Emperor Humayun's Garden Tomb



1. J.L. Wescoat Jr., Waterworks and Landscape Design in the Mahtab Bagh," in The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal, ed. Elizabeth B. Moynihan (Washington, D.C.: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000), 69.

2. ibid, 65.

3. Elizabeth Moynihan, Paradise as a Garden In Persia and Mughal India (New York: George Braziller, 1979), 113.

4. Sadaf Fatima, "Waterworks in Mughal Garden," Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 73, (2012): 1269.

5. Ratish Nanda, Working In Paradise with the Master, Mohammad Shaheer," Manzar the Scientific Journal of Landscape, no. 33 (2016): 30.

6. R. Balasubramaniam, "On the Modular Design of Mughal Riverfront Funerary Gardens," Nexus Network Journal 12, (2010): 276.

7. Moynihan, Paradise as a Garden, 112.

8. S.A.A. Naqvi, Humayun's Tomb and Adjacent Buildings (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 1947), plate vi.

9. Catherine Asher, Architecture of Mughal India (Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 1992), 47; Laura E Parodi, "The Posthumous Portrait of Ḥaḍrat Jannat ʿAshiyānī: Dynastic, Saintly, and Literary Imagery in the Tomb of Humayun," Islamic Art 6, (2009): 155; D. Fairchild Ruggles, Islamic Gardens and Landscapes (Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 209;

10. "Humayun's Tomb," MIIM Designs, accessed September 25, 2019,

11. Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, Revitalization of the Gardens of Emperor Humayun's Tomb (Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture and Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative, 2003), 3.

12. ibid, 4-5.

13. ibid, 7.


Among the established methodical process for studying Mughal garden water systems is the common sense approach to "follow the water (. . .) from the requirements of the garden (water demand), to withdrawals from the Yamuna River and distribution through terra cotta pipes (water supply), to fountains and pools (display and experience), and ultimately, its return to the Yamuna (drainage and flooding)."1 Although Wescoat is discussing the Taj Mahal and the Mahtab Bagh in the article in which he wrote this, this statement is applicable to Humayun's Garden Tomb.

"A fully irrigated garden with continuous fountain displays might have required (. . .) the amount of water used by approximately 70 modern suburban households of four in the United States-or 200 urban households in Uttar Pradesh!" 2

It does not seem likely that a garden like Humayun's Garden Tomb would have had continuously running waterworks at any point in time in the past.

Before the Yamuna River changed course, it was a source of water for Humayun's Garden Tomb.3 Humayun's Tomb was supplied with water using water lifting devices called rahat, or Persian wheels, that were built on the corners of the garden's eastern wall and supplemented with wells, "feeding the water-courses and pools and their overflow irrigated the plots."4

"In the early 20th century, Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, directed the restoration of the Mughal layout – enthusiastically adding channels even to pathways where none had existed in Mughal times. Three failed attempts in the 20th century to restore flowing water preceded the 1997 garden restoration and of these the 1984 effort was the most destructive with the Mughal stone bedding ripped out and replaced by the more familiar and favoured 20th century material – cement concrete !"5

The following list is of the elements that make up a portion of the water demand made by the waterworks at Humayun's Garden Tomb. The purpose of this list is to illustrate just how many waterworks elements go into the "display or experience" element of Humayun's Garden Tomb's water system and the complexity and ingenuity that is involved in supplying adequate water to make the entire system function both now and 400 years ago.

Humayun's Garden Tomb's Waterworks' Water Demand
approx. 4455.5m Water Channels Calculated from Garden Dimensions6
30 acres Irrigation7
45 Small Pools
4 Square Fountain Pools
1 Medium Square Pools
2 Half Medium Square Pools
12 Enclosure Wall Path Ending Pools
3 Main Path Ending Pools
4 Square Pools at the Tomb's Base
1 Medium Octagonal Pool at the Wall Chadar
4 Large Octagonal Pools at the Corners of the Tomb's Base
1 Large Octagonal Pool as the Southwestern Point of Interest in the Garden
10 Small Chadars
3 Large Chadars

There is a scarcity of information about the waterworks at Humayun's Garden Tomb that is available to the public. The following details are gleamed from garden plans and bits of information from books, a few academic articles, and Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative or Aga Khan Development Network publications. There are four visible wells and one water tank or reservoir at Humayun's Garden Tomb. There is one large well behind the hammam, one well behind the wall chadar on the southwestern portion of the western wall, one well in the northeastern area along the eastern wall, and one in the southeastern area along the eastern wall.8 There is what looks like a small tank next to the square pool that is surrounded by large Fig Trees in the southwestern quadrant of the garden.

There are three possible well locations that are lightly noted in many published garden plans but never discussed or mentioned.9 These are located at the northwestern, the southwestern, and southeastern corners of the enclosure wall. The well that may have been located in the northwestern corner of the enclosure wall was mentioned during the restoration process by design firms bidding for the job.10 There is also a large tank behind Nizam al-Din's chilla-khana that is visible in photographs. Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative has not released all of their documentation about the water system at Humayun's Garden Tomb.

While figuring out how to supply the water for the garden's demand, Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative made the following discoveries and changes:

"A series of systematic excavations were carried out to understand better the garden and its relationship to the building and adjoining features, such as the river. Amongst key features discovered were aqueducts, terra cotta pipes, fountain mechanisms, wells, siphons and copper pipes. These features, among other factors, formed the brief of the project as they indicated original garden levels and water movement patterns."11

"Three wells that had been completely filled in and covered over were discovered during the course of the works. Two wells four metres in diameter were found in the sunken area to the east and these were desilted to a depth of 15 metres. They now hold about six metres of standing water. Another well was discovered in the southwest quadrant after an excavation was carried out in its locale. This well, of narrower diameter was excavated to its original depth of 12 metres. Two additional wells outside the enclosure walls, that feed the garden were also de-silted."12

Nizamuddin Urban Renewal Initiative fixed and expanded the irrigation system "establishing water sources for the water channels and irrigation system, including a pump station for a water-recycling system, Conserving, repairing and rebuilding the water channel system."13


Currently, water is supplied to Humayun's Garden Tomb by wells.
Wall Chadar
Water from the well behind the southwestern wall is introduced to the garden by a large chadar.
Water is supplied to part of the garden from a large well behind the hammam. The water from this well is introduced to the garden by the large chadar in front of the hammam.

Additional Information

A formal bibliography is posted on the outline page.
water The Hammam Hammam Well Ablution Tanks NE Well SE Well Garden Wall Garden Wall Garden Wall Garden Wall Garden Wall Garden Wall Water Channel Home SW Well Humayun's Tomb West Fountain North Fountain East Fountain Chadar Water Channel Garden Wall Garden Wall Garden Wall Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channels Wall Chadar Water Channels Water Channel Tanks and Channels Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Tree Chadar Water Channel Water Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Chadar Pools And Water Channels South Fountain Chadar Water Channel Tree Platform Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Chadar Water Channel Chadar Water Channel Tank and Water Channel Water Channel Water Channel Chadar Water Channel Hammam Chadar Water Channel