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Delhiwale: The tomb without a dome

Its unique design lends Najaf Khan’s Tomb a surreal quality matched by its luxuriant lawns.

delhi Updated: Jul 17, 2017 11:02 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Najaf Khan’s Tomb in central Delhi comprises a stone platform surrounded by trimmed lawns and centuries-old stone walls.
Najaf Khan’s Tomb in central Delhi comprises a stone platform surrounded by trimmed lawns and centuries-old stone walls.(Mayank Austen Soofi / HT Photo)

What if Humayun’s Tomb didn’t have a dome — just the stone plinth on which it stands?

To see what it would look like, just head to Najaf Khan’s Tomb in central Delhi.

This monument is more curious than most. There is nothing here except for a stone platform surrounded by trimmed lawns and centuries-old stone walls. Two marble cenotaphs sit atop the plinth. Where’s the dome? It looks like someone took it away.

Conservation architect Ratish Nanda of the Aga Khan Foundation, the man behind the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb, says that there was no dome to begin with. He calls it an ‘open tomb’ and says that Delhi has other such memorials with cenotaphs looking to the sky. “Najaf Khan’s open tomb is noted for its grandeur because it is surrounded by a very well-kept garden,” he says.

A Persian noble, Najaf Khan served at the courts of the later Mughal emperors. He also founded a Delhi neighbourhood (hint: it’s named after the founder and famous for producing one Virender Sehwag).

Come here in the evening when the lawns are filled with families living the neighbourhood. Girls play badminton. Married couples coddle their babies. And elderly men are busy in card games. The sound of trains — Lodhi road station is just beyond the walls — adds to the romance.

As you leave, make sure to notice a ruined staircase beside the gate. It speaks of a time when Najaf Khan’s tomb was probably not as bare as it is today.