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Scarred with beauty

Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana’s tomb in Nizamuddin East is as beautiful as it is ugly.

entertainment Updated: Jan 28, 2010 20:17 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

A stone-paved lane hedged with marigold flowers leads to one of Delhi’s strangest monuments. The 16th-century tomb of Mughal noble Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana is both ugly and beautiful. Its exterior stonework is stripped off. The plaster on its inside walls is chipped. Its niches are cobwebbed. The ceilings are painted with romantic messages. But before you notice the flaws, the weathered dome, as well as the chhatris and the arches, take you in. The underground tomb is inaccessible but the sarcophagus in the upper chamber is bare, quiet, dark and windy.

Bordered by the tony Nizamuddin East apartments on one side and the noisy Mathura Road on the other, the large garden around the ticketed tomb is like a city getaway. It’s dotted with Bottle Palm, Ashoka, Mango and Sangwan trees. A giant Neem leans onto the tomb itself. In the mornings, the neighbourhood’s health-conscious gentry treats the complex like its local Lodhi Garden. It troops in with its passes for exercises and games. At other times, the place remains forsaken, save a few sight-seers, stray dogs and restless squirrels racing across the grass, climbing the trees and playing catch-me-if-you-can with one another.

Emperor Akbar’s prime minister and son of his trusted aide Bairam Khan, Khan-I-Khana or Rahim was a popular poet of his times. Though known for his dohas, he is also said to have translated Mughal emperor Babar’s memoirs from Chaghtai to Persian and written two books on astrology. Although a Muslim by birth, he was a big devotee of Krishna and had a good command over Sanskrit.

This ruin was built for Khan-I-Khana’s wife and, as it happened, he too was interred here. During the last years of the Mughal reign, the tomb and the dome had their marbles stripped off and put on the tomb of Safdarjang, another noble. The scarred look works well for those who find beauty in melancholy.

Ticket: Rs 5
Time: Sunrise to sunset
Where: Nizamuddin East, next to the entrance