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Saturday, November 27, 2021

‘Last flicker in lamp of Mughal architecture’

Quest organised a heritage walk to Safdarjung Tomb for students of Birla Vidya Niketan, Pushp Vihar.

By: Express News Service | Delhi |
February 16, 2015 12:11:16 am
 Quest, mughal architecture, Safdurjung Tomb, Birla Vidya Niketan, Delhi news, local news, city news, school news, education news Students of Birla Vidya Niketan pose in front of the tomb. (Source: Express Photo by Renuka Puri)

A heritage tour to Safdarjung Tomb was organised by The Indian Express to provide an insight into the historical monument of great significance. The tomb is described as the “last flicker in the lamp of Mughal architecture”.

The memorial was built by Nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah, who was the son of Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, popularly known as Safdarjung who was the Governor of the province of Awadh under Muhammad Shah and, owing to his popularity, later became his Prime Minister. It is built in the middle of an extensive garden. The garden is on the popular pattern of the Mughal ‘Charbagh’ style, the theory behind this style being that of its resemblance to the perceived notion of ‘heaven’. Typical of every Mughal architecture is the presence of a mosque near the tomb.

Built with red sandstone and buff stone, the mausoleum has two graves, one of Safdarjung and the other presumably his wife’s. The well-guided tour of the rich cultural heritage was indeed a fruitful and valuable learning experience for teachers and students to rekindle their curiosity in the grandeur of Mughal architecture. Nandini Baweja, Teacher


It was eventful, not only because we got a chance to get out of our classrooms for a day, but also because we got to learn things first-hand, rather than the conventional method, that is through a textbook.

The day began with a general briefing about the tomb’s history. The tomb was built in honour of Safdarjung, who was the viceroy of Awadh under the Mughal Emperor, Mohammed Shah. The grandeur of the tomb’s architecture and the intricate designs on the pillars and walls leaves one awestruck. The tomb has an uncanny resemblance to the Humayun’s Tomb largely because of the ‘Charbagh’ design, an architectural style that is an attempt to replicate the four gardens that exist in heaven, according to the Holy Quran. This also happens to be the last mausoleum under the Mughals, which follows the four-garden architectural style. The tomb’s design, we were told, is an amalgamation of the style of architecture that the Mughals brought with themselves to India and the style of architecture native to the region of Rajasthan.

This was strategically done by the rulers of the time to create a sense of belonging among the Hindu population of their kingdom. After the brief history lesson, we were allowed to venture around and explore the different parts of the tomb. It was truly an enriching experience, which took us back in time and helped us learn something new about the city we live in. -Pragya Alagh, XI-C

The last structure built by the Mughals in 1754, Safdarjung Tomb is as magnificently built as any other Mughal structure. Entering through the Baadshah-e-Pasand (entrance) actually makes one feel like a nawab. The monument is adorned with Rajputana arcs and Islamic domes, which dwell upon its historic look. Built with red and buff sandstones with fractions of marble, the minars are an awe-inspiring sight and so is the outer dome with the inverted lotus, which represents the amalgamation of Hindu attributes with Islamic features. There are two graves in this tomb; one of Safdarjung, the viceroy of Awadh, and also of his wife.

The tomb premises also houses the work quarters of the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).

Birla Vidya Niketan arranged for the students of Class XI to go for a heritage walk to Safdarjung Tomb. It was one of the most memorable experiences I have had. Not being much of a history person, I expected not to retain much, but our guides did an amazing job and were very obliging. -Riya jain, XI-F

