Safdarjung’s Tomb, the last flicker of lamp of Mughal Architecture
The last flicker of lamp of Mughal Architecture
Located at the heart of Delhi, the Safdarjung’s Tomb is the last of the Mughal styled mausoleum, complete with the Mughal style charbagh garden.
Safdarjung’s mausoleum is built in the lines of the Humayun’s mausoleum, the first example of mature Mughal Architecture in India. Sadly Safdarjung’s mausoleum, lacks the beauty, grace and elegance of its former counterpart.
Safdarjung’s tomb lacks the proportion of the Humayun’s Tomb or of the Taj Mahal and has a pronouncedly vertical elevation, and lacks the pyramidal feeling, in the process loosing its balanced character.
William Dalyrample in his book City of Djinns puts it as “Safdarjung’s Tomb with its bulbous dome and stained sandstone walls seems somehow flawed and degenerate…….Safdarjung’s tomb……… at first sight looks wrong: its lines look somehow faulty, naggingly incorrect”
In spite of all its weakness, the Safdarjung’s tomb has the distinction of being the last of the Mughal styled mausoleum of India. It is also housed inside one of the most preserved Mughal gardens of Delhi.
Safdarjung’s tomb is a must visit for tourists looking beyond the conventional tourist spots of Delhi.
The real name of Safdarjung was Muhammad Muqim and served as the viceroy of Oudh, under the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah, who was popularly known as Rangila. He was awarded the title of Safdarjung by Muhammad Shah, and later became his prime minister.
Safadrjung was an able administrator and soon turned the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah into a puppet.
Muhammed Shah, who was known as Rangila (the colourful), was more than pleased to leave the empire in the hands of Safdarjung and preferred to be entertained by jugglers, ventriloquists, mime artist and conjurers.
With the death of Muhammad Shah, Safadarjung took total control over the Mughal empire, turning the new Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur into a figurehead and left him to console himself with drink, opium and his harem.
Eventually Safdarjung overplayed his plan and finally the Imperial family called the Hindu Marathas to get rid of their troublesome vazir (Prime Minister).
Finally, Safdarjung was driven out of Delhi and returned only in his death, when his son Shuja – ud -Daula begged for permission to build his fathers tomb in Delhi.
Safdarjung’s Tomb, standing on a 18.28 m square base, was constructed in 1754.
The tomb is surrounded by a charbagh styled Mughal Garden, covering an area of 300 sq. m. The compound is divided into four equal squares by wide pathways and tanks. Each of the squares are further divided into four equal squares by narrow passageways.
The entire compound is surrounded by a rubble masonry wall, with channels over them to carry water to different pavilions. The boundary wall contains a series of arches on its inner side and the four corners are crowned with octagonal chhatris.
Entrance is from the Eastern side, through an impressive double storied gateway. The gateway contains several apartments, a courtyard and even a mosque.
The centre of the Western wall is occupied by Jangali Mahal (Sylvan Palace). The Northern and the Southern wall houses the Moti Mahal (Pearl House) and Badshah Pasand (King’s Favorite) Palace respectively, in the central position.
At the very centre of the complex, stands the Safdarjung’s Tomb, with its red and buff sandstone structure relieved with marble. Sadly, the marble looks spotted and the sandstone stained.
For the lack of funds and unavailability of marbles and sandstones, the builders were forced to strip the nearby Abdul Rahim Khan – i – Khanan’s Tomb and use the marble and sandstone.
It seems that halfway through the construction, the marble ran out and the builders were forced to patch up the white marble with pink sandstone, resulting into patches of pink sandstone intruding into the glistening of the white marble dome.
Standing on a high platform, the Safdarjung’s Mausoleum is crowned with a large bulbous dome rising from a sixteen sided drum. The corners of the square mausoleum are occupied by polygonal towers crowned with chhatris.
The central tomb chamber is square in shape and contains one cenotaph, but the anti chamber below (not open to public) contains two graves, presumably the second one belongs to Safdarjung’s wife.
The central chamber is flanked by eight smaller chambers, with the corner ones octagonal in shape.
Each of these chambers are ornamented with incised and painted plaster work.
With all its weaknesses, the Safdarjung’s Tomb is rightly described as “the last flicker in the lamp of Mughal architecture in Delhi.”
- City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
- Delhi and its Neighborhood by Archeological Survey of India (ASI)