Mar
22

Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi – Discover Perfectly Imperfect!

Delhi is a treasure trove of fascinating heritage, history, and culture. Humayun’s Tomb, Qutub Minar, Red Fort, Purana Quila, Jama Masjid, Tughlaqabad Fort and many more ancient structures echo the glorious past of the Indian capital city. The Tomb of Safdarjung (Safdarjung Ka Maqbara) in Delhi is one of the innumerable historical places that India’s capital city hides in its bosom. Though not as grand as its counterpart, Humayun’s Tomb, this 18th-century garden tomb will definitely mesmerize you with its architectural beauty.

Walking through the mausoleum is like exploring the secrets beneath layers of Indian history. A happy hunting ground for a history buff in you, The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi is sure to fascinate you.

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

Settled in the heart of Delhi, a mausoleum, barely known and sporadically thought of, is a testimonial both to the power that Safdarjung maintained in the briskly crumbling kingdom as well as to the essence of humanity to ascend against all obstacles and bigotries to attain a seat of supremacy as Abul Mansur Mirza Muhammad Muqim Ali Khan (Persian by birth) better known as Safdarjung did. The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah bestowed him the title of “Safdarjung”.

In 1739, Mirza Muhammad Muqim became the Nawab of Avadh under the rule of the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah. Following the death of the Mughal Emperor, his son Ahmad Shah took over the power in 1748. That’s when Mirza Muhammad Muqim was promoted to the position of the Prime Minister and was awarded the title of “Wazir ul-Mamalk-i-Hindustan”. Alas, his fame and power were short-lived. Ahmad Shah dismissed him from all his responsibilities in 1753 when he was accused of exploiting his power and privileges. History has it that he was a victim of court politics as his fame and power made other courtiers jealous.

Safdarjung’s son, Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula built the tomb of Safdarjung in the memory of his father in 1754 after the Mughal Emperor granted his plea to construct one.

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi gateway
Astonishing stucco-work on the gateway of the complex.

Many contemporary structures (Safdarjung Airport, Safdurjung Hospital, and Safdurjung Enclave) and a road (Safdarjung Road) are named after him. The tomb located on Safdurjung road symbolizes Safdarjung’s wherewithals as well as the tempestuous time that the Indian subcontinent was enduring.

ARCHITECTURE OF THE SAFDARJUNG TOMB

Entering from the huge pylon, one feels surprised at the architecture of the tomb that the curved walls envelopes adroitly; albeit tourists hardly visit this almost forgotten burial of one of the most influential Prime minister (wazir) of the Mughal dynasty.

Said to have been inspired by the Humayun’s Tomb, the tomb of Safdarjung is one of the last monuments of Mughal Architecture. Thus, It has been aptly described as “The last flicker in the dying lamp of Mughal Architecture in Delhi.”

tomb of safdarjung in Delhi huge gardens

The tomb carries the conventional Mughal architectural feature of char bagh where the tomb is enveloped by four square gardens on each side with a courtyard and a three-domed mosque.

As soon as one enters the tomb complex, all chaos and noise seem to evaporate regardless of the fact that the Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi is located on two of the bustling and traffic-jammed arterial roadways – Safdarjung Road and Aurobindo Marg.

Striding into the impressive mausoleum, the absolute symmetry of the tomb structure and beautifully manicured garden (Char Bagh Mughal Garden) with flowering trees and shrubs catch one’s attention. Soaring high from its pedestal, the exquisite tomb is pure delicacy for the eyes despite in the ridiculing opinion of numerous architects, historians, scholars and writers the tomb is visually and architectonically unsound as its petite pedestal seems to unable to balance the conspicuous upright arbor of the tomb and white marble is clumsily infused with pink stone on its colossal dome (It is supposed that Mughal and Awadh dynasties had collapsed to destitute condition of survival with low financial support at the time of construction of the structure; so architects were compelled to manage with prowled supply from other tombs – majorly from tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan who was one of the Navaratnas in Akbar’s court).

However, to me, the tomb, with its stillness and quiescence and most importantly with its less human presence is a blessing. The beautiful monumental tomb, built out of white marble and red sandstone in 1754 looks graceful and grand regardless of all its clear and apparent flaws.

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi
And the beauty!

