June 09, 2012

Bi Halima's Enclosure, Delhi

This post is part of the larger series about Humayun’s Tomb complex, Delhi. The composite article can be accessed from here – Pixelated Memories - Humayun’s Tomb complex.


“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Lord of the Rings"

With their dilapidated, weather-scarred structure and exceedingly simplistic yet elegantly beautiful artworks, Bi Halima’s mausoleum and gateway welcome enthralled visitors to the World Heritage Site of Humayun's Tomb complex. The exact identity of Bi Halima is lost in the pages of contemporaneous historical records, but it is contended that she was a part of the Mughal Emperor Zahiruddin Babur's entourage to India and occupied an important place in his harem. Probably a Mughal noble woman, she is also said to have been a wet nurse of Babur’s son and successor Nasiruddin Humayun (reign AD 1530-40 and 1555-56).

A gateway withered and decayed

Her tomb, a straightforward, rubble-built diminutive rectangular structure housing the grave in the central chamber surrounded by passages, is not symmetrically aligned with the cream-white gateway but is significantly offset from it towards one of the sides of the rectangular garden. The moderately-proportioned garden surrounding it comprises one of the numerous components of the larger irregularly-shaped garden complex that exists as an appendage to the beautifully landscaped, painstakingly manicured enormity that is Humayun’s Tomb complex. It is said that her handsome pleasure garden, which is sadly no more in existence, had been envisioned and constructed long before she was interred here. Later, the ethereally magnificent Humayun’s Tomb complex was fashioned on the established axis of this existing garden complex and thus the latter came to be incorporated in the larger scheme of things and became a subsidiary entrance to the colossal complex. That of course explains why visitors presently have to traverse her tomb enclosure’s imposing gateway in reverse order while entering the spectacular gardens surrounding Humayun's mausoleum – accessing its less ornamented side first and later reaching the more gorgeously decorated facade adorned with regally vibrant, bewilderingly striking floral medallions crafted from brilliant colorful blue, yellow and green tiles.


The impressive gateway displays some of the most recurring Mughal artistic motifs such as perfectly aligned arched entrances and windows, exquisitely carved red sandstone lattice screens, protruding windows (“jharokha”) and plasterwork geometric patterns framing the arched outlines of the numerous recesses. Though dishearteningly little of the original decoration has survived the relentless ravages of time and nature, whatever does remain is so very intricate that one cannot help being fascinated by their sophistication and wonder how did those dexterous craftsmen conceive and execute such elaborate patterns. One begins to rue the fact that most of the ornamentation, like her identity, has disappeared.


The Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) website as well as the red sandstone signage affixed by them throughout the enormous complex refer to the garden-mausoleum complex as “Bu Halima’s Gate”, however, as has been pointed out to me, the word "Bu" does not exist in Persian and Arabic languages and it should instead be "Bi" which translates to “Elder sister” – hence, I have preferred to use the same here.

The intended first impressions

Location: Humayun's Tomb Complex, Nizamuddin, New Delhi
Nearest Metro Station: JLN Stadium
Nearest Bus stop/Railway station: Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
How to reach: The mausoleum complex is located immediately across Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah bus stop. Buses are available from different parts of the city. The metro station and railway station are both approximately 2 kilometers away on either side of the complex and one can walk or avail a bus/auto from either.
Open: All days, 8 am - 6 pm
Entrance Fees: Citizens of India and SAARC countries: Rs 10/person; Others: Rs 250/person; Free entry for children up to 15 years of age
Photography charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 20 min
Relevant Links –
Articles pertaining to other monuments that compose Humayun’s Tomb complex –
  1. Pixelated Memories - Afsarwala Mosque & Tomb Complex
  2. Pixelated Memories - Arab Serai
  3. Pixelated Memories - Barber's Tomb
  4. Pixelated Memories - Humayun’s Tomb complex
  5. Pixelated Memories - Isa Khan's Tomb Complex
Other monuments/landmarks located in the vicinity –
  1. Pixelated Memories - Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan's Tomb
  2. Pixelated Memories - Amir Khusro's Tomb
  3. Pixelated Memories - Atgah Khan's Tomb
  4. Pixelated Memories - Chausath Khamba
  5. Pixelated Memories - Chilla-Khanqah Nizamuddin
  6. Pixelated Memories - Ghalib's Tomb
  7. Pixelated Memories - Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah
  8. Pixelated Memories - Lodi Road - Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium Trail
  9. Pixelated Memories - Nila Gumbad
  10. Pixelated Memories - Sabz Burj

1 comment:

  1. Few other people would give so much detail about what is one part of a larger site. Was an interesting read. Thanks.