March, 2021July 15, 2022
Chausath Khamba Nizamuddin – A 17th-century marble monument in Delhi
Take a walk in the busy & bustling lanes of Nizamuddin, avoiding the shop owners and the dhaba wallas who will invite you to their small eateries for biryanis, flower sellers who will try to sell you flowers for the dargah. Ask anyone where is Chausath Khamba. The busy streets of Nizamuddin are home to some iconic monuments of the Mughal era which are almost forgotten and not everyone knows about them. Nizamuddin area was only known to me for the dargah and its Sufi nights. And I haven’t been to the dargah so far.
Read Here – Tomb of Azim Khan
Chausath Khamba also spelled as Chaunsath Khamba is a medieval Mughal monument located near the shrine. I don’t know if there any monuments in Delhi which are entirely constructed with white marble. You will find some monuments where white marble has been used as decoration. Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort, Qutub Minar, etc. are some medieval Mughal monuments where you can see the use of white marble. However, this tomb is built of white marble in abundance.
History of Chausath Khamba – 64 pillared monument
The literal meaning of Chausath Khamba is 64 pillars (chausath means 64 and khamba means pillar). This monument is said to have been built by Mirza Aziz Koka during 1623 – 1624. He was one of Akbar’s foster brothers and son of Atagah Khan who was killed by Adham Khan. Atagah Khan’s tomb is also located near this monument. It is said that Mirza Aziz built this monument for himself during the regime of Jahangir. During his rule, Mirza Aziz served Subahdar of Gujarat.
In her blog, the historian Rana Safvi questions the main purpose of this monument. She writes in her blog that Chausath Khamba was probably built as an eclectic hall and was used for gatherings of family members whenever they came to visit the shrine. Mirza Aziz along with his wife was buried later.
Architecture of Chausath Khamba
The monument is constructed with hall style of Mughal architecture. This square hall later served as a tomb. The monument has 25 bays which are supported by 64 columns. A dome is placed on each bay. These are reserve domes thus they won’t be visible from outside. Every wall has 5 arches with square pilasters. Every pilaster has marble screens. The hall resembles Shah Jahan’s diwan-e-khas.
You can find several other unidentified tombs inside Chausath Khamba. It is believed that this monument is Atagah Khan’s family shrine. Next to this monument is located Mirza Ghalib’s Tomb. Urs Mahal is also located here. Both these monuments are enclosed by a giant entrance gate. As per historic facts, the tomb resembles another similar structure built in Sarkhej (Gujarat). Mirza Aziz served as governor there several times. He died there only and was buried however later on his remains were transferred to this monument.
Restoration work and reopening of the monument
After four years of continuous hard work, the tomb was reopened for the public. The restoration work was carried out by Aga Khan Trust and German Embassy. The work started in 2010. The engineers of the foundation found seepage at a large scale in 25 domes of the monuments. As per the project director of AKTC, Ratish Nanda,
“The marble blocks of the domes were tied to each another and embedded in the brick masonry over the domes with iron dowels. The rainwater spouts from the inaccessible roof got blocked and here, a large amount of water got collected on the roof. This led to corrosion, rusting, and expansion of the iron dowels. The pressure led to the bursting of the marble blocks in all parts of the mausoleum – domes, arches, façade, pendentives and even the column capitals – threatening to collapse the structure.”
3D laser scanning, stone by stone assessment and several other measurements were taken to ensure everything. The engineers stitched the cracks. Almost 8 months were spent just to fix the first dome. The rest of the domes were repaired by stone craftsmen in three-team over the next four years.
The nearest metro station is Jangpura metro station, JLN Stadium is also in close proximity. Chausath Khamba is located in Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti. If you are going to visit Humayun’s Tomb, you can also stop here and visit this monument. There are no entry tickets to the monument.
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I am a food & travel enthusiast, a music aficionado, poet, artist, and someone who loves to explore unexplored/off-beat places. I started this blog to share my food and travel journey.