Photograph: Arindham Saha. Penned: Dipanjana Roy Nandi

The Isa Khan tomb, situated close to Humayun’s tomb, is the resting place of Isa Khan Niyazi, a much favoured Afghan Noble who served at the court of Sher Shah Suri and, later, his son Islam Shah – the Afghan kings who had evicted the Mughals out of India for fifteen years. Isa’s octagonal tomb is positioned within an octagonal garden, and was built during his lifetime, which was indeed a very long one for the era. If you enter inside and head over to the mibrab, there is a Persian inscription on a red sandstone slab that reads something like this:

“This tomb, which is an asylum of paradise, was built during the reign of Islam Shah, son of Sher Shah, may God perpetuate his kingdom and sovereignty, by Masnad Ali Isa Khan, son of Niyaz Aghwan, the chief chamberlain, in the Hijra year 954 (AD 1547- 48)”.

The monument has often been considered as a minor tomb within the Humayun’s mausoleum complex and has been largely regarded as a part of the site without an understanding of the smaller building’s enormous cultural significance.

What’s special about the tomb.

Isa Khan’s tomb not only pre-dates the tomb of Humayun by two decades, but is also the culmination of an architectural style used for royal tombs in Delhi during the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties from the fourteenth century onwards. It is also the only surviving octagonal enclosed tomb complex with walls, mosque, and gateway that are still intact.

The architecture.

The octagonal tomb bears a striking resemblance to other tombs of the Sur dynasty. It has a distinct ornamentation in the form of canopies, glazed tiles and lattice screens, and a deep veranda supported by pillars. The western side of the tomb is occupied by a four-centered mihrab, bordered by quotations from the Quran, while the southern side contains the entrance to the tomb-chamber. The medallion in the centre of the dome is enriched with painted floral decoration in Persian style, edged by a quotation from the Quran. On the western side of the tomb lies the Isa Khan’s mosque.

Photographer: Arindham Saha, New Delhi, India.


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