The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 5 Gardens of the Plains - Delhi

Humayun Mughal Tomb Garden

Previous - Next

Humayuns actual reign was short and troubled, but he must be remembered here for three things: he was the father of the great Akbar-the baby son born to him and his sixteen-year old bride in their flight across the Sind Desert; his capital during the few years of his reign in India was the Purana Kila, the most beautiful fort of the many ruined Delhis; and the tomb, raised to his memory by his childless first wife, was the first great architectural monument of the Mughals, the plan of which was adopted eighty years after for the Taj. The mausoleum is about four miles to the south of modern Delhi; the road to it branching off from the main highway runs past the fine tomb of Isa Khan, and round the corner of an old garden wall with picturesque, brightly-tiled baradaris. The great dome of Humayuns tomb is the most conspicuous building in all the plains around Delhi; but the garden, a square of thirteen acres, in the midst of which the mausoleum stands, looks bare and disappointing. Its interest, however, lies in the fact that it is the earliest Mughal garden in India which still preserves intact its original plan. The Ram Bagh, at Agra, is of course earlier, but there the design is quite obscured by modern roads and plantations. At Humayuns garden-tomb, on the other hand, the stone channels and fountain basins have lately been carefully restored; though unhappily the garden seems to have been swept bare of its characteristic fruit trees and shade. The site chosen for this Mughal garden of the plains is practically level, and like the Taj the garden ends in a terrace on the old river-bank. The invariable watercourse, with raised paths on either hand, leads up from the gateway to the mausoleum, but the water channel is very narrow, being hardly two feet across. Instead of the usual simple plan-the four long waterways- the garden is made up of a labyrinth of little channels. These form an inner and an outer square enclosing the high platform of the tomb, ornamented, wherever the paths cross each other, with a small tank, sometimes on the same level, sometimes sunk in the centre of a raised chabutra. The numerous little tanks are outwardly square, with a lower inside ledge of stone, modifying them into oval, octagonal, or round water basins, the whole effect being reminiscent of the shallow fountains and narrow watercourses of the earliest gardens in Kashmir. The illustration, Plate XV. from the copy of Babars Memoirs, gives a picture of the feast of the birth of Humayun, which takes place in just such a garden.