This striking structure rising from out of nowhere is the mausoleum of Wazir Bahaduddinbhai Hasainbhai, one of the chief nobles in the Court of Nawab Mahabat Khan II of Junagadh. Construction on the yellow-walled complex began in 1878 by Mahabat Khanji and was completed in 1892 by his successor, Bahadur Khanji. Over a decade’s worth of work culminated in elaborate carvings on the buildings’ inner and outer façades, fine arches, French-style windows, columns and shining silver doorways. On the adjacent mosque, each minaret is encircled from top to bottom with winding staircases. Both buildings topped with distinctive “onion dome” rooflines.
The monument’s seemingly perplexing mixture of Indo-Islamic, European, and Gothic architecture makes a bit more sense when considered in the larger context of the complex history of the district of Junagadh itself. Founded in 1748, Junagadh had officially become a British Protectorate in 1807 though was handed over to the East India Company’s control in 1818. For the rest of Great Britain’s colonial rule of India, the Saurashtra region escaped direct administration of British India. Instead, the British divided the territory into more than 100 princely states – including Junagadh – which remained in existence until 1947. The city’s present old town, built during the 19th and 20th centuries, existed in a sort of gubernatorial no man’s land. It is in this very spot that the Mahabat Maqbara complex was built, during the period of Britain’s occupation of India.
At the time of India’s independence from British rule in 1947, incumbent ruler Mahabat Khan III elected to join Pakistan despite Junagadh having no common boundary with the new country. Under pressure from the Indian government he fled to Pakistan, and Junagadh reunited with India just three short months after declaring its independence.
Despite the nonstop political tumult at its doorstep, Mahabat Maqbara has stood like a beacon as it quietly assumed the diversity of influences surrounding it.
For interested visitors, access to the grounds is free, and the entirety of the mosque is open to all. Wazir Bahaduddinbhai Hasainbhai’s mausoleum, however, is explorable from the outside only, though it is said that keys to the interior can be procured from a keeper from the mosque.
2. Lenin's Mausoleum (Russia)
Since 1991, there has been some discussion about removing the Kremlin Wall Necropolis and burying Lenin's body. President Boris Yeltsin, with the support of the Russian Orthodox Church, intended to close the tomb and bury Lenin next to his mother, Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova, at the Volkov Cemetery in St. Petersburg. His successor, Vladimir Putin, opposed this, pointing out that a reburial of Lenin would imply that generations of citizens had observed false values during 70 years of Soviet rule.
In January 2011, the United Russia party created a website where visitors could vote whether Lenin's body should be buried, and 70% percent of the voters were in favour of his burial.
The mausoleum has undergone several changes in appearance since the fall of the Soviet Union. One of the first noticeable changes was the placement of gates at the staircases leading to the central tribune. After the removal of the guard, this was necessary to prevent unauthorized usage of the tribune. Beginning in 2012, the mausoleum underwent foundation reconstruction caused by the construction of a building attached to the mausoleum in 1983. The building houses an escalator once used by members of the politburo to ascend the tribune. In 1995 and 1996, when Boris Yeltsin used the tribune, he used stairs and not the escalator. Now the tribune is no longer used, therefore it became acceptable to remove the escalator. The building was closed in 2013 due to renovations. It was finally opened on April 30, 2013 in time for the May 1 celebration of "The Day of Spring and Labour".
3. Taj Mahal (India)
Shah Jahan, “the King of the World,” took control of the Mughal Empire throne in 1628 very much in love with the queen he dubbed Mumtaz Mahal or “Chosen One of the Palace.” The poets at Agra’s Mughal court said her beauty was such that the moon hid its face in shame before her.
The Mughals were at the peak of their power and wealth during Shah Jahan’s reign, and India’s rich lode of precious gems yielded him much wealth and power. But he was powerless to stop Mumtaz Mahal’s death during childbirth in 1631. Legend has it that she bound him with a deathbed promise to build her the most beautiful tomb ever known.
