Homes and gardens

Just like Taj Mahal, but symmetry is missing

Safdarjung Tomb in Delhi is the last of a Mughal legacy in India. Chitra Ramaswamy takes a look

The Safdarjung Tomb, a mid-18th century edifice designed by an Ethiopian architect, marks the last colossal garden tomb of the Mughals and bears their cultural aspects and legacy in its architecture. The mausoleum, which resembles the Humayun’s Tomb in design and construction, is a scaled down version, less grand in appearance. The tomb stands in the centre of a verdant complex that comprises several apartments, a mosque and a courtyard.

A two-storey gateway, the facade of which is exquisitely embellished with floral motifs in purple colour over plastered surface, greets us as we enter the green sprawl. It bears an inscription in Arabic. The rear side of the entranceway has a library maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), and several rooms. A three-dome mosque, marked with stripes, stands to the right of the gate.

Four principal features characterise the tomb: the mausoleum at the centre is flanked on the four sides by the Char Bagh plan, a large podium with a secret stairway, a nine-fold floor plan and a pentagonal façade.

The main tomb, built of red sandstone and buff stone, stretches over an area of 300 sq. m, and rises majestically to a height of 92 ft. It is erected on an elevated platform and is surrounded by the charbagh-style Mughal garden, each of its four segments being square-shaped.

A rubble masonry wall surrounds the entire compound and it has conduits running over it, to carry water to the different pavilions in the complex.

Though the façade of the main tomb bears semblance to the Taj Mahal, it lacks the symmetry of the latter because of the undue emphasis on its vertical axis. The absence of proper proportioning of its various components make its dome appear elongated.

Vibrantly painted

While the central chamber of the tomb is square-shaped, its façade is defined by arches with octagonal chhathris or towers at the four corners. Each of these, and the interior of the tomb including its ceilings, are ornamented with incised, vibrantly painted rococo plaster.

The four towers around the main tomb have kiosks, displaying faded marble panels. The high terrace of the tomb is crowned by a massive bulbous dome that spikes up from a 16-sided drum. The central tomb chamber contains a cenotaph but the graves of Safdarjung and his wife Amat Jahan Begum are placed in an underground compartment of this central tomb.

From the tomb, four canals emerge like fingers and end at three pavilions and the main eastern entranceway. Variously named as Jangli Mahal, Badshah Pasand and Moti Mahal, these multi-chambered pavilions on the west, south and north, once served as royal residences. They presently house offices of the ASI.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 6:43:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/just-like-taj-mahal-but-symmetry-is-missing/article19518123.ece

Next Story