NEW DELHI: The final resting place of Abdur Rahim Khan-E-Khana, one of the powerful courtiers during the reign of Emperor Akbar, is historically significant for diverse reasons; primarily for being the first Mughal tomb built for a woman, one among few early sepulchres constructed in Delhi, and its architecture; similar to Humayun’s tomb hence considered a precursor to Taj Mahal.
Rahim, also known as poet, built the mausoleum for his wife. She, however, couldn’t be buried here.
He rose through the ranks in the court of Akbar but was subjected to humiliation at the hands of Jehangir, who ordered the killing of two of his sons.
The opulent mausoleum strategically close to the shrine of 13th century sufi-saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya faced rejection and was mistreated in later years like its creator Rahim.
The marble and stones were removed sometime during the second half of 18th century. In 1847, Sayyid Ahman Khan, in his book—Asar-us-Sandid (The Remnants of Ancient Heroes) recorded that the tomb appeared like a bare skeleton of lime mortar and brick.
“Even the headstone of the grave itself was not spared. Today it exists in ruins, with cows and buffaloes stationed in its premises. Cow dung is spread all over the place and the stink from it makes it very difficult to venture inside,” says English translation of the book by noted author Rana Safvi.
Major renovation exercise to stablise the structure was carried out in 1923. Subsequent conservation attempts by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) especially between 1978 and 2006 led to disfigurement of its original details and patterns. The cracks in vaults and dome were casually filled with cement mortar. With marble and sandstone cladding the dome, façade, and terrace missing, the tomb stood in the state of sheer negligence.
In 2014, fresh colossal conservation efforts were initiated by Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) as part of its ‘Nizamuddin area Urban Renewal Initiative’, in association with the ASI. The programme was funded by InterGlobe Foundation. The project is on the verge of completion and soon, it will be open for the general visitors. Union culture minister Prahalad Singh Patel said he would pay a visit to the tomb on December 17 (Thursday), which is the birth anniversary of Rahim.
“Almost every of its architectural features had ruined. As part of the conservation project, the entire structure has been restored. This is the largest heritage conservation project undertaken by Interglobe Foundation in recent years. The experience has been satisfactory and enriching as the foundation wants to leave a legacy behind for the nation. Heritage conservation helps spin off revival of dying art or skills and neighbouring communities get exposure and economic opportunities,” said Priyanka Singh, head of Interglobe Foundation.
A gallery for showcasing Rahim’s work is being created on its campus, an official said.