Read this article to learn about the Tombs in India: 9 Ancient Tombs in India!
1. Ghiyas-Ud-Din Tughlaq’s Tomb, Delhi, 1325 C.E:
In contrast to the ruins of Tughlaqabad, the tomb of Ghiyas-ud-din is surprisingly in perfect condition. This is standing within an artificial lake by the side of Tughlaqabad connected by an elevated causeway. This is a self- contained mini size fortress in the form of an irregular pentagon with a spreading bastion at each angle with a greatest length of 91 metres. The unusual shape is conditioned by the contours of the rocky land on which it was built. It contains a high terrace on which the tomb building was placed in the center.
The tomb building was placed at widest part in the courtyard in orientation with Mecca. Its square base is 19 metres and the height of the structure including the finial is over 24 metres. In the centre of each side, a tall pointed archway is recessed. Three of which contain doorways while the fourth or western side is closed to accommodate the mihrab in its interior.
It is a single chamber of 9 metres square inside, to which the source of light is only the three arched openings over the entrances. The dome was supported on four squinch arches in the same manner as that of Alai Darwaja. Three projecting stone brackets filled the angles between the octagon and sixteen-sided figure. The dome is a tartar dome having single shell and is crowned by a finial resembling the Kalasa and Amla (Vase and Melon motif).
The exterior design is similar to Alai Darwaja built by Alla-ud-din Khalji earlier at Delhi. The pointed arches have a row of fine sphere-heads in its intrados. The striking part of this tomb is the slope of the outer walls inclined at an angle of 75 degrees.
A notable element in the arch is the imposition of a lintel across the base of the arch, thus combining the arch and the beam. The tomb building is of red sandstone with certain portions including the dome in white marble. The total structure is outlined with merloned parapets.
Surrounding the terrace are the cloisters and on western side it was built into a mosque containing a mihrab. Within the courtyard there are several solidly built underground vaulted strong rooms to keep wealth. Some records reveal that a great treasure was laid here and molten gold poured into a cistern to make a mass of solid gold. As a whole the structure reveals the appearance of strength, solidity and powerful expression.
Khan-i-jahan Tilangani was the prime minister in the court of Firuz shah. He was also called Malik Maqbul. His tomb building is remarkable because it illustrates new kind of a tomb. This is the first octagonal tomb building built in India. Its design has strongly influenced other tomb buildings in the successive future.
The plan of the building is an octagon instead of usual square plan. For placing the dome over a square building it requires a device to convert the square shape into an octagon and then to a circular shape. But here the building itself was planned in an octagon. Hence the need of corner Squinch arches ceased. The main chamber was roofed by a low dome and surrounded by verandahs.
Each side of the octagonal verandah has three Tudor arches. Over these arches a chajja (an eave) projects. A range of eight cupolas one over each of octagonal side was imposed on the roof of the verandah. As this type of structure is a first attempt, hence the proportions are not much satisfying. But the octagonal shape, enclosing corridors and the cupolas over verandah roof are totally a new conception. But the structure is much ruined.
From the design of this small earlier building, those large and stately octagonal mausoleums emerged. But the earliest octagonal tomb built in India was of the famous saint Shah Rukn-i-Alam at Multan in Punjab state of Pakistan, built some fifty year ago. But it had no surrounding verandah.
This tomb now known as Hauz-i-khas is one among other ruined structures at Kotla Firuz Shah, Delhi. The other is identified as Madarassa (college) all situated beside an ornamental lake. This is square in plan of some 14 metres side.
The interior is a square chamber with squinch arches above, at each angle of the square compartment to support the dome roof. An arched mihrab is sunk in the western wall.
Externally the building has plain plastered walls sloping gently. The middle portion of the wall on each side was projected which enhanced the beauty of the façade. Within this, an arched door was fitted with a lintel on its top. Two sides have arched openings and the one on south is the entrance. The arched opening above the lintel is filled with a stone grill.
The walls are crowned by ornamental merlon parapet. Above this rises an octagonal drum, supporting a shallow dome. In front of entrance a low platform is extended surrounded by a stone railing made of uprights and two horizontal bars. As a whole the structure is graceful in its proportions with its gently sloping, plain, unadorned wall surfaces.
Attached to this building by the side is identified as Madarassa.
4. Tomb of Mubarak Shah Sayyid, Delhi, 1434 C.E:
This is the earliest tomb of Sayyid dynasty. It is an octagonal tomb building built over the remains of Mubarak Shah Sayyid at Kotla Mubarakpur at Delhi. Kotla Mubarakpur got its name after the name of Mubarak Shah Sayyid. The dimensions of this building are 9 metres each octagonal side, 23 metres wide, and 15 metres high including the dome.
