Delhi’s Finest Mughal Sites

David Pettitt

India’s capital city is home to some of the best preserved Mughal sites of the subcontinent. There have been at least eight different cities here over the centuries and, despite later and earlier additions, the Mughal period can be said to have had the greatest influence both culturally and architecturally on the modern metropolis. From tombs and a fort to a mosque and bazaar, these are Delhi’s key Mughal sites.

View of the Tomb of Safdarjung in New Delhi, India

Humayun’s Tomb

Enclosed by a garden still retaining its Persian form, Humayun’s Tomb was built by the emperor’s wife and completed in 1565, almost a decade after his death, and is one of the subcontinent’s most sophisticated garden tombs. With its octagonal design and 38 metre high dome, the tomb led to several major architectural innovations which was to culminate with the construction of the Taj Mahal.

Red Fort

Conceived by Shah Jehan, building of the Red Fort started in 1639 and was to result in one of India’s largest fortified palaces. A Mughal residence for close to 200 years the fort, with its high walls and deep moat, dominated the Yamuna River and old city and today is a World Heritage Site. The interior consists of gardens, courts, halls and pavilions including the spectacular Diwan-i-Khas.

Chandni Chowk

Still one of Delhi’s busiest thoroughfares, Chandni Chowk was the Mughal city’s principle road and commercial heart. Starting life as a small octagonal court during the mid-17th century, it developed into a dense network of over-crowded homes and narrow, twisting alleyways of silver markets, textile shops and jewellers. The copper-domed Fatehpuri Masjid marks the western end of the original street.

Jama Masjid

Delhi’s Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India and Shah Jehan’s last great architectural work. Completed in 1658, it took 5,000 workers close to six years to complete and sits high above the old city streets. Constructed of beautiful red sandstone strikingly inlaid with white marble, the huge central courtyard, which can accommodate 25,000 people, is overlooked by 40 metre high minarets.

Tomb of Safdarjung

One of Delhi’s last Mughal monuments, the Tomb of Safdarjung dates to the latter half of the 18th century and is reminiscent of Humayun’s Tomb. Built with a combination of red and yellow sandstone with strips of marble inlay and topped by a single high dome, it is not only the subcontinent’s final garden tomb complex but also considered the last example of grand Mughal architecture.