The Weekend Leader - Marvellous restoration

Humayun's Tomb gets 16th century makeover

Madhusree Chatterjee   |   New Delhi


Vol 2 | Issue 24

Early in the morning, a posse of nearly 100 masons troop in with their chisels to recast the weathered stones and crumbling lime facades of the 16th century mausoleum of Mughal emperor Humayun, a family tomb, which is home to 160 graves.

The tomb, one of the country's first garden mausoleum and a Unesco World Heritage Site, is getting a makeover to resemble its original state with a unique not-for-profit private-public conservation project partnered by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Dorabji Tata Trust and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Workers engaged in renovation work at the historic structure (Photo: IANS) 

"At the core of the structural renovation project is the restoration of 42 arched bays on the enclosure (outer ramparts) of the tomb which had collapsed with time, and 68 arched alcoves at a lower level. The stonework of the terrace and the elevated plinth in the forecourt have been relaid," revealed Ratish Nanda, conservation architect and project director of the Aga Khan Trust For Culture

The tomb was known to be have been commissioned by Humayun's wife Hamida or Haji Begum, who is also entombed in the mausoleum along with five Mughal princes, including Dara Sikoh.

It was built by Persian architect Mirat Mirza Ghiyath.

The three-year renovation project of the tomb began with a memorandum of understanding in 2007. "We planted 2,500 trees and plants like mango, lemon, neem, hibiscus and pomegranate, which were favoured by the Mughals," Nanda said.

The red-and-white tomb cast in sandstone and marble, built during 1565-72 AD on the bank of the Yamuna, is typical of the symmetrical Timurid architecture. It is enclosed by high walls on the northern, southern and western sides.

The eastern side opened to the river. A pavilion at the centre of each wall allowed people to enter the tomb. The walls were equipped with walkways and arcaded to look attractive.

Nanda's team has been inspired by a 19th century photograph of Humayun's Tomb, which shows the original structure.

"The project has trained conservation professionals and craftsmen from the countryside and has generated livelihood to nearly 700 people in the Nizamuddin neighbourhood," he said. – IANS

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