I feel embarrassed to say this but in over ten years of travelling to Delhi for work, I had never actually seen anything of Delhi itself apart from a hotel room or the view of the busy streets in the evenings from a Tuk Tuk racing to a restaurant for dinner. Earlier this year though, I finally fought through the tiredness straight after landing into India and went to explore Humayun’s Tomb for the afternoon.
Humayun’s Tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Nizamuddin East in the city of Delhi. It is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and was commissioned by his widow Bega Begum nine years after his death. It was built from 1565-1572 and was the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent. Nearly a century later, Humayun’s Tomb was one of the inspirations for the Taj Mahal.
Humayun’s Tomb is open daily from sunrise to sunset and the easiest way to get there is to take either a taxi or Tuk Tuk. Even though Nizamuddin Railway Station and the JLN Stadium station on the Violet Line of the Delhi Metro are close, you would still need to get a taxi or Tuk Tuk from both as it is a 2km walk to the entrance to the tomb from them and in the hot temperatures of Delhi, that’s not fun.
From my hotel in Bhikaji Cama Place, I took an Uber which cost 207 Rupees (£2.30) however despite only being six miles, the journey took about 45 minutes due to the crazy Saturday afternoon traffic in Delhi. After walking through the car park, I joined a long line to buy my ticket but was very quickly pointed to another queue by one of the security guards. There are actually two ticket windows – one for Indian nationals which was the one that had a long line and one for foreigners which had no line. I paid the foreigner entrance fee which was 500 Rupees (£5.50) however Indian nationals only pay 30 Rupees (35p). Children under 15 can enter free of charge and there is a 25 Rupee fee if you have a video camera with you – there is no charge for normal digital cameras.
I arrived at Humayun’s Tomb just after 3:00pm and even though it was the weekend, it was not as busy as I thought it would be. For the first time I can remember in a long time, there were blue skies and not the normal haze and dust storms. To reach the tomb you have to walk through Bu Halima Garden and the Bu Halima Gate before walking down a path towards the West Gate.
The West Gate is 16 metres high and is the main entrance to Humayun’s Tomb.
As you walk through the West Gate, you get your first sight of the breathtakingly beautiful Humayun’s Tomb. The tomb is 47 metres high and is built from red sandstone and located in the centre of a Chag Bagh Garden. The gardens are divided into four areas and then into thirty six squares (all with the exact same measurements on all sides) using walk ways and flowing water and represent the Paradise Garden described in the Quran.
Despite there being many people as soon as you walked through the West Gate, the gardens were peaceful so it was easy to find a quiet spot to sit and take in the view of the tomb. Despite being in the centre of a busy and crazy city such as Delhi, it felt incredibly serene. It was very easy to take photos with no one in sight just by walking round to another side of the tomb.
A steep set of stairs located on each side of the tomb lead up to the 7 metre high platform. At this point in the afternoon, the sunlight on the red sandstone of the tomb was making it glow a beautiful colour. It was incredible to see in person.
Emperor Humayun was previously buried in two different locations before the tomb was completed. Inside, the chamber which is made of white marble was cool and a welcome break from the hot sun outside. The sun streamed through the lattice windows making beautiful shadows across the floor and his grave. Whilst inside the chamber, I did witness a full Instagram shoot going on using the shadows which was incredibly disrespectful.
As well as the central burial chamber, are there also other chambers on each side where the tombs of other Mughal royal family members and nobility can be found.
After leaving the tomb, I made my way through the Arab Ki Sarai Gateway which was the entrance to the Arab Sarai which accommodated the craftsman who built Humayun’s Tomb. This is also where the Afsarwala (Officers) Tomb and Mosque is located.
My last stop of the day was the Isa Khan Tomb which was built twenty years before Humayun’s Tomb. The tomb is octagonal in shape and located in a garden which is also octagonal. It is the burial place of the entire family of Isa Khan. Isa Khan’s Mosque is also located in this area.
I spent just over two hours at Humayun’s Tomb and left just after 5:30pm. Thankfully the traffic back to my hotel was much better so the journey only took fifteen minutes and cost 180 Rupees (£2). If you wanted to get a normal taxi, there were lots of them waiting in the car park if needed.
As for advice I can give for visiting Humayun’s Tomb – the first would be to dress appropriately and make sure your knees and shoulders are covered up. Even though it was a hot day, I just wore a lightweight cardigan over the top of a vest top with a pair of linen trousers to cover myself up. As a Westerner, I feel like we stand out anyway in some countries and I would never want to stand out for the wrong reasons such as not wearing the right clothing.
My second piece of advice would be to bring a bottle of water with you as I did not see any shops or stalls selling drinks – not even outside the entrance to the tomb and gardens. It gets hot and there is no worse feeling than being dehydrated.
The last thing to be aware of is the “Selfie Seekers“. Whilst I was taking a photo of the tomb, a man walked up and stood next to me and held his camera in front of my face to get a selfie with me without asking. When I refused and moved away, he tried again several times and I had to shout at him to stop – I’d just done a night flight from London with no sleep and was out in the blistering heat of Delhi and sweating so a photo is the last thing I wanted. Thankfully there was a security guard nearby who started walking over straight away and the man and his friends quickly scurried away. I have no problems if someone was to ask beforehand – I would have still refused – but this was just rude.
So after finally going out to explore Delhi, I absolutely loved visiting Humayun’s Tomb. Looking back through my photos has given me a serious case of wanderlust to see more on my next visit to the incredible country of India and my dream of visiting the Taj Mahal which I’ve had since I was little has only grown stronger. It will be a great day when it finally happens!
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