Humayun's Tomb is a top Delhi attraction and one of the city's prominent Mughal-era monuments. It contains the body of the second emperor of the Mughal Dynasty, Emperor Humayun, who reigned in the 16th century. However, mysteriously, it wasn't completed until nearly 15 years after his death. Humayun's Tomb was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The grandiose monumental mausoleum, with its elaborate garden setting, was the first of its kind in India. It created a new style of Mughal architecture, which served as inspiration for later Mughal monuments such as the Taj Mahal.
Find out more about Humayun's Tomb and how to visit it in this complete guide.
Emperor Humayun ruled India twice: from 1530 to 1540, and 1555 to his death in 1556. Not long after coming to power, in 1533, he started building his capital city (known as Din Panah) in present-day Delhi and one of Delhi's oldest forts (Purana Qila). His reign was temporarily interrupted by Afghan Sultan Sher Shah Suri, who was once a commander in the Mughal army. Sher Shah Suri founded the Suri Empire and became an independent arch rival of Humayun. After a succession of battles, he finally defeated him in the Battle of Kannauj.
Humayun was forced into exile and Sher Shah Suri took over Din Panah, which he turned into his own city called Shergarh.
The death of Sher Shah Suri in 1545, and his son in 1554, weakened the Suri Empire. This provided an opportunity for Humayun to regain control of India and restore Mughal rule. Humayun's triumphant return was cut short by his untimely death a year later though, after he tripped and fell down the stairs of his library at Din Panah. This brought to an end the illustrious plans for the city he hoped to develop.
There was much turmoil in the city after Humayun's death, and this may also explain why the construction of his mausoleum was delayed. His body is believed to have initially been entombed at Din Panah but Suri invaders forced it to be relocated to Sirhind, in Punjab, for a while.
Work on Humayun's Tomb began in 1562 and finished almost a decade later. The monument was designed by Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, who had extensive experience in Bukhara (Uzbekistan). It was overseen by Humayun's son and successor, the great Emperor Akbar, and Humayun's widow Haji Begum. The enormous scale and extravagant form of the monument seem to indicate that Akbar had significant input into it, with the aim of making a statement about his intention to expand Mughal rule across India.
Emperor Akbar preferred to be in Agra, and he established a new capital at Agra Fort before Humayun's Tomb was completed. This made upkeep of the monument and its manicured garden challenging, and its condition began to deteriorate.
Although the Mughals decided to return to Delhi in 1638, they built a lavish new capital in a different area. Emperor Shah Jahan founded the city of Shahjahanabad (including the iconic Red Fort and Jama Masjid) in the area known as present-day Old Delhi. The Mughals remained there until the end of their empire, at the hands of the British, in 1857. However, Humayun's Tomb was where the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was captured after he fled there.
During British rule, the garden around Humayun's Tomb was used for cultivation. Later, following the 1947 Partition of India, refugee camps were set up on the grounds. The camps remained for about five years, resulting in substantial damage to the monument and its gardens.
Lack of government resources meant the monument continued to suffer from neglect and poor quality repairs until its UNESCO World Heritage listing brought renewed interest. In 1997, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture privately-financed and undertook the restoration of the monument's sprawling garden and historic fountains. This was followed up by a vast six-year restoration of the tomb and other structures, involving specialist craftsmen from Uzbekistan and Egypt, from 2007 to 2013. Restoration works are still ongoing in various parts of the monument complex.
Humayun's Tomb sits to the south of Purana Qila. It's near the intersection of Mathura Road and Lodhi Road, in New Delhi's Nizamuddin East neighborhood.
How to Visit Humayun's Tomb
The monument is open daily from sunrise until sunset. Ideally, allow an hour or two to see it. Aim to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon during the week to avoid the crowds. Weekends are particularly busy, and long lines for tickets are common. If you don't want to wait in line, you can purchase tickets online here.
The price of tickets increased in August 2018, and a discount is provided on cashless payment. Cash tickets now cost 40 rupees for Indians, or 35 rupees cashless. Foreigners pay 600 rupees cash, or 550 rupees cashless. Children under 15 years of age can enter for free.
Unfortunately, there aren't any metro train stations close to Humayun's Tomb. The nearest one is Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on the Violet Line, 20 minutes walk away. Auto rickshaws are available. Alternatively, take the Yellow Line to Jor Bagh Metro Station and an auto rickshaw to the monument from there via Lodhi Road. Humayun's Tomb is also a stop on the Hop-On-Hop-Off Delhi Sightseeing Bus Tour.
You may wish to hire a guide to accompany you around the monument and explain its historical significance. Guides will approach you at the entrance but will leave you alone once you choose one. It's not really necessary though, as the monument complex has plaques with information about the structures on them. Another option is to download an app for your cell phone, such as this Humayun’s Tomb CaptivaTour.
