When my auto rickshaw stopped on a busy street, it was not immediately clear that he did so because we had arrived at my destination. Three onion-shaped domes and a huge ornately decorated gateway made me realize that I actually had. After paying the entrance fee, with the traffic noise behind me, I walked through the gate and entered a haven of silence. Coincidentally, the sun managed to break through the clouds, and before my eyes I saw a large park with, in the very middle, the proud Mausoleum of Safdarjung, a brown-red building with domes and slender towers at the corners. Unfortunately, the water canals were empty; they would have given the place a more stately impression. Still, the many palm trees and the well-kept garden looked inviting, so I walked in on the brown-reddish lane.
Safdarjung was a governor of Oudh and, later, Chief Minister of India in the mid-18th century. His real name was Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan, but Moghul emperor Muhammad Shah named him Safdarjung. He later served under emperor Ahmad Shah. After his death, his son had the mausoleum constructed using red sandstone and buff. Safdarjung's Tomb has been called the last flicker in the lamp of the Mughal architecture in Delhi. The most famous flicker, of course, being the world famous Taj Mahal. The gardens are designed in Charbagh layout, originating in ancient Persia, where a square garden is subdivided into four smaller parts.
It was the Charbagh garden I walked through on my way to the mausoleum, which is located exactly in the centre. No reflection of the majestic building as the water was lacking, but also no crowds. I walked up to the platform of the mausoleum, from where I could appreciate the beautifully decorated exterior of Safdarjung's Tomb. High above me, colourful birds were playing against the walls; inside, there was an eerie silence. You enter though one of the arched gateways of the square building. After your eyes have adjusted to the darkness, they are immediately drawn to the geometrical decorations carved into the ceiling. Once you continue, you reach the very centre of attention of this place: you stand right in front of the tombstone of Safdarjung. The marble tomb is dwarfed by the enormously high ceiling above it and the large gardens around the mausoleum. No matter how important the man, his tomb is a small white marble coffin, infinitely smaller than its surroundings. Here, you feel the smallness of life.
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