AKTC intervention of 11 Mughal garden tombs, UNESCO designated monuments of outstanding universal value, enhance & expand Humayun’s tomb world heritage site

A decade long AKTC intervention, one of conservation & restoration of almost a dozen Mughal garden tombs has won accolades from UNESCO as a model to be followed. Inclusion of these garden tombs in the Humayun tomb World Heritage Site has raised the profile of the Humayun tomb in addition to being recognized designated monuments of outstanding universal value by UNESCO. This effort has also resulted in the expansion of the Humayun tomb World Heritage Site from 26 acres to 67 acres.

“It’s a feat achieved silently and quietly. The conservation effort was recognised as a model by UNESCO and International Council of Monuments and Site,” said a source.

Humayun Tomb And It's Neighbourhood Get Recognised By UNESCO As World Heritage Site
Image credit: BCCL via India Times

By Richi Verma | TNN | Updated: Dec 18, 2016, 03.05 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The profile of Humayun’s Tomb has been enhanced. Nearly a dozen other garden tombs in the vicinity of the grand 16th-century Mughal edifice have also been designated as monuments of outstanding universal value by UNESCO and recognised as world heritage.

While four of these structures got the prestigious tag last year, seven others were included as world heritage property through a notification last month. Officials say this is the first-ever expansion of a world heritage site. All the submitted nominations have been inscribed on the world heritage list, making it a momentous year for Indian heritage,“ said an official.

In 2015, on the request of Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Archaeological Survey of India, UNESCO included Isa Khan’s Tomb, Bu Halima’s Tomb and Garden, Afsarwala Garden Tomb and Arab Serai Bazaar as part of the world heritage site. Early this year, AKTC proposed further boundary modification, which was forwarded by the Centre to UNESCO.

Ratish Nanda, CEO, AKTC, said, “This is the culmination of a decade-long conservation effort and landscape restoration at these garden tombs, made possible by a public-private partnership between AKTC and ASI, and also with the support of Tata Trusts and the US ambassador’s fund.”

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Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali


Project Area & Accomplishments

250 acres of built and living heritage in the heart of Delhi
45 monuments conserved
9 Mughal Gardens revitalized
175 acres of green space created/restored
30 Acres of biodiversity zone spread in Sundar Nursery& Batashewala Complex, with
3,345 Trees mapped on GIS



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The tomb is built of rubble masonry and, as with Humayun’s Tomb, has subtle chamfered corners, giving it an octagonal appearance. The plan of the building is similar to Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s tomb and comprises five half-domed openings on each facade. The interiors, however, are devoid of ornamentation. The tomb is sitting within a charbagh, the enclosure of which has been lost. To the east of the tomb is a Mughal-era well, a similar contemporary 16th-century lotus pond.


The tomb stands immediately to the west of Sunderwala Mahal. Its significance lies in the profusely ornamented ceiling and interior wall surfaces that are adorned by incised lime plaster. Over the doorway is a band of Quranic inscriptions encircling the inner walls.


Rubble-built and profusely ornamented in incised plasterwork, Lakkarwala Burj garden tomb stands on a high arcade platform. The domed structure has lofty arched openings in the northern, eastern and southern sides, with the western opening seemingly blocked by a vaulted extension.


Standing immediately to the north of the Humayun’s tomb, the tomb belongs to Emperor Humayun’s nephew and dates back to the late 16th century. As with Humayun’s tomb, it utilises red-white contrast as a principle architectural statement. However, here the effect is achieved with the use of coloured plaster rather than stone. Popularly known as the Bade Batashewala Mahal and built in 1603, this square tomb stands on a raised platform with five half-domed arched entrance bays on each side. The central grave chamber, several feet below the ground, is surrounded by eight rooms, making it an interesting example of the Hasht-Bihisht plan – representing eight levels of paradise as described in the holy Quran.


Within the enclosed garden and standing just east of Mirza Muzaffar Hussain’s tomb, is an octagonal tomb, known as Chhote Batashewala. However, less than half of the structure now remains, standing on a platform. The central octagonal chamber can be determined – around which was a surrounding arcade containing an arched opening on each of the eight sides.


This lofty, domed early Mughal-era tomb stands on an elevated stone masonry plinth, giving it a fort-like appearance. The domed, decorative tomb is visible from afar, affords a spectacular view of and from Humayun’s tomb. The structure has suffered from inappropriate repairs in the 20th century.


One of the earliest Mughal structures, this 16th-century building stood on a river island until the Yamuna receded eastwards and the British built the rail tracks in the 19th century. Humayun’s tomb was built later, abutting Nila Gumbad and incorporating its western wall. The monument has distinctive blue and green tiles and was recently conserved by Aga Khan Trust for Culture.



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