Settled in the heart of Delhi, a mausoleum, barely known and sporadically thought of, is a testimonial both to the power that Safdarjung maintained in the briskly crumbling kingdom as well as to the essence of humanity to ascend against all obstacles and bigotries to attain a seat of supremacy as Abul Mansur Mirza Muhammad Muqim Ali Khan better known as Safdarjung did. The Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah gave him the title of “Safdarjung”.
Many contemporary structures (Safdarjung Airport, Safdurjung Hospital and Safdurjung Enclave) and a road (Safdujung Road) carry his name now. The tomb located on Safdurjung road symbolizes Safdarjung’s wherewithals as well as the tempestuous time that the Indian subcontinent was enduring.
Entering from the huge pylon, one feels surprised at the architecture of the tomb that the curved walls envelopes adroitly; albeit tourists hardly visit this almost forgotten mausoleum of one of the most influential Prime minister (wazir) of the Mughal dynasty. As soon as one enters in the tomb complex, all chaos and noise seems to evaporate regardless of the fact that tomb is located on two of the bustling and traffic-jammed arterial roadways.
Striding into the impressive mausoleum, Absolute symmetry of the tomb structure and beautiful manicured garden (Char Bagh Mughal Garden) with flowering trees and shrubs catch one’s attention. Soaring high from its pedestal, the exquisite tomb is pure delicacy for the eyes despite in the ridiculing opinion of numerous architects, historians, scholars and writers the mausoleum is visually and architectonically unsound as its petite pedestal seems to unable to balance the conspicuous upright arbor of the tomb and white marble is clumsily infused with pink stone on its colossal dome ( It is supposed that Mughal and Awadh dynasties had collapsed to destitute condition of survival with low financial support at the time of construction of the structure; so architects were compelled to manage with prowled supply from other tombs – majorly from tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan who was one of Navaratnas in Akbar’s court).
However, to me, the tomb, with its stillness and quiescence and most importantly with its less human presence is a blessing. The beautiful monumental tomb, built out of white marble and red sandstone in 1754 looks graceful and grand regardless of all its clear and apparent flaws.
William Dalrymple in “The City Of Djinns” ridiculed the mausoleum’s faults quoting:
“The spirit is fecund, Bacchanalian, almost orgiastic. 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 rouge.”
The grand two-storey tomb comprises of 8 rooms, the central one enclosing Safdurjung’s casket with a huge oblong room along each of the sides and tiny octadic rooms along the edges. Steps from the pedestal lead up to the mausoleum and the interiors can be infiltrated from two of the sides through stairs. Each of the side chamber is adorned with flamboyant stucco work concluding into flower patterns, curved motifs at the side of each flower. The corner rooms have comparably basic and simple interiors with the walls narrowing en routing the ceiling which is adorned with a plain floral emblem in the middle and small cubicles built in each side.
The central room houses the delicately glistened, white marble cenotaph which is evened by the intricate design in limestone that wraps the walls. The dome consists of parallel floral patterns stretched over by abundant consecutive lines to form a well-proportioned and well-executed geometric motif.
Surprisingly, each and every point in the complex is utterly symmetrical to other points and together they all blend to form a beautiful mesh of curves, lines, floral patterns, and arrangements.
I captured the beauty and serenity of the place to my heart’s content without the cheeky visitors and tourists treading into my frame. It isn’t just enough to witness the beauty but to observe the details from diverse perspectives, especially when taking pictures; I took many photographs from every imaginable spot so much so that spider webs stuck to my hair and dress!
The site boasts an ambience of unruffled tranquillity as it normally has few ASI staff members, guards and calculable tourists. Ah! Not to forget the troop of monkeys and muster of colorful peacocks. We spotted a peacock dancing and stood there awestruck. But the chances of seeing peacocks is only when one visits early in the morning as we did. Couples finding solace come here to escape from the people’s snoopy and judgemental eyes (I’ve been observing during my visit to different places in Delhi that secluded historical ruins and places are kind of Promised Land for lovers).
Estuary emerge from the pivotal quadrate in all the four directions, however they are complete dry and aridity allows to step down into the tank through stairs and capture the different view of the tom. Each side of the quadrate mausoleum, excluding the one with the entrance, has sizeable and broad centrally located structures, designated Moti Mahal (pearl palace), Jangli Mahal (palace in forest) and Badshah pasand (King’s favorite) correspondingly and Jangli Mahal has been restored into ASI office and depository to stock the construction material that are to be used in the revival work of ASI monuments.
Other than the building that encloses the ASI office, the other two are inaccessible for tourists. The pavilion with ASI office has beautiful intricately carved stucco work which has of course perished with time.
This mausoleum is first disabled-friendly monument in the country, with ramps to allow wheelchair access and an information board in Braille at the entrance simultaneously with the normal red sandstone boards.