Who was Barber?



Posted on 25 March 2010  | 
The date was 16th October, the day before Diwali – a big festival in India commonly known as The Festival of Lights – and as such the office was closing early for the day. I decided to make the most of this opportunity and met up with a friend to go out and explore Delhi. On this particular day we had decided to visit Humayun’s Tomb which is in the same area as the WWF office. So as to not get charged extortionate tourist fees we asked our auto driver to drop us at the main road near the entrance to the site, in hind sight this may not have been the best decision as crossing the busy road was more than a little dangerous, but it did mean that I got to walk along a road that runs all the way from Pakistan to Bangladesh (apparently) and to see Sabz Burj (another tomb) which stands in the middle of the roundabout. Humayun was Delhi’s first Moghal emperor and as such this was the first Moghal garden tomb, which was followed in style by the Taj Mahal years later.

There are large grounds surrounding the tomb and also a number of smaller mausoleums and structures which are very impressive in their own right. The first tomb we saw actually predates Humayun’s by 20 years and belongs to an Afghan noble called Isa Khan Niyazi (who actually fought against the Moghals). I though it was very beautiful in a slightly rugged way and the afternoon light captured it nicely. Within the tomb there was a very narrow, VERY steep, flight of stairs that you could climb to reach the upper level and see down into the chamber and out towards the surrounding area. I decided to brave the uneven footing and was rewarded with a lovely view, although on the way down I did have to climb backwards and slowly so as not to fall. Following this we saw an old mosque structure (which I also climbed up) and a number of other building and arches which I don’t remember the names of. As with Raj Ghat, this area was once again a complete world away from the noise and the hectic life of the city, and it was so good to be away from traffic.

As we walked through the archway to Humayun’s tomb I caught my first glimpse of the beautiful structure. It really is a work of art, and the red sandstone with black and white marble is very impressive. I stood still to take it in from a distance and then we gradually approached walking alongside the dramatic water channels and passing fountains on the way. Standing close by is another smaller monument so we decided to take a look. The sign before it read Barber’s Tomb and I remembered reading about it in my guide book so I recounted the tale of how it was Humayun’s barber’s tomb and he had a special position as he held a knife to the emperor’s throat everyday. It turns out though that this story may just be a myth (although told as fact in my guidebook) and no-one actually knows for sure who the tomb belongs to. After my story my friend told me another about how Humayun’s farther was called Barbur and perhaps somewhere along the way there had been mistranslation and tomb belonged to his parents. Who would you rather have buried near you?....your father?....or your hairdresser?
The tomb of Humayun, one of the great Moghal Emperors
© WWF / Hannah Chisholm Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required