Sabz Burj, standing at the entrance to the Humayun’s Tomb, is an example of early Timurid architecture and could be precisely dated to the 1520s or the onset of Mughal rule in Delhi. This prominently sited structure is unique for its architectural style and treatment and as with most of the monumental tombs standing in the Humayun’s Tomb – Nizamuddin area, it has suffered from neglect, vandalism and inappropriate past repairs reducing the magnificent structure to a roadside ruin.
Conservation works being undertaken by the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme are aimed at enhancing the architectural significance of the monument using traditional tools and techniques to recover the lost grandeur of this important structure, located within the buffer zone of the World Heritage Site of Humayun’s Tomb.
Standing immediately to the north-eastern edge of the sacred landscape defined by the Dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the Sabz Burj today stands in a traffic island at the crossing of Lodhi Road and Mathura Road, west of Humayun’s Tomb.
Though the domed mausoleum bears no date, and it is not recorded who lies buried here, the architectural style - harmonious geometric proportions expressed in perfect symmetry and pishtaqs framing the arched topped by an onion-shaped dome with the façade ornamented with tile work - is Timurid and similar octagonal structures are seen across Central Asia. The architectural style can be dated to the 1530s, making Sabz Burj one of the earliest monuments standing within the significant World Heritage ensemble of Humayun’s Tomb complex and the Sunder Nursery monuments.
Here, the central chamber is connected through four axial passages to the lofty pishtaqs in the main outer faces, which alternate with smaller half octagonal arched niches in the narrower faces. As with Humayun’s Tomb, Sabz Burj has a double dome with the outer dome and the tall drum covered with tiles. The intricate ornamentation on the outer façade is unique for Delhi monuments and shows great variety in the application of geometric and interlacing patterns in red, white, and black in incised plasterwork, highlighted in several fields with tiles.
The square interior is divided by a cornice into a comparatively low wall zone with shallow niches and a transition zone of four high arched windows and four squinches defining the corners. Originally the entire interior wall surface would have been painted, of which the painted ceiling has survived – making it the most significant feature of Sabz Burj. Here gold and lapiz have been profusely used in delicate patterns and in a dynamic manner with the quality of the paintings being confident and skillful.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture