Humayun's Tomb's form was constructed with a rubble core and then dressed with red sandstone and white marble.1 The exterior of the building is red sandstone with white marble inlay underneath applied white marble molding, white marble corner engaged colonettes with white marble guldastas, white marble blind arches, white marble dado, and red sandstone engaged colonette door jambs. Other stone is used conservatively to further articulate details. In his article, "Humayun's Tomb: Form, Function, and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture," Glenn Lowry explains the history of the use of these materials in Indian architecture.
They first appear in the monuments of the Khalji dynasty (1290-1320) such as cAla al-Din's entrance complex (1313) to the Qutub Minar. Under the Tughluqs (1320-1414), red sandstone and white marble are associated with several major structures including the tomb of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq (ca. 1325), the founder of the dynasty, and the Lal Gumbad, also known as the mausoleum of Kabir al-Din Awliya (which may date as late as 1397), In the early fifteenth century these materials all but disappear. It is not until the end of the century, at such monuments as the Moth ki Masjid (ca. 1488-1517), that they begin to be used again. Under the Mughals they become the standard means of finishing a building.2
Humayun's Garden Tomb's original architect, Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, was from Herat and "may have been a stone cutter who had worked for Babur."4 The local stone working traditions in Hindustan were highly developed, which is evident in the preexisting Hindustani monuments that still stand today. This combination may have been the ingredients that made the stone work at Humayun's Tomb phenomenal. The stellate lotus pattern on the dome's drum, the red sandstone and white marble floral kangura, the elaborately carved corbel brackets supporting the chhatri domes, and most of all, the jali screens are all examples of fantastic work with stone at Humayun's Tomb.
A few other materials were used for ornamental purposes. The chhatris' blue domes' floral ornamentation and patterns were created with glazed tile. Incised plaster has been used to form complex muqarnas ornamentation and decorative medallions.
1. Glenn Lowry, "Humayun's Tomb: Form, Function, and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture," Muqarnas 4, (1987): 135.
2. ibid, 141.
3. ibid, 136.
4. Catherine Asher, Architecture of Mughal India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 44.
Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme. Batashewala - Mughal Garden Tomb Complex: Conservation Report 2011-2015 Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative.
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