After being overwhelmed by the architectural melodrama of Humayun’s Tomb, it will be calming for Michelle and Barack Obama to confront the smallness of Afsarwala Makbara, the officer’s tomb. These monuments too, are in the same complex.
The guide for the Obamas would not be able to tell them much about this early Mughal-period octagonal building — things such as who was buried here or when exactly was it built. While the wilderness around its red sandstone facade has been trimmed into a garden, the tomb’s untamed nature refuses to subside. In evenings, darkness gathers around this monument, making its unremarkable beauty poignant. Michelle will love it.
The tomb has a mosque on its side. Behind, there is a walled enclosure of Arab Serai that housed the Persian craftsmen who came to build Humayun’s Tomb. The Serai’s gateway is noted for its jharokhas (projecting balconies) that display the leftovers of what must have been a beautiful arrangement of glazed ceramic tiles.
Another gateway connected to Arab Serai is accessed from Nizamuddin East, a posh neighbourhood, where the Obamas would likely have stayed, if they were residents in Delhi. Originally an entrance to a market, the gateway is one of the few buildings in Delhi that came up during emperor Jehangir’s reign.
However, the first thing that the Obamas will see while entering the tomb complex, is a monument that is older than Humayun’s by 20 years. Isa Khan, a noble in the court of Humayun’s nemesis Sher Shah Suri, was buried in this octagonal structure. Guideless tourists usually mistake it for Humayun’s tomb. The sloping buttresses give it its signature look of strength. There is glazed tile work on the arches and chhatris on the roof. The bordering mosque with some finely preserved tile work offers a wide-angle view of the tomb.
Time: Sunrise to sunset.