Friday, June 11, 2010

Safdarjung Tomb

Safdarjung Tomb, also called Safdarjung ka Maqbara is a beautiful garden tomb set amidst the hustle and bustle of Central Delhi. The tomb, yes as the name suggests is of Safdarjung. Safdarjung Tomb was built in 1754 A D and follows the precicints of Mughal Architecture in its full glory. The tomb though usually takes a backseat when compared to the other monuments and tombs in Delhi. The popular ones of Red Fort, Qutab Minar, Humayun Tomb, usually relegates this beautiful structure into the background. Located just off the busy stretch of Safdarjung Road, named after the tomb, the Safdarjung Tomb is hardly visible from the main road, shielded by a high wall boundary. All one gets is a wee bit glimpse of the dome rising into the sky from the Safdarjung Airport flyover, which is the greatest pity for a beautiful jewel is so totally camouflaged. Passing though the thick walls which form the boundary into the area actually takes one into another world, of leisure, open spaces, gardens…..where time literally stands still.

The Safdarjung tomb was built for Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan (who was given the title of Safdarjung), by his son Nawab Shujauddaula. Safdarjung was an able and powerful figure, the Governor of Oudh during the reign of the weak Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah (1719-1748) and a powerful Prime Minister to his successor Ahmad Shah (1748 – 1754). Safdarjung died in 1754 and the Tomb was built thereafter. The body of Safdarjung is buried along with another body thought to be that of his wife.The Tomb has been built in the same pattern of Mughal tombs, the mausoleum at the Centre and the gardens in the classic Char Bagh style surrounding it. This reference to history is given on the stone tablet at the entrance, the only bit of information available about the Tomb (there is no other publication or printed material available on it!!!)

The beautiful enamel work in stone and detailed motifs on the high walls at the entrance gate, give a precursor to what lies inside. As soon as one walks into the sunlit huge area, it is with awe one views the monument. Rising high in the traditional four column structure, with a huge dome is the tomb more on the lines of the Humayun Tomb. The four sides are connected by four waterways or canals, now dry though I am told for VVIP visits or special occasion it can work i.e. it is flooded with water. The entire structure is made of red sandstone and marble and is very striking and resembles the Humayun tomb.

The tomb has some excellent inlay work which can be seen from the outside. It has some beautiful marble carvings inside. As one proceeds into the area, one is left wondering by the heavy stone construction and how it is cool despite the warm weather outside. The garden on the outside which is being renovated now has been laid in the traditional char bagh style. With the palm lined trees on either side, it is a picture of complete bliss a hark into the era of how life once was leisurely and savoured!!!

The Archaeological Survey of India’s Delhi chapter has its offices located at the far end of the area. As also the library atop the entrance.

Location – About 8 kms from Connaught Place, very near Jor Bagh market. Near the Safdarjung Airport. It is on the main road so well connected by almost all modes of transport. 

Timings – The tomb is open from Sunset to Sunrise all the days of the week. Since there is a mosque where prayers are offered. A huge car park is convenient. The ticket price Rs. 5 for individuals and Rs. 100 for foreign tourists. The parking lot at the entrance is a huge relief!!

Highlight – The rooms at the top of the entrance occupy the library. It is quaint how a couple of rooms serve perfectly well in the modern century though built ages ago. The library though small has a good collection of books. Try going up, it is a revelation on the architecture and how it can sit cocooned in the modern day world!

Insider Tip – There is no leaflet, pamphlet or any written material available about the tomb, so read up on it or carry a guide book along. Guides are also difficult to come by. If you can take a trip to the ASI office, may be a helpful official can explain the structure and architectural elements better. A visit to this can be clubbed with Shopping at Dilli Haat (read Shopping At Dilli Haat) or INA Market, Sarojini Market or the Jor Bagh Market, each has its specialty and charm. A visit to the Lodhi Gardens, Khan Market or Sunder Nagar Market is also possible.