Do be aware that the area outside the monument is chaotic, with plenty of hawkers and beggars. Expect to be hassled by auto rickshaw drivers too, who will offer outrageous fares or want to take you to shops where they get commissions. Ignore them, and get an auto rickshaw from the roundabout.
What to See
Humayun’s Tomb is actually part of a large complex that covers about 27 hectares of land and has several other garden tombs that were constructed earlier in the 16th century. They include the tomb of Isa Khan (an Afghan nobleman during the reign of Sher Shah Suri), Nila Gumbad (the Blue Dome, thought to contain the body of Fahim Khan who served Mughal nobleman Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan), Afsarwala Tomb and Mosque (built for noblemen working in Emperor Akbar's court), and the tomb of Bu Halima (an unknown woman said to be part of Humayun's harem).
The Arab Serai, where the craftsman who built the mausoleum stayed, is of interest as well. It has an impressive gateway that's been restored.
Entrance to Humayun’s Tomb is through the lofty western gate, which opens out onto its expansive geometrical garden. This garden was designed to replicate the description of paradise in the Quran, promised to be the final resting place of the faithful, with four quadrants (char bagh) representing four rivers that flow from it.
Humayun’s mammoth red sandstone mausoleum is inlaid with contrasting white marble, and sits on a giant platform in the center of the garden. What may be surprising, is that the emperor isn't the only person to be buried in it! In fact, the mausoleum has more than 100 graves, giving it the name "Dormitory of the Mughals." Most of them, possibly belonging to noblemen, are located in chambers inside the platform. In addition, there are tombs in rooms connected to the main chamber that contains Humayun’s grave.
These are thought to house the bodies of Humayun’s wives and other family members.
The mausoleum's remarkable architecture grows out of earlier Islamic buildings but is notably distinct from it, with a blend of Persian and local Indian influences. Its small domes, lined with blue and yellow tiles, are a particular highlight. During the restoration process, traditional artisans from Uzbekistan taught local Indian youth how to make the tiles.
Recently, 800 energy-saving LED lights were affixed to the mausoleum's feature marble dome to illuminate it after sunset. The lit-up dome is visible on the city's skyline, with the striking effect mimicking moonlight.
There's one structure within the garden of Humayun’s Tomb that was built after the mausoleum was completed. Known as Barber’s Tomb, it belongs to the royal barber who served Humayun.
What Else to Do Nearby
There are so many attractions in the vicinity of Humayun’s Tomb that you'll need to pick and choose the ones that appeal the most.
The tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana is situated on Mathura Road, to the south of the Humayun’s Tomb.
Opposite Humayun’s Tomb is the shrine of 14th century Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Its renowned for its qawwali performances of devotional songs, which take place there every Thursday evening at dusk. The area, in Nizamuddin West, is very congested and is best explored with a guide. It's fascinating through! Join the Hope Project walking tour of Nizamuddin Basti, an old Muslim Sufi village adjoining the shrine. The tour concludes at the shrine so you can catch the qawwali singing. This Heritage Walk Through Nizamuddin is another option.
Feeling hungry? There are some diverse restaurants in the Nizamuddin neighborhood, ranging from contemporary fine dining to traditional roadside outlets.
Purana Qila, to the north of Humayun’s Tomb, is worth visiting. A state-of-the-art sound and light show is held at the monument every evening except on Fridays. It narrates the history of Delhi through its 10 cities, starting from the 11th century reign of Prithviraj Chauhan.
The National Zoological Park is next to Purana Qila, although it's not a must-see. If you have children or are interested in handicrafts, a better idea is to take them to the excellent interactive National Crafts Museum.
India Gate, the landmark memorial for soldiers who lost their lives in World War I, is close by. It has a popular Children's Park.
If you haven't had enough of tombs, you'll find more of them in Lodhi Garden, to the west of Humayun’s Tomb. Entry is free and its a serene place to spend some time. While you're there, for an off-beat experience, check out the colorful street art and designer stores in Lodhi Colony. Or, grab a bite to eat at one of the trendy restaurants.
Shoppers should head to the Anokhi discount store in Nizamuddin East market for cheap deals on women's clothes made out of block-printed cotton fabrics. It's closed Sundays. There are some other renowned markets in the area too. Khan Market has hip, branded stores and cafes. Sundar Nagar specializes in upscale art and antiques. Lajpat Nagar is abuzz with middle-class Indian bargain hunters.
Across the river, Swaminarayam Akshardham is another popular tourist attraction in Delhi. This relatively new temple complex showcases Indian culture. It has various exhibitions and requires half a day to explore thoroughly.