The grand two-storey tomb of Safdarjung comprises of 8 rooms, the central one enclosing Safdarjung’s casket with a huge oblong room along each of the sides and tiny octadic rooms along the edges. Steps from the pedestal lead up to the mausoleum and the interiors can be infiltrated from two of the sides through the stairs. Each of the side chambers is adorned with flamboyant stucco work concluding into flower patterns, curved motifs at the side of each flower. The corner rooms have comparable basic and simple interiors with the walls narrowing en routing the ceiling which is adorned with a plain floral emblem in the middle and small cubicles built on each side.

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi

The central room houses the delicately glistened, white marble cenotaph which is evened by the intricate design of limestone that wraps the walls. The dome consists of parallel floral patterns stretched over by abundant consecutive lines to form a well-proportioned and well-executed geometric motif.

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi pavilion
One of the three pavilions of the Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi

Surprisingly, each and every point in the complex is utterly symmetrical to other points and together they all blend to form a beautiful mesh of curves, lines, floral patterns, and arrangements.

I captured the beauty and serenity of the place to my heart’s content without the cheeky visitors and tourists treading into my frame. It isn’t just enough to witness the beauty but to observe the details from diverse perspectives, especially when taking pictures; I took many photographs from every imaginable spot so much so that spider webs stuck to my hair and dress!

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi Interiors
Beautiful plaster-work on the ceiling and Spectacular interior arches.

The site boasts an ambiance of unruffled tranquillity as it normally has few ASI staff members, guards, and calculable tourists. Ah! Not to forget the troop of monkeys and muster of colorful peacocks. We spotted a peacock dancing and stood there awestruck. But the chances of seeing peacocks is only when one visits early in the morning as we did.

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi stone coffin
Safdarjung’s sarcophagus.

Couples finding solace come here to escape from the people’s snoopy and judgemental eyes (I’ve been observing during my visit to different places in Delhi that secluded historical ruins and places are kinds of Promised Land for lovers).

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi dome
Lovely dome inside the tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi

Estuary emerge from the pivotal quadrate in all the four directions, however, they are completely dry and aridity allows to step down into the tank through stairs and capture the different view of the tom. Each side of the quadrate mausoleum, excluding the one with the entrance, has sizeable and broad centrally located structures, designated Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Jangli Mahal (Palace in the Woods or Forest) and Badshah Pasand (The King’s or Emperor’s favorite) correspondingly. Jangli Mahal has been restored to ASI office and depository to stock the construction material that is to be used in the revival work of ASI monuments.

Other than the building that encloses the ASI office, the other two are inaccessible for tourists. The pavilion with ASI office has beautiful intricately carved stucco work which has, of course, perished with time. The tomb complex including the library located over the main gate is managed by ASI.
The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi
Symmetry

GOOD TO KNOW

  • The 2013 American movie ‘Jobs’ was filmed in the Safdarjung Tomb. The movie’s directed by Joshua Michael Stern and the cast includes Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, and Josh Gad.
  • This mausoleum is the first disabled-friendly monument in the country, with ramps to allow wheelchair access and information board in Braille at the entrance simultaneously with the normal red sandstone boards.

ESSENTIALS

Location

Safdarjung Tomb is located on Lodhi Road in South Delhi.

Getting there

The Garden Tomb is well-connected by local buses, metro, auto rickshaws, and cabs. Safdarjung Airport is the nearest airport and Jor Bagh is the nearest metro station. Moovitapp can help you find the public transit to Safdarjung Tomb.

Best Time to Visit

Winter (September – February) is the best time to visit the tomb or any other place in Delhi for that matter. If you happen to visit during summer, choose early morning or late evening timings when temperatures drop to some extent to avoid the uncomfortable heat.

Opening Days and Timings

The tomb of Safdarjung is open on all days from sunrise to sunset (7 am to 5 pm.)

Entry Fee

The entrance is free for children up to 15 years and ₹ 15 per person for adults (Indians) and ₹ 200 for foreigners. Still camera photography is free but you have to pay ₹ 25 to use a video camera.

Time Required / Duration of Visit

It normally takes 1 to 2 hours to explore the mausoleum though there’s no limit to it (of course till the closing time) if you want to enjoy this historical wonder and its natural surroundings for some more time.

The Tomb of Safdarjung in Delhi certainly isn’t flawless. But when seen exclusively without any bigotry; it is pretty elegant. And nothing legitimizes the indifference to the beautiful historical wonder or that almost negligible (15/-) entry fee.

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