City Landmark - Unknown Grave, Near Humayun's Tomb

City Landmark – Unknown Grave, Near Humayun’s Tomb

City Landmark - Unknown Grave, Near Humayun's Tomb

A roadside resting place.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

It lies by the roadside, looking abandoned, ringed by weedy bushes and by hints of all sorts of litter and hidden lives crawling within. This striking-looking stone grave, in central Delhi, is to be found on the traffic-free road that goes from Humayun’s Tomb to Damdama Sahib Gurudwara.

Who lies buried there?

Who knows.

While Delhi harbours millions of people struggling through their daily lives, it is also a metropolis of the dead. Of many graveyards and of many old unknown graves littered across the landscape — today finding themselves by the busy avenues, amid the municipality gardens, along the chai stalls, and on less travelled footpaths where they remain hidden from view. Some of these graves are famous, a few are venerated as shrines of mystics, but most lie in neglect.

This grave stands like another black hole in the city’s past. It clearly has to be of some eminent person. The structure is standing higher than the usual anonymous graves one is used to in the city. The grave’s stony surface seems uneven, as if forced to melt and solidify successively by the passage of several centuries and seasons. The plinth on which it stands appears to give the illusion of molten lava, newly stiffened. This sunny afternoon it looks cheerful, as if content in anonymity.

Nearby, a man is lying on the pavement, sleeping soundly under a tree.

Since the grave is across the road from the northern walls of the 16th century Humayun tomb monument, it might date from early Mughal-era, but it would be difficult to confirm its exact period. The gravestone is cracked, and damp, and is unadorned, without any design or calligraphy, giving no clue about the person underneath.

It isn’t necessary to try to know more. In an era when every city street has been mapped for your mobile phone apps, and when you might Google something scandalous even on your boring anonymous neighbour, it is a consolation that some spots have escaped the tyranny of information. And that the person buried in this grave, for instance, is able to enjoy the precious right to be forgotten.

Now a thin brown dog appears, jumps over the grave and plops along its stone surface. As if it were his best friend.

Somebody’s sleeping


City Landmark - Unknown Grave, Near Humayun's Tomb


City Landmark - Unknown Grave, Near Humayun's Tomb


City Landmark - Unknown Grave, Near Humayun's Tomb