The tomb contains the following:
a. Internal chamber with a dome above
b. Surrounding corridors supported on pillars
c. Kiosks one over each side of the verandah roof.
The design of this type of structure was still in experimental stage. Hence the proportions of the dome and kiosks are yet to be improved and adjusted. The height of the structure requires to be raised in proportion to the width.
There is a funerary mosque near this tomb. But now the surroundings of this tomb building were encroached closely by modern constructions like shops, houses etc. Hence the building is obscured.
This is the best example of Sayyid tomb monuments located near southwest corner of Lodi garden, Delhi. The design of this Maqbara is an inspiration with some modifications from the earlier tombs of Khan-i-jahan Tilangani and Mubarak Shah Sayyid both built at Delhi. The monument is elegant and some original coloured plaster work is still visible.
This is a royal octagonal tomb building consisting of a central chamber surrounded by verandahs. The chamber measures 7.16 metres in size having door openings into verandahs in each face. The openings are bridged by lintel and arch.
Each octagonal side has three arched openings divided by pillars. The two side openings are slightly narrower than the central one. The pillars at the angles are larger in size than other pillars. They are sloped externally by means of an attachment, which persists throughout the entire series. Eight kiosks are placed above verandah roof one each over octagonal side.
The dimensions of the tomb are similar to that of the tomb of Mubarak Shah Sayyid. But the drum of the dome and the kiosks (chatris) are elevated relatively improving its proportions. The effect here is satisfying, well-proportioned and pleasing.
The width of each octagonal face is equal to the height including basement and ornamental pinnacles at the corners. This height is half the entire height of the building including the finial.
This octagonal tomb structure produced after a gap of around three quarters of a century. It is much like the earlier tomb structures mentioned above. The measurements are similar to that of the tomb structure of Mohammed Shah Sayyid built at Delhi. But Sikander Lodi’s tomb has no kiosks over the verandah roof.
All the earlier tomb structures had the dome of one thickness. But here in this tomb, a change and an innovation is made. Here a double dome was built consisting of an inner and outer shell of masonry with a void space left in between. This is the first application of a double dome in Indian architecture.
The intention is to raise the height of the structure and the dome to present an imposing appearance. And at the same time the deep void space inside the dome is to be concealed from inside. Hence a two shell dome is made. This has improved the proportions of the structure. Based on this principle of double dome, larger and greater domes were built later.
Though the tomb building is impressive in all its aspects, but the kiosks are missing over verandah roof. This building would have been still better, if it has the kiosks.
7. Tomb of Shershah Sur, Sasaram, 1540 C.E:
This is one of the grandest and most imaginative architectural productions in whole of India built at Sasaram in Bihar state. The designer Aliwal khan’s efforts bore rich fruit. Lodi type of octagonal tomb design was conceptually implied, modified, filtered and transformed into a fine model. The entire structure stands in the centre of a large artificial lake of size of 305 metres side. Access to the tomb building is by means of a causeway, which was connected to a guardroom on northern side of the lake.
The tomb building is in five stages. The lowest is the basement rising directly from above lake water. Above this, is the large stone terrace. Both these are square in plan. A terrace of 9.15 metres high is enclosed by a parapet wall containing octagonal pillared pavilions placed at all corners.
Occupying the centre of the terrace is the tomb building. The building consists of an octagonal tomb chamber and a surrounding verandah. The tomb chamber is entered through the verandah by doorways, one on each side except on west, which is closed to accommodate the mihrab. The compartment is 20 metres in diameter. The interior walls are plain and the Qibla wall was decorated by graceful inscribed letters.
Beam and bracket method was used over void spaces. The lintels supported on projecting corbel were placed at angles in each stage. Light is entered through doors and perforated screens fixed above doors.
Externally the structure is in three diminishing stages.
The lowest storey is an open verandah of 3.10 metres wide having triple arches in each of its eight sides with a small projecting eave above. Over this rises a parapet with loopholes. Eight kiosks with cupola roofs were placed over the roof of verandah placed at corners.
The second stage is a plain wall similar to the tomb of Hasan Khan. Above this again pillared kiosks are placed at each angle.
The third stage above is the circular drum of the dome. The brick dome is a broad low dome crowned by lotus finial. It is raised directly to a height of 27 metres from the pavement and the dome is not a double dome.
The proportions of its diminishing stages, the harmonious transition from one form to other, the variety, simplicity, breadth and scale of each element and skillfully adjusted mass show high aesthetic capacity of the designer at its greatest.
Fine sandstone collected from local quarries at Chunar was used, giving an appearance of uniform grey mass. Striking colour schemes are added to most of the surfaces.
It was intended to place the building exactly to the compass, but on completion of the stepped plinth, error was found to some degrees. Therefore the remaining upper part of the building was carried out at an angle with its basement.
