Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun was the second Mughal Emperor who ruled a large territory consisting of what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of northern India from 1530–1540 and again from 1555–1556.
Humayun’s most noted achievement was in the sphere of painting. His devotion to the early Safavid School, developed during his stay in Iran, led him to recruit Persian painters of merit to accompany him back to India. These artists, laid the foundation of the Mughal style which emerged from its Persian chrysalis as an indigenous achievement in which Indian elements blended harmoniously with the traditions of Iran and Central Asia
Humayun died in 1556, and his widow Hamida Banu Begam, also known as Haji Begam, commenced the construction of his tomb in 1569, fourteen years after his death. It is the first distinct example of proper Mughal style, which was inspired by Persian architecture. It is well known that Humayun picked up the principles of Persian architecture during his exile, and he himself is likely to have planned the tomb, although there is no record to that effect. The tomb was constructed at a cost of 15 lakh rupees (1.5 million).
Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, a Persian, was the architect employed by Haji Begam for this tomb.
The tomb proper stands in the centre of a square garden, divided into four main parterres by causeways (charbagh), in the centre of which ran shallow water-channels. The high rubble built enclosure is entered through two lofty double-storeyed gateways on the west and south. A baradari (pavilion) occupies the centre of the eastern wall and a hammam (bath chamber) in the centre of northern wall.
The square red sandstone double-storeyed structure of the mausoleum with chamfered corners rises from a 7-m. high square terrace, raised over a series of cells, which are accessible through, arches on each side. The grave proper in the centre of this cell-complex is reached by a passage on the south. The octagonal central chamber contains the cenotaph, and the diagonal sides lead to corner-chambers which house the graves of other members of the royal family
Externally each side of the tomb, its elevations decorated by marble borders and panels, is
dominated by three arched alcoves, the central one being the highest. Over the roof pillared kiosks are disposed around the high emphatic double dome in the centre. The central octagonal chamber contains the cenotaph, encompassed by octagonal chambers at the diagonals and arched lobbies on the sides. Their openings are closed with perforated screens. Each side is dominated by three arches, the central one being the highest. This plan is repeated on the second storey too. The roof surmounted by a double dome (42.5m) of marble has pillared kiosks (chhatris) placed around it.
The mausoleum is a synthesis of Persian architecture and Indian traditions – the former exemplified by the arched alcoves, corridors and the high double dome, and the latter by the kiosks, which give it a pyramidal outline from distance. Although Sikandar Lodi’s tomb was the first garden-tomb to be built in India, it is Humayun’s tomb which set up a new vogue, the crowning achievement of which is the Taj at Agra. There is also a somewhat common human impetus behind these two edifices-one erected by a devoted wife for her husband and the other by an equally or more devoted husband for his wife.
Several rulers of the Mughal dynasty lie buried here. Bahadur Shah Zafar had taken refuge in this tomb with three princes during the first war of Independence (AD 1857).
On the southwestern side of the tomb is located Barber’s Tomb (Nai-ka-Gumbad) which stands on a raised platform, reached by seven steps from the south. The building is square on plan and consists of a single compartment covered with a double-dome. The tomb is located at the southeast corner in the garden complex. The tomb is datable to 1590-91, through an inscription found inside. The person interned in this tomb is unknown.
During the Partition of India, in August 1947 the Purana Qila together with Humayun’s Tomb, became major refugee camps for Muslims migrating to the newly founded Pakistan, and was later managed by the government of India. These camps stayed open for about five years, and caused considerable damage not only to the extensive gardens, but also to the water channels and the principle structures. Eventually, to avoid vandalism, the cenotaphs within the mausoleum were encased in brick. In the coming years, the The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), took on responsibility for the preservation of heritage monuments in India, and gradually the building and its gardens were restored. Until 1985, four unsuccessful attempts were made to reinstate the original water features.
The tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993
Here’s a brief and visit-inspiring glimpse of Humayun’s Tomb from videographer, Jerome Ryan: