After a massive six-year renovation, the Indian government has reopened the legendary Humayun’s Tomb, a 16th century architectural marvel from the Mughal period in Delhi.
The Asian Age newspaper reported that the restoration project was accomplished by thousands of master craftsmen, including masons, plasterers, stone carvers and tile makers, as well as hundreds of millions of rupees in financial costs. Indian officials even imported craftsmen from Uzbekistan -– the native land of Babur (Humayun’s father) who founded the Mughal dynasty in India –- to help with the project.
Begun in 1565, nine years after the death of Mughal Emperor Humayun, and completed in 1570, the tomb is a Unesco World Heritage site. But it had fallen into decay prior to joint public-private efforts by the Indian government, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, the Archaeological Survey of India, World Monuments Fund, Ford Foundation and other organizations to painstakingly restore the mausoleum’s original grandeur. The tomb was originally designed by the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiyas.
“India has one of the richest repositories of heritage anywhere in the world, and it is critical that we find practical and innovative ways to preserve and maintain this heritage. … It gives me great joy to be here this evening in a spot that is replete with the grandeur of nearly 500 years of Indian history,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a ceremony celebrating the completion of the makeover. “The key to the success of this conservation initiative at Humayun’s Tomb has been partnership between like-minded public and private agencies. All these takeaways mean that this effort could very well be a model for sustainable urban development of our historic city centers.”
According to FirstPost newspaper, the tomb restoration represented the "largest and most ambitious heritage conservation project" ever undertaken in India. "Until the 18th century, Humayun's Tomb was kept in good [shape]. But with the decline of the Mughal Empire, neglect set in," project director Ratish Nanda told Agence France Presse. "It's a huge building and it had been badly mutilated by really inappropriate repairs. Humayan's Tomb was a stroke of genius. It is the first of the grand dynastic mausoleums that the Mughals built. There is no precedent. This is the model and the precursor of the Taj Mahal."
Indeed, the 17th-century Taj Mahal, which has become synonymous with India itself, represented the zenith of the Mughal architectural style and has easily surpassed Humayun’s Tomb in popularity. Some have even described the tomb as a “little Taj Mahal.” Nonetheless, tourist officials hope the tomb again attracts huge numbers of visitors from both within India and foreign nations.
And given the immense negative consequences of the widely publicized and fatal Delhi gang rape from last year -- in tandem with a new government austerity program -- India needs more tourist dollars, especially from foreign females who have been frightened off by repeated media reports on rapes, including sexual assaults on Western tourists. In the first three months of this year, the number of female tourists to India plunged by 35 percent, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
Only 6.4 million tourists came to India in 2012, less than the number of travelers who went to France, a much smaller country. The New York Times reported that tourism represents 6 percent of India’s economy and provides about 20 million jobs directly. India’s overall economy, once the envy of the world, also has slipped -- GDP climbed by only 5 percent last year down from a lusty 9 percent jump in 2010.