Built in 1754 for Mirza Muhim Abdul Mansoob Khan, the tomb is an interesting blend of Indo-Muslim architecture. The intricately designed chajja pattern on the dome-shaped entrance reminds one of India’s rich history. The tomb’s architectural design has often been compared with the architectural design of the Taj Mahal. Entering through the main gate gives a perfect view of the mausoleum. The tomb is surrounded with four lush green lawns referred to as ‘Charbagh’. Red and buff sandstone, specially imported from Rajasthan, were used to build the entire structure. The main mausoleum is surrounded by four elaborately designed minarets with faded and decorated arches. The tomb is built on a podium which symbolises its timelessness. The underground chamber in the mausoleum houses the graves of Safdarjung and his wife. The ceiling of the mosque is plastered and ornamented. The jalidar pattern on the windows, the inverted lotus shape of the tomb and Rajputana style of architecture not only reminds one of India’s rich culture, but also withholds the secrets which can only be revealed by the eyes of a keen observer. -Samira mathur, XI-A

What was supposed to be just a walk through the pages of Mughal history, turned out to be a much more enlightening experience. The monument in itself spoke volumes about the illustrious Mughal dynasty, narrating a thrilling story of its rise, of those years when Mughal power had been at its zenith and also of its painful, sharp decline.

The monument was built in 1754 by Nawab Shujaud Daula in memory of his father, Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, who was popularly known as Safdarjung, the viceroy of Awadh empire under rule. It is one of the last monuments built under Mughal rule and was built at a time when the dynasty was on a sharp decline. It, therefore, somewhat lacks the finesse or magnificence of monuments such as the Taj Mahal.

The monument is one of the many masterpieces created under the orders of various Mughal emperors and, hence, bears many similarities to the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s Tomb in terms of its architecture and design. It follows the ‘Charbagh’ pattern, which is symbolic of the four gardens of spectacular beauty in heaven. The entrance is decorated with floral motifs and the arch is shaped like peacock wings. The tomb is an illustration of the integration of Indo-Islamic cultures as we observe the use of jali, kangoora, inverted lotus and chajja patterns, which have been derived from Islamic as well as Rajputana styles of architecture. This integration was not just a cause of intermixing of cultures, but also a result of the Mughal dynasty’s constant struggle to find acceptance in a pre-dominant Hindu state. -Deepali Singh, XI

Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan was the ruler of Awadh and the then Mughal ruler, Mohammed Shah Ahmed Shah, made him the wazir or the chief minister. He was popularly known as Safdarjung and the tomb was made by his son Shujaudaullah in his honour. This magnificent tomb is considered to be the last piece of Mughal architecture and, like many other Mughal buildings, is made of red sandstone, sourced from Agra, and marble from Makrana in Rajasthan.

I have visited many places famous for their architecture and, frankly, I’m yet to see anything like this. It kind of combines the Rajput style of architecture with its ‘chattris’ and the Mughal style with the grand domes or ‘gumbaz’. That the Mughal empire was in decline is evident from the fact that the floors are not symmetrical and the designs and motifs aren’t as intricate as in the Taj Mahal, but altogether it is a sight to behold. The charbagh pattern and the greenery adds to the beauty of the monument. The trip made me put to test all that I have learnt from books and heard from people. For me, it was a fascinating experience and gave me a nice break from the monotony of classrooms. Given a chance, I’ll visit the place again. -Sreyan Chatterjee, XI-C

the students of Class XI of Birla Vidya Niketan went for a heritage walk to Safdarjung Tomb. We were briefed about the history and architecture of the tomb. The mausoleum was constructed by the viceroy of Awadh under Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah. The tomb, made with red and buff stones, resembles the Humayun’s Tomb in its architecture. There are several smaller pavilions with evocative names like Jangli Mahal (Palace in the Woods), Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace) and Badshah Pasand (King’s Favourite). We were then allowed to discover the beautiful place by ourselves. We are grateful for the opportunity given to us to visit such a wonderful heritage site. -Pallavi Pandu, XI

Safdarjung’s Tomb is a sandstone and marble mausoleum. It was built in 1754. The tomb has four key features: the ‘Charbagh’ garden plan with the mausoleum at the centre, a ninefold floor plan, five-part façade and a large podium with a hidden stairway. Entering through the main gate gives a perfect view of the mausoleum. Its walls are built high and the central dome, which is the main mausoleum of Safdarjung, is built over a terrace. Red and buff stones from Agra were used in the main mausoleum. -Saptarishi Basak, XI

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