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Newsflash, people: the Taj Mahal is not the only mausoleum in India. If you really want to impress your mates, try visiting the place that inspired it, Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi. Although not on the same scale as the Taj, it’s arguably more influential. And you don’t have to fight through the crowds to see it.
Set in a huge burial complex on the outskirts of New Delhi, this magnificent monument to the second Mughal emperor was the first garden tomb in India, and set in motion an architectural trend that peaked 80 years later with the construction of the Taj.
Like its more famous cousin, Humayun’s Tomb has a sad, romantic story attached to it. When Emperor Humayun died, his wife Haji Begum was so grieved that she dedicated her life to constructing a fitting tribute.
The results are magnificent, and well worth the short train ride out of the city. And with more than 100 tombs scattered around the complex, all dripping with intricate architectural details, you’ll need time to soak it all in. In other words, it’s the perfect excuse for a lazy day away from the bustle of the city.
At the heart of the complex stands Humayun’s mausoleum, crowned with a grand white dome. Don’t miss the 24-carat gold finial replaced two years ago after a vicious storm tore down the previous one. The building itself bears all the hallmarks of Mughal design; intricate carvings adorn the sandstone and marble frontage, declaring the skill of masons that built it. Step inside to find the imposing sepulchre, the eight sides of which represent the gateways to heaven. Walking around the immaculate gardens with their reflecting pools and fountains, you can see how this tomb influenced the Taj. But instead of battling for space at the infamous Princess Diana bench, visitors to Humayun’s Tomb can relax; there are plenty of superb photo opportunities here to enjoy at your leisure.
A recent restoration project has helped return the site to something approaching its former glory. So take a moment to sit and appreciate the special, meditative atmosphere – or catch up on your holiday reading.
If you want to stretch your legs, seek out the hidden graves and tombs in the rest of the grounds. Highlights include Isa Khan’s gorgeous white tomb and accompanying mosque, the Afsarwala Tomb and mosque, and, oddly enough, the tomb of Humayun’s favourite barber. This dense clustering of tombs is the reason why some call this complex the ‘Dormitory of the Mughals’. It’s little wonder that UNESCO has named Humayun’s Tomb a World Heritage site.
New Delhi. The tomb is super-accessible by public transport. Hop on the train from New Delhi central station to Nizamuddin East, and from there, you’ll only be 500 metres from the gates of the complex.
Dawn ’til dusk, open all week, although weekends tend to be busier.
Entry to Humayun's Tomb is Rs 500 for foreign tourists and an additional Rs 25 for video filming.
Although there’s no specific dress code for visiting Humayun’s Tomb, it’s best to be on the safe side and dress conservatively by covering your legs and shoulders.
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