Promise or no, Shah Jahan poured his passion and wealth into the creation of just such a monument. It is said that 20,000 stone carvers, masons, and artists from across India and as far as Turkey and Iraq were employed under a team of architects to build the Taj Mahal in the lush gardens on the banks of Agra’s Jamuna River. They completed the epic task between 1631 and 1648.
While the arch-and-dome profile of clean white marble has become iconic, other beauties lie in the Taj Mahal’s painstaking details: inlaid semiprecious stones and carvings and Koranic verse in calligraphy create an enchanting interior space where Shah Jahan came to visit his wife’s remains before he was eventually interred at her side.
The Taj Mahal’s familiar marble domes are framed by four minarets from which Muslims are called to prayer. Each is designed with a slight outward lean, presumably to protect the main mausoleum in case one of them should collapse.
Two red sandstone buildings also flank the main mausoleum on either side. One, to the west, is a mosque. The other is a former guesthouse.
These buildings are set within lush gardens, complete with an enormous reflecting pool that regularly does what no human has ever been able to accomplish—duplicate the beauty of the Taj Mahal.
Shah Jahan himself gazed upon that beautiful image until the end of his days—but as a prisoner, not a ruler. His son Aurangzeb seized the Mughal throne and imprisoned his father in Agra’s Red Fort (itself a World Heritage site and popular tourist attraction). Whether as consolation or torture, Shah Jahan commanded a view of the Taj Mahal from his window.
How to Get There
Agra is a major city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and well accustomed to visitors—some three million people visit the Taj Mahal each year. The city is accessible by bus, train, and (limited) air service and has a wide range of tourist amenities. Access to the Taj Mahal complex is on foot.
When to Visit
The Taj Mahal is a year-round attraction and often busy, though new ticketing systems have thinned crowds at peak times. Visitors in search of more solitude might try coming early or late in the day. One time NOT to visit is on Friday, when the Taj Mahal is closed.
How to Visit
The mausoleum’s interior is a striking (if smallish) space that begs some leisurely exploration. But a good part of any visit to the Taj Mahal will be spent looking at the building from the outside. The mausoleum’s clean white marble shifts in color and tone to match the mood of the world outside—a transformation so enchanting that it’s worth lingering to gaze at the building in different conditions, such as the rosy glow of dawn or the magical light of a full moon.
4. Rufina Cambaceres Mausoleum (Argentina)
Whilst a pilgrimage to Evita’s grave is a must-do, it represents just one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of stories that Recoleta has to tell. Of all of them, my favourite is that of Rufina Cambaceres.
Born in 1883, daughter of accomplished Argentine author Eugene Cambaceres, Rufina grew up in comfort and wealth. Her father died when she was very young and she lived with her mother in a large house in the south of Buenos Aires, and by the time she reached her late teens she was known as one of the great beauties of the city.
Her 19th birthday was to be a grand affair – her mother had organised a large party and the evening was scheduled to end at a function given in the Teatro Colón. As Rufina was finishing her preparations for the big night, a friend of hers confessed something that everyone except Rufina knew, that is to say her fiancé was having an affair with Luisa, her own mother.
Left alone, Rufina’s heart broke into tiny pieces and one of the maids found her collapsed on the floor some time later, whereby 3 doctors were summoned and all pronounced her dead. Her distraught mother ordered her to be buried in Recoleta Cemetery.
Several days later at the final ceremony prior to burial, one of the guardians of the family vault shared some terrible news with Luisa. When the coffin had been opened for the last time, scratchmarks had been found in the lid, and Rufina’s face had also been badly scratched. The official story at the time was that the coffin had been raided to remove the jewels the body was wearing.
It is now known however that Rufina was in fact placed into the coffin alive, suffering from catalepsy, a condition characterised by rigidity and low vital signs. At some point she awoke to find herself trapped, tried in desperation to escape and unable to she died, this time definitively, of a heart attack.
Her Art Deco resting place can now be found on a corner to the left of the main square. Not only is it one of the most amazing stories in the cemetery, the beautiful tomb reflects the beauty and sadness of her short life. Pay her a visit when you’re next in Recoleta and don’t forget to look through the glass doors behind the sculpture where you can see her beautifully carved coffin.
5. William MacKenzie's Tomb (England)
The tomb lies in what is reputed to be one of the most haunted areas of Liverpool city.
Born near Nelson, Lancashire in 1794 and the eldest of the 11 children, Mackenzie started his career as an apprentice weaver but changed to civil engineering.
He went on to make his fortune working as engineer on canal and railway projects, latterly working on new railway lines in France, Spain, the Italian states and Belgium.
Mackenzie died in 1851, leaving most of his £341,848 estate to his brother Edward, who erected this pyramid shaped monument at the grave in 1868.
I couldn’t get any closer to the monument, but according to Wikipedia, an inscription on the Pyramid door reads:
In the vault beneath lie the remains of William Mackenzie of Newbie, Dumfriesshire, Esquire who died 29th October 1851 aged 57 years. Also, Mary his wife, who died 19th December 1838 aged 48 years and Sarah, his second wife who died 9th December 1867 aged 60 years. This monument was erected by his Brother Edward as a token of love and affection A.D. 1868. The memory of the just is blessed.
A wonderfully improbable local legend tells the story of how McKenzie was supposedly entombed seated at a table with a winning hand of cards in his bony fingers.
The yarn insists that as an inveterate gambler, he bet and lost his soul in a game of poker with the Devil and figured that if he was never buried, Satan could never claim his prize.
6. Nicolas Cage's Mausoleum (New Orleans)
Cage has a history with the city of New Orleans, having purchased both the infamously haunted LaLaurie Mansion and the historic Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel. Both properties were foreclosed on in 2009 after a tax debacle. Subsequently, Cage purchased his unnamed tomb in the city’s beloved St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, home to the grave of another of New Orleans’ supernatural heavies, Marie Laveau.
The empty grave is a stark, nine-foot-tall stone pyramid that stands in obvious contrast to the blockier, above-ground burial sites that have been crumbling away in the cemetery for over two centuries. There is no name on the pyramid yet, but it is emblazoned with the Latin maxim, “Omni Ab Uno,” which translates to “Everything From One.”
The actor himself has chosen to remain silent about his reasoning for the flamboyant tomb. Some speculate it’s an homage to the “National Treasure” movie franchise, though given that many cemeteries host pyramid grave markers, it may have simply been a stylistic choice. Others think the pyramid is evidence of the strange actor’s ties to the probably-fictitious secret Illuminati society. Because of antique portraits bearing an uncanny resemblance to Cage that have surfaced online, the more paranormally-minded suggest that the pyramid is where Cage will regenerate his immortal self. The rumor around town is that Cage has considered himself cursed since owning LaLaurie’s mansion (his box office record does reflect this) and he feels being next to Marie Laveau will un-curse him.
Whatever his reasons, the Cage pyramid has already become an iconic part of the cemetery, much to the chagrin of many locals who are furious that he was able to obtain a plot in the cramped graveyard. Many have even accused the tomb of damaging or removing other centuries-old burials to make room. Yet despite public outcry, the pyramid stands.
New Orleans may not like Nic Cage, but it’s clear that he likes New Orleans. Though some feel Cage is detracting from the historic importance of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, his grave has already become a part of its mythology. For whatever reason, a tradition has arisen of leaving lipstick kisses behind on the nameless tomb.
7. Tomb of Enrique Torres Belón (Peru)
The small town has a number of unique sights, from a working chinchilla farm on its outskirts to intricate mosaics in its central plaza, but what stands out the most is its enormous colonial church, the Iglesia Santiago Apóstol. Connected to the church is Enrique Torres Belón’s freaky mausoleum, a silo of bones capped by an aluminum replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Engineer and politician Enrique Torres Belón, one of Lampa’s most famous sons, designed and built the tomb in the mid-20th century so that he could rest in peace, along with his wife, surrounded by the earthly remains of the city’s forebears. The otherworldly tribute is lined with hanging human skeletons and hundreds of skulls exhumed from the town’s cemetery and the crypts beneath the church. At the bottom is a black marble cross, whose lighting exaggerates the eerie shadows cast by the macabre wall hangings.
Topping the dome over the carefully arranged bones is a replica of the Pietà, arguably Michelanglo’s most famous sculpture. The original Renaissance masterpiece is housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, but anyone wanting to see another copy of the sculpture won’t have to travel far. The town hall contains another exact replica, in plaster. It was supposed to be destroyed after the aluminum sculpture was complete, but the town decided to keep it instead.
8. Drug Lord Mausoleums (Mexico)
They say you can’t take your money with you when you die, but that doesn’t mean some people don’t try, or at least take it all the way to the doorstep into the afterlife. Even in death, members of the dreaded Sinaloa cartel love nothing more than to flaunt their ostentatious lifestyle in the form of elaborate mausoleums that cost a lot more than an average family home in Mexico. Jardines del Humaya has become famous for its impressive villa or chapel-like tombs, with people from all over Mexico, and sometimes from abroad, traveling there just to see them in person.
Visiting a cemetery in one of the most dangerous places in Earth doesn’t sound much like a trip too many people would like to make, but there is no denying that the dozens of tombs in the cemetery’s “high-class” area are worth a look. Once you pass the average-looking graves of the poorer folk, near the entrance to Jardines del Humaya, you are treated to a plethora of architectural wonders all of which seem out of place in a cemetery. There are mansion-like mausoleums, two-story villas, small chapels, and even miniature castles, all built to show the greatness of the people resting in them.
And it’s not just the outside that’s impressive about these luxurious mausoleums. According to several reports, many of them come with modern amenities that many regular Mexicans can only dream of, like 24-hour air-conditioning, living rooms, bedrooms, fully equipped kitchens, bulletproof glass, alarm systems and wi-fi. All so that visiting families and friends can enjoy their stay.
“It’s an expression of the power that they once had and a manifestation of their desire for eternity, which is natural in any human being,” Juan Carlos Ayala, a philosophy professor at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, said about the uncanny narco mausoleums. “It’s also a demonstration for those who survive them that this man was important.”
Professor Ayala estimates that the cost of some of these lavish mausoleums reaches up to $390,000, but according to a Daily Mail article from last year, some of them actually cost much more than that. For example, the massive mausoleum complex built for Arturo Guzman Loera, the brother of the famous ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, reportedly cost $1,200,000 to build, and features several bedrooms, 24-hour surveillance and air-conditioning, among others.
The mausoleum of Arturo Beltran Lyva, ‘The Boss of All Bosses’, looks like a small castle-fort and features satellite television, wi-fi internet connection, kitchen, bedrooms and a burglar alarm. It is estimated to have cost around $600,000.
With these lavish tombs boldly flaunting the lavish lifestyle of their permanent inhabitants, it’s no wonder that Mexican authorities have been considering placing a ban on such structures, to deter young people from joining drug cartels.
9. “Beverly Hills of the Dead” (Philippines)
The ginormous mausoleums lining either side of two-way streets within the cemetery are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that many living people can only dream of. They have fully-functioning kitchens and bathrooms with luxury fittings, and plush bedrooms for visiting relatives. Some of these places even have full-time residents who don’t seem to mind sharing their living space with the dead.
