Safdar Jung is the title of the nobleman Abul Mansur Khan who, after his father-in-law, became the governor (nawab) of the independent Awadh, or Oudh State in 1729. From 1748 to 1753, he also served as a prime minister (wazir) under Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur (1748-1754) in Delhi. He died in 1754 and was buried in a monumental mausoleum built by his son, Shuja al-Daulah (second Nawab of Awadh).
Considered to be the last Mughal monument in Delhi, Safdar Jung's mausoleum is found within a funerary garden approximately ten kilometers southwest of the walled city of Shahjahanabad, along the road leading to the Qutub complex in Mehrauli. Now within the confines of Lutyen's colonial Delhi, the mausoleum is found at the end of the Lodi Road leading to Humayun's tomb.
Overall, the square walled garden complex measures about 300 meters per side and is entered on the east through a double-storied gateway with an arcaded verandah. The other three enclosure walls contain dalans, or arcades, with three pavilions in their centers: the Jungli Mahal (Forest Pavilion, in the west wall), the Badshah Pasand (Emperor's Favorite, north wall), and the Moti Mahal (Pearl Pavilion, south wall). A mosque, which may have been a later addition, is located to the north of the entrance gateway.
The mausoleum is found in the center of the garden, a chahar bagh divided into four equal quadrants with raised water channels centered on all four sides of the garden to converge at the mausoleum itself. A single row of fountains runs down the middle.
Like that of Humayun, the mausoleum has a nine-part square plan and is built upon an arcaded stone plinth. The double-height tomb chamber is flanked on all four sides by two stories of ancillary chambers with recessed windows. Each of the four corners of the tomb is marked by a circular minaret crowned with a domed chattri. Each of the four exterior elevations features a tall central arched iwan surrounded by shallow cusped arches and crowned with a row of miniature domes; each elevation is finished in red sandstone with white marble detailing. The mausoleum is topped with a large bulbous dome sitting on a drum.
The mausoleum's interior features exquisite stucco carvings with white marble inlays. Highly polished plasterwork (laid over the brick structure) approaches the appearance of marble.
The Mausoleum of Safdar Jung is described in the writings and illustrations of nineteenth-century European travelers to Delhi. Its strategic location along the road that connects the city proper to the Qutub complex in the south made it a popular tourist destination. An orchard garden in the city, it also catered to colonial British landscape sensibilities. As a religious site, it is particularly important for the Shia community during Muharram.
Asher, Catherine. The New Cambridge History of India: Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge University Press, 1992. 305-6.
Koch, Ebba. Mughal Architecture. Munich: Prestel, 1991. 132.
Peck, Lucy. Delhi: A Thousand Years of Building. New Delhi: Lotus Collection, 2005. 129-130.
Sharma, Jyoti. "The British Treatment of Historic Gardens in the Indian Subcontinent: The Transformation of Delhi’s Nawab Safdarjung’s Tomb Complex from a Funerary Garden into a Public Park." Garden History 35, no. 2 (2007): 210-228.
Tillotson, G.H.R. Mughal India. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1990. 68-69.