Twining’s description of the Humayun Tomb
‘As we advanced [into Delhi] the ruins became more thickly scattered around us, and at length covered the country on every side as far as the eye could see. Houses, palaces, tombs in different stages of dilapidation, composed the striking scene. The desert we had passed was cheerful compared with the view of desolation now before us. After traversing ruined streets without a single inhabitant for mile, I saw a large Mausoleum at a short distance on our right.
I made my way over the ruins towards it with my few soldiers, leaving rest of my people on the road. Dismounting and ascending some steps, I came upon a large square terrace flanked with minarets, and having in the centre a beautiful Mausoleum surmounted by an elegant dome of white marble. I had seen nothing so beautiful except the Taj Mahal. It was in vain to look about for someone to gratify my curiosity. The once most populous and splendid city of the East now afforded no human being to inform me what king or prince had received this costly sepulchre…But the name of ‘Humayun’ in Persian letters of black marble, which chance or respect had preserved untouched, made it probable that this was the tomb of this excellent monarch.’
(From the writing of Thomas Twining- visited Agra and Delhi in the year 1790.)
Thomas Twining’s description of accidental encounter of a beautiful Mausoleum was none other than the Humayun Tomb of Delhi. So great was the desuetude and apathy towards this magnificent Mausoleum that it took less than three hundred years since it was built to be recognised only by a small plaque of ‘black marble’ with a name ‘ہمایوں’ Humayun written in Persian.
I found Twining’s observation painful and subdued. Bricks and stones of all perished monuments are not pulled by humans; some are reclaimed by nature. Here is an example what nature can do to a magnificent building if it left without any care and use. Further, it gives an insight to understand what has happened to the multitudes of ancient buildings in India.
Sharing three photographs, one collage of the same Mausoleum. The top photograph was taken in 1860 from my collection and the colour photograph I took in 2008.
Another panorama was taken in 1860s is from Humayun Tomb from personal collection. It reflects the scene around Delhi, what Thomas Twining tried to capture in words almost half a decade before.