Safdarjung’s Tomb is a sandstone and marble mausoleum built in 1754 in New Delhi. It is the last monumental tomb garden of the Mughals, and was planned and built like an enclosed garden tomb in line with the style of Humayun’s Tomb.
The main entry gate to the tomb is two-storied with an elaborate decorated façade over plastered surfaces There is an inscription in Arabic which reads “When the hero of plain bravery departs from the transitory, may he become a resident of god’s paradise”.
Entering through the main gate gives a perfect view of the mausoleum. Anyone with a keen eye for photography is likely to spend quite some time here trying to get that perfect framed shot. Indeed, if you are interested in photography, aim to get to the tomb early before too many people arrive.
The façade of the tomb, although built in the style of the Taj Mahal, lacks a certain aspect of symmetry. The tomb appears squat in nature, with an elongated dome and the four minarets attached to the main mausoleum. This gives a different concept in elevation compared to the Taj Mahal, and perhaps a slightly unbalanced appearance to the tomb.
That said, it is still a stunningly beautiful and imposing building, with the mist and fog of the January morning only adding an element of mystery to the place as I made my way towards it.
The tomb has four key features which are; the Charbagh garden plan with the mausoleum at the center, a ninefold floor plan, a five-part façade, and a large podium with a hidden stairway.
The garden surrounding the tomb has a layout in the form of four squares with wide footpaths and water tanks, which have been further subdivided into smaller squares. The garden is in the Mughal charbagh garden style which is a smaller version of what can be seen at Humayun’s Tomb.
The central chamber is square in shape, and has eight partitions with a cenotaph in the middle. Here there are rectangular partitions with octagonal corner partitions.
The very heart of the tomb is an incredibly atmospheric space, with seemingly amazing light filtering in at whatever time of the day you visit. This will be another spot where any keen photographers are likely to want to spend some time !
The interior of the tomb is covered with decorated rococo plaster, and remember to look up, as the ceiling has also been plastered, painted and ornamented.
Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, who was popularly known as Safadarjung, was an incredibly rich and powerful independent ruler of Avadh, as viceroy of Muhammad Shah. Upon the death of Emperor Muhammad Shah of the Mughal Empire, he moved to Delhi.
When Mohammed Shah Ahmed Shah ascended the throne in Delhi in 1748, Safdarjung was made the Chief Minister (Vizier) of the empire with the title of Wazir ul-Mamalk-i-Hindustan. This was at a time when the empire was in serious decline, their rule now extended only to North India.
As Vizier, Safdarjung had taken all powers under his control as the king was only a puppet figurehead, who was enjoying life with wine, opium and women. But Safdarjung overestimated and over exercised his powers, with the result that the Emperor’s family called their Hindu Maratha confederacy to help them remove him.
A civil strife ensued, and eventually in 1753 Safdarjung was driven out of Delhi. He died soon thereafter in 1754, and after his death his son Nawab Shujaud Daula pleaded with the Mughal Emperor to permit him to erect a tomb for his father in Delhi. He then built this tomb, which was designed by an Abyssinian architect.
The architecture of the tomb is both praised and derided in equal measure. Reginald Heber, who was Bishop of Calcutta between 1823 and 1826, observed that the tomb has the “colour of potted meat”. He was clearly not a fan of the light brown colour of the stone used.
The lack of proportioning of its various components and use of poor materials for construction has only contributed to the detractors. But I think this somewhat unfair, and leads to Safdarjung’s Tomb often being overlooked by potential visitors. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the mausoleum, and the lack of crowds was a welcome respite from what was to follow later that day at Humayun’s Tomb.
My visit to the site was on a chilly, foggy, and smog ridden January morning – not ideal conditions for photography. The tomb is located at the western extent of Lodi Road, with Humayun’s Tomb at the opposite end of the road to the east. In the middle is Lodi Gardens, which means you can visit all three sites on foot to complete a day’s sightseeing in the city.
If you plan to visit the tomb, make it your first stop on any itinerary. It’s an excellent taster of what is to come, and has enough redeeming qualities for it it stand up in it’s own right.
Safdarjung’s Tomb is open daily, sunrise – sunset.
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Categories: Delhi, India, Safdarjung's Tomb
Nostalgic ! I used to visit this place often growing up in Delhi as my uncles house was across the road in Jor Bagh .In the 1970’5 there used to be a cafe just outside the main walls where i tasted my first pizza in 1972 . The grounds were well tended and no visitors and a beautiiful place to jut be in.
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Sounds wonderful !! It was immensely peaceful early in the morning, I was the first one there 🙂
Stunning photos! As usual.
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Thanks Mani !