As a whole, the mausoleum of Shershah Sur at Sasaram is a great-inspired monument and a sober creation.
The mausoleum of Emperor Nasiruddin Mohammad Humayun at Delhi is one of the important and outstanding landmark structures in Mogul architecture. This is UNESCO’s world heritage site.
The construction of this tomb building appears to have begun in 1564 C.E, eight years after Humayun’s death. Hamida Banu Begum, the wife of Humayun and a most devoted consort has commissioned the tomb for her husband. As per some records, the mausoleum was designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect. The monument presents an Indian interpretation of Persian conception. Hence it stands as an example of two great building traditions, the Persian and the Indian.
The mausoleum was built in an immense square open garden with the tomb building placed in the centre. Humayun’s tomb structure ranks as first spacious tomb built symmetrically in a spacious garden having entrance gate ways. Some Lodi tombs built earlier have gardens, but were not up to the mark.
In the middle of each of four sides of enclosure, a large entrance structure was built through the archway of which the view of the tomb is presented. The garden is laid into an arrangement of squares and rectangles divided by paths and pavements well laid in harmony with the main structure.
The central building stands on a wide and lofty sandstone terrace, of some 7 metres in height. The sides of this basement are arcaded, each archway opening into a small vaulted chamber numbering to some 124 in all used to accommodate visitors or attendants. The tomb structure occupies the middle of a spacious upper platform of some 48 metres side and square in plan except certain projections and chamfered angles.
The interior is not a single compartment, but is a group of cells. The largest in the centre is the cenotaph of the emperor with smaller rooms at each angle for those of his family. All the rooms are octagonal in plan and connected to the central hall by radiating or diagonal passages. Light is admitted through clerestory perforated screens fitted within arched recesses in the walls.
In elevation all the four sides are alike except some changes in the main central part. Each face consists of a central rectangle containing an arched recess flanked by wings each possesses a similar but smaller arched alcove. Above all hangs the noble marble dome rising to a height of 43 metres. Pillared kiosk having a cupola roof rises over smaller rooms at each angle. The shape of the arches and their curves are finer and the arches are four-centered arch variety.
A well designed double dome appears here in this structure. The dome instead of consisting of one thickness of masonry, it contains two separate shells, one an outer dome and the other inner ceiling leaving a void space in between. The outer shell supports the white marble casing of the exterior.
The inner dome forms the vaulted ceiling of the main hall in the interior. This device enabled the ceiling placed at lower level in relation to the size of the hall and the outer dome rising to the desired height. The construction of double dome was already in practice in India. An attempt of double dome was already made in the tomb of Sikander Lodi, Delhi.
The fine visual effect of this monument is due to the skillful and admirable blending of red sandstone and white marble. There is perfection in its proportions, the interplay of its surfaces and planes, the shapes and distribution of voids, the graceful and bold curves of the arches and above all the grand volume of the dome. The building is shorter in height in proportion to its width. However these proportions were well realized and adjusted in the building of Tajmahal at Agra built some seventy years later.
Humayun’s tomb stood as an inspiring example for forthcoming great monument of Tajmahal built at Agra.
9. Tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah, Agra, 1628 C.E:
Itmad-ud-Daula is a title meaning Lord of Treasure or pillar of Government. Actual name is Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the father of Jahangir’s Queen Nurjahan by whom this tomb was built in 1628 C.E. This is small but an elegant structure more refined and more delicate.
The mausoleum stands in a square enclosure of 165 metres side with picturesque green garden against gateways of red sandstone. The white marble building fits like a gem within the green garden of lawns, pathways, tanks and fountains. The design of the building is original in its conception.
This is square in plan and is only 21 metres in size. The interior of the lower storey is an arrangement of rooms and passages with a central chamber containing the cenotaph. The square pavilion in the upper floor was built of screens of fine marble tracery. There are two yellow cenotaphs on its patterned and polished pavement.
The exterior of the building is too fine. It is a fine symmetrical marble edifice consisting of broad octagonal minarets at each angle crowned by fine pillared kiosks. A pavilion of appropriate size rises above the roof in the center. There are arched openings on each side producing voids in appearance.
A wide eave supported on ornamental brackets at a higher level provide horizontal lines and shadows. The wall surfaces are decorated in horizontal and vertical inlaid stone patterns dividing the plain surfaces into panels.
Its exquisite white marble enhanced the fineness and beauty of the structure. Hard and rare stones such as lapis, Onyx, Jaspera, Topaz, Cornelion and the like were embedded in the marble in decoration work.
The tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah figured as fine, elegant and variety monument in the architectural productions of Moguls. The Queen Nurjahan had built a fine monument to her noble father.