As the Delhi summer was welcoming us, and Insaniyat Magazine’s release date was just around the corner; my (Arya) foolish self had forgotten to get a few last shots for an interview-based article that was ready to be published in the magazine. So Tanya and I set out to get some of these last pictures of Shakil Mama’s work of Naqashi on the tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan e Khanan, who was one of the nine navratnas of Emperor Akbar’s court. Nestled in a corner of the Nizamuddin Basti, this tomb was closed off to the public for many years until recently, when it was reopened by the Aga Khan Trust after doing immense restoration work.
It was my second visit to the monument and Tanya’s first, and as it should be, Tanya was flabbergasted after viewing the monument. We were the first visitors of the day and the only people there. Tanya, who is a literature student is very quick to compare monuments to each other. She often finds similarities between the Tomb of Humayun, the Taj, the tomb of Rahim, and the motifs that we observe at these tombs; after all an artist’s eye is the quickest to capture the intricate motifs and detailing. But this comparison of monuments struck a small detail in me. I told Tanya that long before Shah Jahan built the Taj for his third wife Mumtaz, Rahim had built this tomb in the loving memory of his wife. While we associate this tale of love only with Shah Jahan, we have forgotten about Rahim whose verses are taught to students across the CBSE board.
We did not end up publishing the picture you see above, but instead, we captured some motifs inside the monument and published those pictures in the magazine. The inside of the tomb reminds me of the insides of all the Sunder nursery monuments. Surprisingly both have been done by Shakil Mama.
On the morning of our visit, we also found bottles of rum lying in the gardens. Maybe people enjoy having some alcohol while reading poetry written by Rahim; after all, Delhi is the city of Ghalib, and Ghalib’s tomb is within walking distance from Rahim’s tomb even though they are separated by centuries.
Apart from being a poet, Rahim was also a scholar of the Persian and Sanskrit languages. He had a strong command over astrology, and as per circumstance and occasion, he built architectural marvels too! After his death, he was buried alongside his wife and hence we call this place the Tomb of Abdur Rahim Khan e Khanan.
*The intricate patterns that you see in the picture are the motifs and designs within the Tomb of Rahim.
Written by @aryasethi
Photography and art by @merensest