Safdarjung’s Tomb. The Flawed Mughal Monument

These water channels at the Safdarjung Tomb are always kept dry. The moment it rains and the water fills in these channels it is promptly pumped out. This because there is a breeding of mosquitos in the stagnant water. I was lucky one day to visit the tomb just after the rains and before the water was pumped out. (sanjay austa austa)

Safdarjung's Tomb , New Delhi

I aways see the  the  onion- shaped dome of the Safdarjng tomb  while driving in and out of the various cultural centres  in Lodhi Road, New Delhi.  But I have visited the tomb only a couple of times. And on those occasions  I never got the photograph I wanted:  the picture of the  monument reflecting in the waters of the fountains. All year around there is no water in the four channels of the charbagh. They fill with water  briefly when it rains but its quickly pumped out by the gardeners. They told me , they do this so that stagnant water in the channels don’t breed dengue and malaria mosquitoes. So one day just after it had rained,  I rushed to the monument and captured these rare pictures of the tomb reflecting in the waters.

The Safdarjung tomb is distinctly flowery and therefore  dissimilar to the simple elegance of monuments like The Taj Mahal or the Humayun’s Tomb.  Author and historian, William Dalrymple has this to say about the Safdarjung’s tomb in his book City of Djinns-  ”Like some elderly courtesan, the tomb tries to mask its imperfections beneath thick layers of make-up, its excesses of ornament are worn like over-applied rough……Despite its sad little economics, Safdarjung’s tomb exudes the flavor of an age not so much decaying miserably into impoverished anonymity as one whoring and drinking itself into extinction”.

Its interesting to note that pretentious architecture also marked the degeneration of taste and sensibility at Khajuraho as is apparent in the Duladeo Temple which  has elaborate sculptures in exaggerated poses and expressions. Something very different from the poise and grace of sculptures you see in the earlier Khanjurao temples for example in the Lakshmana Temple or the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple.

Safdarjung’s tomb was built by Nawab  Shuja-ud-Daulah, the son of Safdarjung (the same Shuja-ud-Daulah the British defeated at the famous Battle of Buxar).  Safdarjung was the governor of Awad who later became the Prime Minister of Muhammad Shah, the Mughal emperor known more by the epithet –Rangeela  for his colorful excesses.

Built in 1753-1754, the Safdarjung tomb  is loosely modeled on the  grander Humayun’s Tomb. Safdarjung’s tomb represents the last phase of Mughal architecture. But only barely. The Mughal Empire was in decline and this is  reflected in its monuments, most markedly in Safdarjung’s tomb. This monument  has a number of architectural flaws as a direct consequence of a lack of funds  and imagination.

The main dome itself seems a bit out of place compared to  the domes of other   Mughal Mosoleums. The domb here  is somewhat extended at the top giving it the ‘onion’ look. The dome and other places where marble is used has a rough patchwork look to it. Thats because most of the marble used in Safdarjung’s tomb was marble plundered from other tombs-most notable the tomb in Nizamuddin of Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khana, Akbar’s protege,

You can see  pretentious sculptures at Duladeo temple. This latter day temple possibly the youngest temple , marked the decline of sculptures at Khajuraho (sanjay austa austa)

You can see pretentious sculptures at Duladeo temple. This latter day temple possibly the youngest temple , marked the decline of sculptures at Khajuraho.

3 Responses to “Safdarjung’s Tomb. The Flawed Mughal Monument”

  1. farah khan says:

    thanks for a information,nice picture of tomb.

  2. This article is a great help to me! Thank you!

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