A melancholic spectacle.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

The mausoleum of Mughal aristocrat Safdarjung (1754), with its stained sandstone walls and inadequate marble, reflects the twilight years of a great empire. The ruin looks very sad and beautiful and perplexing — like an unfinished poem.

Considered to be the last large Mughal building erected in India (the first being Humayun’s Tomb), the white marble used on the dome was stripped from the nearby mausoleum of an early Mughal noble called Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana. But the plunder was not enough and so pink sandstone was used to finish off the incomplete patches of white. Despite the fact that Safdarjun’s Tomb looks like an out-of-focus impression of Humayun’s Tomb, it has a certain dignity-in-decline grace.

The large and windy double-storeyed gateway, which looks soft and gentle from the traffic junction outside, has a library and a verandah upstairs. The little mosque on the doorway’s right is handsome, but is closed to visitors. Its three onion domes gives a tantalizing glimpse into the skyline of Moscow’s Kremlin square.

A pathway lined with bottle palm trees leads to the tomb. Made of red and buff sandstone, it lies in the middle of a garden. The platform on which it stands has a series of cells with locked wooden doors. Squirrels run up and down the steep stone stairs. Pigeons perch on greater heights. The tomb’s pillars are ornamental, their tops ending in elegant jharokhas. The tomb chamber displays excessively ornate, almost cheesy, plaster decoration. The rooms around it have windows with views of the garden.

Built by the Nawab Shujauddaulah, Safdarjung’s son, the tomb is also the site of the head office of the Delhi circle of Archaeological Survey of India. The monument is mostly visited by lovers who want to escape the city’s prying eyes.

Where Aurobondo Marg Nearest Metro Station Jor Bagh Time Sunrise to sunset

An unfinished poem

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