Delhi Tomb Review Update 2

While I was in India, I grew to hate Delhi with a passion, and by the time I left for Bikaner I’d already spent more time there than any visitor ever should. But since I had to return there after Lucknow for my flight home anyway, I thought I might as well add a few more places to the Delhi Tomb Review (original review here and first update).

MUTINY MEMORIAL

Mutiny Memorial, Delhi

Where: On Delhi Ridge, a couple of km north of Old Delhi. From Pulbangash station on the red metro line, go to the big junction nearby, and take the road which goes uphill with trees on either side. The Mutiny Memorial is a couple of hundred metres up the road, on the right. (A bonus spot while you’re there is the Delhi-Meerut Ashoka Pillar, a bit further along the same road.)

Who: It’s a memorial, not a tomb, so technically no-one. But the memorial is to all of the officers and soldiers killed in Delhi fighting for the British (which includes the loyal Indian soldiers) during the Indian Mutiny. Another plaque, added in 1972, memorializes the mutineers as well.

Tomb features: If you’ve been in Delhi as long as I have, you probably want to get away from it all, and this is a great place to do it. There’s no-one else visiting the Mutiny Memorial. In fact you might not even be able to get in. If you’re lucky there’ll be a guard that you can smile nicely at, so that he comes over, takes the big chain off the gate and follows you as you walk around the memorial, tapping his lathi ominously. The panels on the memorial are a mine of information: not just names of those killed, but lists of regiments, actions and tabulated casualty data. It’s more like the appendix to an academic study of the Siege of Delhi than it is a simple war memorial.

Summary: Combines three characteristic features of British rule in India: Gothic architecture, military fetishism and bureaucratic record-keeping.

 

NAJAF KHAN’S TOMB

Najaf Khan’s Tomb, Delhi

Where: South Delhi, near Safdarjung’s Tomb. From there, or from Jor Bagh station on the yellow metro line, walk south down Aurobindo Marg for about 500m/300m respectively, then take a left down Najaf Khan Road, and a right to find the entrance.

Who: Mirza Najaf Khan (1723-1782), politician and general under the later Mughals. Fought at the Battle of Buxar, which was a turning point in the history of India (the East India Company won and was consequently awarded land revenue rights in Bengal by the Emperor).

Tomb features: Well, it disproves the claims about Safdarjung’s being the last Mughal garden tomb, the final decadent gasp of that cultural tradition. What historians and guidebook writers mean when they say that, is that Safdarjung’s Tomb is the last Mughal tomb worth looking at. Najaf Khan’s was built another 30 years later, but is of no aesthetic interest whatsoever. If Safdarjung’s was the last breath of Mughal tomb architecture, Najaf Khan’s was the dribble from its dead lips. As you can see from the photograph, it’s just a plinth with no monument on top. It’s slightly reminiscent of the entrance to an underground metro station.

Summary: It’s understandable why it’s not mentioned in any guide books or even marked on their maps. The garden is quite pleasant though.

 

NIZAMUDDIN DARGAH

Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi

Where: Southeast edge of New Delhi, near Humayun’s Tomb. From there, follow Lodi Road west, then take the first left down a filthy, packed alleyway, and when it forks, take the right. Follow the crowds of Muslim pilgrims.

Who: Nizamuddin Auliya (1238-1325), great Sufi saint of the Chishti Order.

Tomb features: It’s one of those bonkers Sufi tombs like in Lucknow or Khuldabad, so it’s full of gaudy decoration, not austere marble and sandstone like the Mughal tombs. Only men are allowed into the main shrine, and there’s a long queue of them waiting to get in:

Long queue to enter the main chamber of the Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi

I couldn’t be bothered, so I tried to peer through the screens at the side, until I was told that area was for ladies only. So I never got to see what was inside. I’m guessing a green and yellow silk cloth draped over a tomb, petals and money scattered on it, mirrors and gold and lights everywhere.

Summary: Standard Muslim idolatry.

 

KHAN-I-KHANAN’S TOMB

Khan-i-Khanan’s Tomb, Delhi

Where: South Delhi, near Humayun’s Tomb and Nizamuddin Dargah. From the Subz Burj roundabout outside Humayun’s Tomb, follow the Mathura Road south, then take the first proper road on the left to find the tomb entrance.

Who: Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan (1556-1626), poet and minister to Emperor Akbar.

Tomb features: After my experience with the more obscure Delhi tombs like Sultan Ghari and Najaf Khan, which taught me that they’re obscure for a reason (they’re rubbish), I was expecting Khan-i-Khanan to be barely anything at all, some rubble foundations maybe. But it’s not. It’s big. It’s not in the best of conditions, sure – it’s lost most of its sandstone facing, cannibalised to build Safdarjung’s Tomb – but the underlying structure is all there, and it’s a grand, imposing design. And it’s empty and quiet, although that might have been because I turned up five minutes before it closed.

Summary: Genuinely an underrated gem among Delhi’s Mughal tombs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *