The initiative is a project of the Aga Khan Development Network
What did we do

The understanding of the significance of the 16th century Humayun’s Tomb finial as well as the damages that its copper-gold vessels suffered in the 2014 collapse, led to the agreement that following repairs to the vessels the finial should be preserved and displayed in the secure environment of the under-construction Humayun’s Tomb Interpretation Centre.

The finial will thus be a centrepiece of the Interpretation Centre. Access to the finial in a museum environment for scholars and scientists will, it is hoped, lead to further research that sheds light on both the pluralistic architectural traditions of the Mughals as well as scientific achievement in 16th century India.

On 30 May 2014, during a sandstorm of unprecedented wind velocity exceeding 150 km/ hour the wooden core of the finial snapped - causing the 300 kilos of copper vessels to come crashing on the roof – 70 feet below.

In 2009, during inspections the final seemed to have been in a stable condition and as such it was considered un-necessary to dismantle the finial and scientifically assess the condition of the wooden core.

Inspections carried out in the aftermath of the May 2014 collapse revealed that the section of wood, almost 1 foot tall, had virtually turned to dust as a result of decades of rainwater percolation and retention, leading to its snapping.

Continuity of craft traditions over centuries in India has meant that craftsmen still use tools, techniques used by their forefathers in the 16th century to create copper vessels, kalash or finials for Temples and other similar products.

The installation of the Gold Finial on the dome was itself a herculean, risky and challenging process. Led by Aga Khan Trust for Culture engineers, a team of experienced craftsmen first erected the 22 feet tree-log, weighing 1450 kilos to be erected precisely vertical within the dome masonry and fitted with lime mortar. Each copper-gold vessel was then set on the wooden core with care taken not to scratch the gilding.

For the restoration of the finial, authenticity was ensured, as the finial had to match the original exactly in weight and profile for each of the 11vessels; is built of material of exactly matching composition (Copper, brass, wood and gold) used by the Mughals in the 16th century; continues to crown the white marble dome - representing the pluralistic architectural traditions employed by the Mughals by their adopting architectural elements from monuments pre-dating their arrival in India; is a product of living craft traditions that have passed-on for generations and centuries in craftsmen families.

A traditional workshop in the Shahjahanabad, Delhi area crafted the 11 copper vessels required – matching exactly in profile and weight as the original.

The Process
People Involved
Copper Smiths
Gold Smiths
Skilled labour or Bhandanis