In the heart of Delhi lies this magnificent monument popularly known as Safdarjung’s tomb. This tomb (built in 1754) – looks very similar to and is built on the same mughal architecture as the other very popular monument in Delhi – Emperor Humayun’s tomb. As history is recalled this monument is considered as the last flicker of Mughal architecture in India – as this was one of the last monuments to be built during the Mughal rule before Bahadur Shah Zafar stepped down as the last Mughal emperor of India and handed over the reigns of this country to the Britishers.
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Delhi has a host of historical monuments from the Mughal era and photographing them is a delight. I had Safdarjung’s tomb in mind for sometime. I had passed this monument quite a few times looking at its majestic gateway and the glimpse of the beautiful Mughal architecture that lies behind. I teamed up with Supratim – a dear friend of mine, who also shares the same passion for photography as I do. We reached the monument early in the morning – close to 6:00 am. In my experience historical monuments look the best either very early in the morning or just before sun-down. We were greeted by a lone security officer who mentioned that it was still too early for the monument to open for public. We told him why we were there and that we didn’t want the sun to get too high for our photographs. He allowed us inside on the assurance that we will buy our tickets on the way back. We walked through the massive gateway and were greeted by sprawling pathway with a massive water channel in the middle. The monument is surrounded by gardens on all four sides – built in the Persian Charbagh (Persian meaning ‘4 sections’) style pattern commonly observed at prime Mughal architectural monuments.
As we walk next to the water channel, we can see that the monument is a 2 storey structure with a central tomb, which has a huge dome. There are four water canals leading to four buildings – we were walking next to one of them which has the ornately decorated gateway, while the other three are pavilions, with living quarters built into the walls. The building has 4 octagonal towers in the corners. The central chamber has Safdarjung’s cenotaph, while the actual body would have probably been buried much below the ground. By the time we entered the building sun-light had started to pour in through the impressive archways.
There is quite a bit of history related to this monument. Safdarjung was born as Muhammad Muqim in Khurasan, Persia and migrated to India in 1722. He succeeded his father-in-law and maternal uncle Burhan ul Mulk Sa’adat Khan to the throne of Oudh, apparently by paying Nadir Shah two crores of rupees. The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah gave him the title of “Safdarjung”.
Safdarjung was an able administrator. He was not only effective in keeping control of Oudh, but also managed to render valuable assistance to the weakened Muhammad Shah. He was soon given governorship of Kashmir as well, and became a central figure at the Delhi court. During the later years of Muhammad Shah, he gained complete control of administration in the Mughal Empire. When Ahmad Shah Bahadur ascended the throne at Delhi, Safdarjung became his Wazir ul-Mamalik-i-Hindustan or Chief Minister of India. However, court politics eventually overtook him and he was dismissed in 1753.
After the accession of Ahmad Shah in 1748, he made sufdarjung his Chief Minister and gave him the charge of “Harem”. He was also made the governor of Ajmer and became the “Faujdar ” of Narnaul. This was fact that all the power of Mughal Empire was bestowed upon Safdarjung by the end of second half of 18th century. Apart from these responsibilities of Delhi Safdarjung has not neglected the Oudh and its prosperity, which he considered as his family property. Due to corrupt policy of Delhi court and confrontation with Ahmad Shah, he came to Oudh in Dec’ 1753 AD, where he died in Oct’1755 AD at the age of 46 years.
We finished our photo tour in an hour’s time. The ticket salesman had come in by now. We bought our tickets, looked back at the majestic structure that was forever now captured in our photographs and drove back home.
*Dates and historical information has been sourced from Wikipedia.org.