too for a meagre fee.
3. Unlike so many other monuments, there is ample parking space outside. You can be sure you won't be wasting time looking for a spot for your wheels here. Mind the love-birds hiding in shaded corners though! The last we checked, they don't like to be disturbed.
4. Quite a few bird varieties abound in the gardens inside. Carry your Salim Ali, just in case you have bird-watching on your mind. If it's bird season, even better!
5. With a baby in tow, we carried a bag full of baby mush, which was not allowed inside the premises. And that's good! Strict enforcement keeps the place spotless clean. And we know what an eye-sore that packet of Lays can be on an otherwise flawless lawn.
6. The information boards are good, but as you near the main monument, or the accompanying tombs, clear labelling and pointers are missing. Perhaps, a little help from Miss Wiki before you visit will help.
7. The site involves a lot of walking, with not much shade for hot summer days. Prams/slings for babies, and caps and drinking water for every one would be a good idea. Long walks and huge stairs make it unsuitable for very old people, and very pregnant women too.
8. Take care of that nature's call before entering. No rest rooms!
9. Stray dogs are quite a menace here. You better be a dog-lover from the point when you enter till the point when you leave.
10. Unless you want to join them in their art work, please ignore the graffiti of young lovers on the walls. It's a problem you will see in most sites around. And if you gather any answers as to how some of the hearts were etched 10 feet high on the walls, please mail us. We're still sitting, wondering!
Happy History Hopping!