The unconventional cemetery was first established by the Chinese trading community in Manila when Spanish colonials prevented them from using Catholic cemeteries. They were forced to find their own space to bury their dead, and it looks like they really went all out to customize it to their liking, making sure that their loved ones felt comfortable even in the afterlife. The extravagance of the cemetery is believed to reflect the great respect that the Chinese have towards their departed family members – they believe that the souls of the dead live in another world and their graves are supposed to be their homes on Earth. So if a family can afford it, it only makes sense for them to construct afterlife homes that are up to three stories high. Interestingly, children aren’t buried at the Chinese Cemetery – they are cremated instead and the ashes are placed at a special building within the neighborhood.
But apparently, the Chinese Cemetery of Manila was never meant to be this luxurious. Nicky Chen of Behind the Story visited the place and discovered the original rules of the cemetery carved in stone. Some of these state that “The rich should be frugal and simple in their burial, and the burial should conform to Chinese traditions”, “Grave site design should be simple and dignified” and “To discourage displays of opulence, the unit price of lots beyond two are set on a geometric progression”. Judging by the current look of the place, people have clearly forgotten all about them.
Given how comfortable these tomb-homes are, it’s not surprising that many visiting relatives have remained there permanently. In fact, some Chinese Cemetery residents claim that they were actually born on the burial grounds. Every modern amenity is available to them, including electricity, running water, drainage, telephone lines, cellular connectivity, and even a local restaurant.
The Chinese Cemetery is now a popular tourist attraction in the city, complete with professional guides. For 200 pesos, you can expect a complete tour of the eccentric neighborhood inhabited by both the dead and the living. Adventurous visitors could choose to hire a bicycle instead, and explore the sprawling grounds on their own.
Interestingly, this isn’t the only cemetery in Manila inhabited by both the dead and the living. Four years ago, we wrote about the city’s North Cemetery, where around 10,000 homeless people lived at the time. Over the years, city officials had made attempts to move people out of graveyard and provide them with housing options, but several of these resettled families prefered to go back to their old creepy homes in the graveyard.
10. Humayun's tomb (India)
Outstanding Universal Value
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi is the first of the grand dynastic mausoleums that were to become synonyms of Mughal architecture with the architectural style reaching its zenith 80 years later at the later Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb stands within a complex of 21.60 ha. that includes other contemporary, 16th century Mughal garden-tombs such as Nila Gumbad, Isa Khan, Bu Halima, Afsarwala, Barber’s Tomb and the complex where the craftsmen employed for the Building of Humayun’s Tomb stayed, the Arab Serai.
Humayun’s Tomb was built in the 1560’s, with the patronage of Humayun’s son, the great Emperor Akbar. Persian and Indian craftsmen worked together to build the garden-tomb, far grander than any tomb built before in the Islamic world. Humayun’s garden-tomb is an example of the charbagh (a four quadrant garden with the four rivers of Quranic paradise represented), with pools joined by channels. The garden is entered from lofty gateways on the south and from the west with pavilions located in the centre of the eastern and northern walls.
The mausoleum itself stands on a high, wide terraced platform with two bay deep vaulted cells on all four sides. It has an irregular octagon plan with four long sides and chamfered edges. It is surmounted by a 42.5 m high double dome clad with marble flanked by pillared kiosks (chhatris) and the domes of the central chhatris are adorned with glazed ceramic tiles. The middle of each side is deeply recessed by large arched vaults with a series of smaller ones set into the facade.
The interior is a large octagonal chamber with vaulted roof compartments interconnected by galleries or corridors. This octagonal plan is repeated on the second storey. The structure is of dressed stone clad in red sandstone with white and black inlaid marble borders.
Humayun’s garden-tomb is also called the ‘dormitory of the Mughals’ as in the cells are buried over 150 Mughal family members.
The tomb stands in an extremely significant archaeological setting, centred at the Shrine of the 14th century Sufi Saint, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. Since it is considered auspicious to be buried near a saint’s grave, seven centuries of tomb building has led to the area becoming the densest ensemble of medieval Islamic buildings in India.
