I visited Safdarjung’s Tomb on a sultry Saturday morning. This fine specimen of the Mughal Architecture is popularly referred to as “the last flicker in the lamp of Mughal Architecture”.
Just as I was entering this Mughal monument, I prepared my camera instinctively at the arched entrance gate. These arched gates offer quite a splendid view of the main tomb.
Even as I clicked the picture of Safdarjung’s Tomb, I couldn’t help noticing its similarity to Humayun’s Tomb which also happens to be located in the vicinity.
Just a stone throw away from rather crowded and tourist happy Lodi Garden and located on the cross-section of the same Lodi Road that hoses the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb, Safdarjung Tomb is uncharacteristically bereft of tourists.
Nothing improves authority as much as silence and it’s apparent when you behold the sight of the tomb of Safdarjung. A visit to Safdarjung’s Tomb is to discover that solitude is the expression of the glory of being alone.
This unsymmetrical yet beautiful mausoleum is literally left alone by tourists and locals alike except for some random couples who find this place as a perfect refuge to spend time together.
Background of Safdarjung’s Tomb
Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan or Safdarjung was a Persian nobleman who arrived in Delhi in late seventeenth century during the dying day of the great Mughal Empire. He married a noble woman who happened to be the daughter of the governor of Awadh (Oudh).
It is believed that he succeeded his father in law and became the Nawab of Awadh after paying a few crores to Nadir Shah who invaded India and defeated the Mughal army at the Battle of Karnal on 13 February 1739.
Defeated by Nadir Shah, a stunned and weak Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah ruled the scarred and bloodied city of Delhi for 9 more years during which Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan gained substantial control of the Mughal Empire.
And When Ahmad Shah Bahadur ascended the throne; he was given the honorary tile Wazir ul-Mamalik-i-Hindustan. As the saying goes “power corrupts”, Safdarjung soon alienated other nobles in court and was later disgraced and dispelled in the civil war that broke out.
He returned to Awadh a broken man and soon died in October 1755 at the age of 46 at Faizabad which he had made his military headquarter.
Architecture of Safdarjung’s Tomb
Construction and architecture of Safdarjung’s Tomb is a perfect ode to the turbulent times during which this mausoleum was built. The mausoleum of Safdarjung was built using the marble and sandstone pillaged from the tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khana which is located in Nizamuddin close to Humayun’s Tomb.
Safdarjung Tomb is one of the 2 charbagh (Mughal garden) mausoleum in Delhi, the other one being the Humayun’s Tomb. Safdarjung is also designed to imitate its grander counterpart Humayun’s Tomb and Taj Mahal but fails miserably when it comes to symmetry. In the word of renowned historian and writer William Dalrymple:
“Like some elderly courtesan, the tomb tries to mask its imperfections beneath thick layers of make-up; it’s excesses of ornament are worn like over-applied rouge. Even the little mosque to the side of the gate has a whiff of degeneracy about it; its three domes are flirtatiously striped like the flared pyjamas of nautch girl; there is something voluptuous in its buxom curves.”
Whereas Humayun’s Tomb has chhatris as the part of mausoleum instead of minarets which were used in Taj Mahal but were external to the main mausoleum, minarets of Safdarjung’s Tomb are part of the main complex.
Dalrymple further adds:
“…Moreover, the tomb has an unmistakably threadbare quality to it. As the traditional Delhi quarries near Agra were no longer controlled by the Mughals … the builders were forced to strip other Delhi tombs in order to gather material for Safdarjung’s memorial… The effect is like a courtier in a tatty second-hand livery: the intention grand, but the actual impression tawdry, almost ridiculous.”
Experience at Safdarjung’s Tomb
The entrance to the mausoleum is through an double storied arched gateway where you get good photo ops to capture the tomb. The walway that leads to the tomb has elevated water canal in tradition of charbagh but everytime I visit this tomb I have found it sans water.
If you have visited various Mughal monuments you would have definitely noticed palm trees. Palm trees I believe were intrinsic part of these gardens. As you enter Safdarjung’s Tomb, you’d notice walkway flanked by tall palm trees on the either side offering enchanting vista.
Although, architecturally flawed in opinion of historians and architects, I find this mausoleum rather impressive to look at. The front façade presents a glorious face with tall pishtaq and minarets which are embedded in the tomb complex.
The tomb itself is nestled on the raised plinth and could be reached from all four sides. Mausoleum of Safdarjung lies in the center of the lush and well manicured garden where I could sit idle or just lie down for hours. And believe me! So could you.
The tomb could be entered from all four sides but it’s the pistaq which is the gem of the entrance. Interior of the mausoleum are just incredible and a delight to behold. Stucco carvings inside the tomb complex are exquisite.
In the center of tomb is an exquisite piece of art: the pure white cenotaph of the most powerful vizier of dying Mughal Empire. Safdarjung lies interred in the chamber below which is now inaccessible.
There are 3 pavilion in the three ends of the complex which are named Jangli Mahal (West), Moti Mahal (North) and Badsahah Pasand (South). These pavilions were used by the family of the Nawabs as temporary residence when they visited Delhi for purpose of court and state.
Things to know before you go to Safdarjung’s Tomb
Location: Intersection of Safdarjung Road and Aurobindo Marg
Nearest Metro Station: Jor Bagh (walking distance)
Open on: Throughout the week
Timings: Sunrise to Sunset
Entry Fee: INR 5 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners
Photography Charges: Free (still camera), 25 (video camera)
Parking Available: Yes
Distance: 1 kilometer from Lodi Garden and 2.5 kilometers from Khan Market
A few more photos of the tomb:
- Tungnath Temple: Footloose in Himalayas
- Friday Mystery Photo