Emperor Humayun's Garden Tomb



The Islamic Dictionary of Architecture defines a mihrab as a "marker used to indicate the direction of prayer, usually in a mosque. A mihrab is usually a niche set into the middle of the qibla wall of a building in order to indicate the direction towards Mecca."1

Mihrab symbols are incorporated into some of the jali patterns on the western elevation of Humayun's Tomb. As the sun sets, light passes through a jali screen onto Humayun's cenotaph. As the light passes through the jali, geometric shaped beams of light are projected onto Humayun's cenotaph and materialize in the form of a mihrab. While projecting over the cenotaph, the mihrab is pulled by the setting sun towards Mecca.

These glowing jali mihrabs serve as a stunningly clever illustration of Qur'an 24:35, something commonly found inscribed around mihrabs in pre-Mughal Islamic architecture in Hindustan.2

Allah is the light of the heavens and the Earth; a likeness of His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, the lamp is in a glass, (and) the glass is as it were a brightly shining star, lit from a blessed olive-tree, neither eastern nor western, the oil whereof almost gives light through fire touch it not—light upon light—Allah guides to His light whom He pleases, and Allah sets forth parables for men, and Allah is Cognizant of all things.3

1. Andrew Petersen, Dictionary of Islamic Architecture (London; New York: Routledge, 1996), 186.

2. Glenn Lowry, "Humayun's Tomb: Form, Function, and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture," Muqarnas 4, (1987): 142.

3. Qur'an 24:35.


Jali Mihrab
A Mihrab on a Qibla Wall
Jali Mihrab
Humayun's Tomb: Inside Out
Sunlight from the direction of Mecca bathes Humayun's cenotaph through a jali mihrab.

Additional Information

A formal bibliography is posted on the outline page.
Facade Jali Railing Spandrels Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Kangura Blind Arch Blind Arch Engaged Colonette Guldasta Guldasta Stellate Symbol Spandrels Stellate Symbol Stellate Symbol Spandrels Stellate Symbol Spandrels Jali Jali Jali Stellate Symbol Jali Railing Jali Railing Spandrels Mihrab Blind Arch Blind Arch Spandrels Jali Spandrels Stellate Symbol Jali Engaged Colonette Engaged Colonette Kangura Kangura Kangura Guldasta