Criteria (ii): Humayun’s garden-tomb is built on a monumental scale, grandeur of design and garden setting with no precedence in the Islamic world for a mausoleum. Here for the first time, important architectural innovations were made including creating a char-bagh – a garden setting inspired by the description of paradise in the Holy Quran. The monumental scale achieved here was to become the characteristic of Mughal imperial projects, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal.
Criteria (iv): Humayun’s Tomb and the other contemporary 16th century garden tombs within the property form a unique ensemble of Mughal era garden-tombs. The monumental scale, architectural treatment and garden setting are outstanding in Islamic garden-tombs. Humayun’s Tomb is the first important example in India, and above all else, the symbol of the powerful Mughal dynasty that unified most of the sub continent.
The inscribed property includes the Humayun’s tomb enclosure, which comprises the gateways, pavilions and attached structures pre-dating Humayun’s Tomb, such as the Barber’s Tomb, Nila Gumbad and its garden setting, Isa Khan’s garden tomb and other contemporary 16th century structures such as Bu Halima’s garden-tomb and Afsarwala garden-Tomb. All of these attributes fully convey the outstanding universal value of the property. The tomb’s in the complex have been respected throughout their history and so have retained original form and purpose intact. Recent conservation works, that have followed the urban landscape approach, have been aimed at preserving this character and ensured the preservation of the physical fabric, enhancing the significance while reviving living building craft traditions used by the Mughal builders.
The authenticity of the Humayun’s Tomb lies in the mausoleum, other structures and the garden retaining its original form and design, materials and setting.
The tomb and its surrounding structures are substantially in their original state and interventions have been minimal and of high quality. Conservation works being carried out on the structures are focused on using traditional materials such as lime mortar, building tools and techniques to recover authenticity especially by removal of 20th century materials such as the concrete layers from the roof and replacement by lime-concrete, removal of cement plaster from the lower cells and replacement with lime mortar in original patterns and concrete removal from the lower platform to reveal and reset the original stone paving, among other similar efforts. A similar conservation approach is being used on all garden-tombs in the complex.
Protection and management requirements
As with other sites under the management of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), there is adequate protection through various legislations such as Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 and Rules 1959, Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010, Delhi Municipal Corporation Act 1957, Land Acquisition Act 1894, Delhi Urban Art Commission Act 1973, Urban Land (Sealing and Regulation) Act 1976, Environmental Pollution Act, 1986, amongst others. The tomb and its gardens has been the focus of a conservation project in partnership with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture since 1997 with the enclosed gardens restored with flowing water in the first phase (1997-2003) and the conservation works on the tomb and other attached structures being undertaken since 2007.
Flowing water was an essential element of the Mughal char-bagh and at Humayun’s Tomb, underground terracotta pipes, aqueducts, fountains, water channels were some of the elements of the gardens. Since the time of inscription, major conservation works have been based on exhaustive archaeological investigation, archival research and documentation, were undertaken on the garden by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) – Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) multi-disciplinary team culminating in restoring flowing water into the garden.
The availability of high craftsmanship ensures that significance is retained especially by removal of modern materials. A core committee comprising ASI Director General, ASI Additional Director General, ASI Regional Director, Director (Conservation) and the Superintending Archaeologist, ASI Delhi Circle review all on-going works being implemented by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Conservation works are further independently per reviewed on a regular basis.
The implementation of the participatory management plan will be critical for the sustained operation of the management system, including agreements to allow visitors to access the adjoining 70 acre Sunder Nursery and the Mughal monuments standing therein. Additional security requirements for the Humayun’s Tomb site will need to be addressed, especially in view of the significant increase in visitor numbers. Visitor management will also require definition of guidelines for the potential development of infrastructure, such as an interpretation centre.
The physical setting of the property, with several hundred acres of green in the north, has also contributed to the preservation of additional buildings located in the buffer zone of the property. These include the garden-tombs standing in the adjacent Sundarwala and Batashewala Complexes. These buildings are also significant as they contribute to the understanding of the evolution of the inscribed property. Therefore adequate protection and management measures need to be systematically implemented at the buffer zone.