Home > Delhi, Delhi Architecture, Delhi History, General > Isa Khan’s Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb Complex, Delhi

Isa Khan’s Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb Complex, Delhi

Isa Khan’s Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb Complex, Delhi

Although located inside the Humayun’s Tomb Complex, Isa Khan’s Tomb predates the Humayun’s Tomb by almost two decades.

Panoramic view of Isa Khan’s Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb Complex, Delhi

Panoramic view of Isa Khan’s Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb Complex, Delhi

Isa Khan Naizi (1453 – 1548) was a nobleman in the courts of Sher Shah Suri and his son Islam Shah Suri. Coming from an Afghan origin, Isa Khan Niazi belonged to the same linage as the Lodhis and also served as a noble man in the courts of Ibrahim Lodhi.

Isa Khan's Tomb, through the arch

Isa Khan’s Tomb, through the arch

With Sher Shah Suri overthrowing Humayun (1540 )and declaring himself the emperor of India, the Afghans were back again in power.

Sher Shah awarded his most trusted lieutenant Isa Khan with the title Azm – e – Humayoon and also gave him the governorship of Multan.

Even after Sher Shah’s death in 1545, Isa Khan continued to serve under his son and successor Islam Shah Suri.

Isa Khan decided to built himself a tomb and it was constructed within his lifetime, during 1547 – 48.

He died a few months later in the same year and was laid to rest in the magnificent octagonal tomb.

The octagonal tomb of Isa Khan is located at the centre of a octagonal complex and is surrounded by a sunken garden, the first of its kind in the whole of India. The recently discovered sunken garden, surrounding the Isa Khan’s Tomb, predates the famed gardens that Mughals built and popularised.

Ratish Nanda, Project Director for Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), responsible for the conservation and restoration of the Humayun’s Tomb Complex during 2011 – 13, says “It is also very significant as Isa Khan’s garden tomb can now be considered the earliest example of a sunken garden in India – attached to a tomb – a concept later developed at Akbar’s Tomb and at the Taj Mahal.”

Isa Khan's Tomb, Humayun's Tomb Complex, Delhi

Isa Khan’s Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb Complex, Delhi

During the restoration of the Humayun’s Tomb complex, AKTC archaeologists found that the original earth level in the enclosure of the Isa Khan Tomb was more than a meter lower than the present level.

Graves inside Isa Khan's Tomb

Graves inside Isa Khan’s Tomb

Over 3000 cubic meter of earth was removed to restore the garden to its original level.

Today the beautifully restored Isa Khan’s tomb lies in a octagonal enclosure and is approached through an arched gateway. The complex also houses a mosque dating back to the same period.

The octagonal Isa Khan’s Tomb is surrounded by a wide verandah, approachable by a flight of stairs.

Each of the eight side consists of triple arched entrances, decorated with blue, yellow and green glazed tiles.

Isa Khan's Tomb Fresco

Isa Khan’s Tomb Fresco

Each corner of the octagon is marked with slender tapering pillars rising above the roof and giving it a minaret- like appearance.

The roof containing the huge central dome, rests on a 32 sided drum and is crowned with an inverted lotus finial.

The roof also contains 8 chattris on each of the 8 sides.

The interior contains six graves, but it is difficult to spot the grave of Isa Khan  and nothing much is known about the occupant of the other five graves.

The seven of the eight walls contains intricate lattice stone work (jaalis) but the Western wall contains a miharba.

The walls contain fresco works but the highlight of the interiors of Isa Khan’s Tomb is the circular fresco on the ceiling.

Mosque at Isa Khan's Tomb Complex, Humayun's Tomb Complex

Mosque at Isa Khan’s Tomb Complex, Humayun’s Tomb Complex

The fresco, with its unique combination of multi coloured florals and geometric patterns, coupled with calligraphy, have added a gorgeous radiant glow to the once leaky and damp celling.

Multi coloured tile work, Mosque, Isa Khan's Tomb Complex

Multi coloured tile work, Mosque, Isa Khan’s Tomb Complex

On the western end of the Isa Khan’s Tomb complex is a small mosque. The mosque is as old as the tomb and is approached through three arched entrances.

Each of the arch is decorated with glazed tiles of blue, green and yellow, along with floral and geometric patters and calligraphy.

The central arch is larger than the two side arches and is much more grand and is flanked by red sandstone. The central arch leads to a central chamber with a elaborately decorated miharba on the western wall.

Isa Khan's Mosque Miharba

Isa Khan’s Mosque Miharba

The central chamber is crowned with a large dome. The dome is flanked on both sides by chattris.

Although Isa Khan’s Tomb is located within the famed Humayun’s Tomb Complex, it is definitely worth some time as it provides an insight into the pre – Mughal architecture.

  1. Surja
    October 1, 2014 at 6:55 AM

    A wonderful piece of architecture, such a profound use of geometry and calligraphy to leave one’s mark and thoughts in this world and thank you for the detailed review. Rangan da, your Delhi monuments series is spellbinding.

    • October 10, 2014 at 8:28 AM

      Thanks Surja, Delhi is an amazing place. It would probably need an entire lifetime to cover the monuments of Delhi!!!!

      • Surja
        May 18, 2016 at 6:51 PM

        Then I’ll have to spend a lifetime reading your fascinating articles :-p

  2. October 1, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    Brilliant ! From this post I learned that I tend to miss out many things around me 🙂 … I have been to Humyaun’s tomb and but never clicked such beautiful shots of Isa Khan Tomb.

    • October 10, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      Thanks VJ Sharma. Isa Khan’s Tomb and the Barber’s Tomb, both of which are located in the Humayun’s Tomb Complex are often missed by visitors.

  3. Rajdeep Routh
    October 1, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    Rangan da, interesting snaps….and an interesting building indeed. Had the pleasure of working on its conservation and made the drawings of this when was with AKTC, New Delhi. Your snaps reminded of the good time spent there….

    • October 10, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      Thanks Rajdeep, it is always inspiring to receive comments from conservation architects, who preserved monuments about which I write about!!!!

  4. October 6, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    It was quite informative.Good to know this.Thanks for sharing.

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