Khan-i-Kalan Shamsh-ud-din Muhammad Khan joined the army of Emperor Humayun & rose to become one of his close confidantes & administrators. Pleased with his steadfastness & loyalty, Humayun declared Shamsh-ud-din the foster-father (“Atgah”) of his new-born son Akbar. Shamshuddin Atgah Khan was made a general in Humayun’s army, a position he retained when Akbar ascended the throne of India. Akbar immensely respected Atgah Khan & sought his opinion in all important decisions. In 1561, Akbar raised Atgah Khan to the coveted position of “Wakil” (“Minister”), a step that greatly displeased Akbar’s another foster-brother & general Adham Khan. Adham Khan murdered Atgah Khan when the latter was investigating some of the corruption charges against the former. A magnificent mausoleum was commissioned within the complex of the Dargah of Sheikh Nizamuddin for Atgah Khan by his son Mirza Kokaltash on the orders of the Emperor who was aggrieved by the heinous murder of his most trusted lieutenant & minister.

Atgah Khan's Tomb 1

Atgah Khan's Tomb 2

Description                 The strikingly symmetrical medium-sized square tomb is built of red sandstone and ornamented with decorated slabs of white marble. It is splendidly ornamented with medallions, pietra dura work & calligraphy. It is surmounted by a high dome the marble that covers the tomb’s exteriors is inlaid with red & blue-hued stone, painstakingly chiseled in several patterns. The inlay work is more profuse near the base of the tomb, one of the niches has an entrance built into it with a wooden door that has been locked perennially by the Archaeological Survey of India (A.S.I); the rest of the niches are marked with intricately designed latticework (“jali”).
History The tomb was completed in the year 1566-67. Its architect was Ustad Khuda Quli who presided over its construction; Ustad Baqi Muhammad was entrusted with sculpting the marble slabs that were to be laid on the sandstone walls with intricate calligraphy drawing upon Quranic verses.
Construction The courtyard around the tomb was once pretty large, the architects had intended it to stand in a large open ground so the visitors can take in its sheer beauty & magnificence, but has been encroached upon on all sides leaving only a couple of feet on each side of the tomb. A small, roofed pavilion stands within the courtyard, next to one of the enclosing walls – the eight pillars still retain much of their original artwork.
Protection  The tomb is a national protected monument & comes under the aegis of Archaeological Survey of India. However, the protection offered to the tomb is nil which is apparent from the encroachments that have taken over the tomb. One of ASI’s own watchman’s family lives within the crypt of the tomb along with a dozen other families. The crypt chamber has been modified to make way for closets & doorways, the walls & the floor are now lined with ceramic tiles, the foundations have been demolished to make way for additional rooms. The damage wrought on the adjacent pavilion by the residents of this neighbourhood is intense – a small room next to it has been broken into, part of the wall that surrounded it has been demolished & the room converted into a makeshift incinerator for burning paper & wood. The courtyard is filled with debris & daily waste; the problem of waterlogging is also extensive.
Ownership    Archaeological Survey of India
Location         It is advisable to go to Hazrat Nizamuddin’s Dargah and from there ask the locals to guide you through the by-lanes. 
Remark     Since you might have to cross through the Dargah area, it is better to take off one’s footwear & carry them in your hand/bagpacks. You have the option of depositing them with any of the numerous shops that line the lanes outside the Dargah, however you will need them in case you are visiting the mausoleum on a scorching summer day since the stone & marble floor of the tomb courtyard would be simmering like a frying pan. It is also advisable to be dressed modestly & keep one’s head covered with skullcap/dupatta. For a detailed write-up on the mausoleum click more!

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Disclaimer: The article expresses individual views of the author. The rights to the content of the article rests with the author.

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