Who was Safdarjung and what is with his tomb?

The Safdarjung Tomb stands majestically at the Lodi Road T-point intersecting with the Aurobindo Marg. I always wondered at the name Safdarjung. We had a Safdarjung Hospital, the Safdarjung Airport, the Safdajung Enclave, the Safdarjung Road, but if you had ever asked me who Safdarjung was, I would have given you the proverbial side eye.

The Entrance and the East Gate

Today, we decided to explore this rather distinct monument in earnest. We drove into a spacious parking lot and armed with an INR 15/- ticket each, courtesy the ASI, we entered the portals. The edifice is ruining, there is no doubt. But the old glory still reflects through.

Safdarjung Tomb was a labour of love. The love of a son, Nawab Shujau’d-Daulah, for his illustrious father Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, who was entitiled ‘Safdarjung’. The informative plaque at the tomb does not say who ‘entitled’ him thus, but it is is a fair guess that Muhammad Shah, the reigning Mughal emperor of the time must have been pleased with his prime minister to title him so.

As with other Mughal architecture, especially tombs, as I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog, this is again a fairly square monument with nearly every aspect of the monument falling into this concept. The entire premises is nearly square, the tomb is square, the surrounding gardens are square, which are again subdivided into, yes, squares. The rooms inside the tomb are square. I have a feeling that, if the architect had his way, he would have made even the “chaukhat” for the imposing doors, square.

But before you get the impression that this is a rather square tale, let me add that the fountain bed that adorns the central verge on all the four sides leading to the monument is rectangular in shape. The dome, as with other domes, are, well, dome-shaped. And just so that this square criticism was not raised, the architect went ahead and built a polygonal terrace at the four corners of the square tomb, definitively improving the aesthetics of the place by a few fold.

The light plays with the architecture and we were able to get some decent pictures.

The tomb itself is double storeyed with stairs leading to the top storey from the east side. There are window arches that are very artistically decorated and looks grand. There are pavilions at all the four sides, While the east pavilion can’t really be called a pavillion as it doubles up as an entrance, the other three pavilions are much more elaborate and multi-chambered, with fancy names as Moti Mahal, Badshah Pasand and Jungli Mahal. Hardly mahals, but you don’t argue with the reigning suzerain, do you?

There is a mosque in the precinct for the faithful to come and pray. The precint wall supposedly has water channels that interconnect, but again there wasn’t any water, so we believed that it was so.

The gardens are very well maintained and if you aspire for a quiet hour or two of complete repose, we strongly suggest the Safdarjung Tomb gardens. We even spied the regular not-yet-couple couples coupling.

It was an evening well-spent.

Fun fact:
Safdarjung Tomb has a braille plaque for the visually challenged, near the entrance. A thoughtful gesture, I thought, but somewhere in the innermost recesses of my brain I heard a feeble voice telling me the incongruity of a visually challenged person’s visit to a predominantly visual monument, but I let it pass. ┬áIt is not a very easy thing to get into the shoes of a visually challenged person.

Not-so fun fact
The dome has large shrubs growing on it on the outside. This will definitely make the structure weak. I think ASI should take immediate steps to ensure that this monument is preserved.


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