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Obama to visit Humayun's Tomb in Delhi tomorrow - 2010-11-06

Saturday, 2010, November 6

Humayun's Tomb -- the 16th century magnificent Mughal marvel -- will be the first stop in Delhi tomorrow for US President Barack Obama, who will pay tribute to India's rich cultural heritage through his visit to the monument.

Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, is expected to drive to the beautiful red-stone monument in south Delhi, which now sports a new look after a major renovation exercise.

Humayun's Tomb, an artistic precursor to the 17th century monument of love Taj Mahal, is a World Heritage Site and Obama will be the first American President to visit the resting place of the Mughal Emperor.

Obama is not visiting the Taj Mahal, which hosted his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton during his India visit in 2000.

The president, his wife and others will be received by senior officials from the Archaeological Survey of India at the entrance of the monument and are likely to be taken to the office of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, where they will be briefed about the significance of the structure, sources said.

After this, the entourage will be taken for a walk around the plush green gardens that surround a central structure, before being taken to the tomb.

Obama and Michelle are expected to arrive there at around 5pm and will spend about 45 minutes at the monument, which has been turned into a virtual fortress with tight security arrangements in place.

The first garden tomb in the Indian subcontinent, the mausoleum was commissioned in 1562 by Humayun's widow Hamida Banu and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, a Persian architect, a decade after the death of the Emperor.

The monument now sports a new look, thanks to the conservation work being carried out by Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the ASI. The work which began in 1999 -- six years after Humayun's Tomb was declared a World Heritage Site -- was being done in phases.

The ASI and AKTC have finished reviving the five-century old water channels of the garden surrounding the tomb.

The monument will be closed for public today and tomorrow. Delhi police has already taken over the control of the monument and it has been sanitised ahead of the high-profile visit.

While announcing Obama's visit, the White House said Obama "felt it was important, given the rich civilisation that India has, to pay tribute to that through" his stop at Humayun's Tomb.

After a tour of the monument, Obama and the First Lady will meet 10 children from nearby slums, who study in the makeshift schools run by the ASI.

All the 10 are children of the workers employed by the ASI for the restoration work.

Experts said that the Humayun's Tomb set a precedent for future Mughal architecture, which reached its pinnacle with construction of the Taj Mahal. The tomb was completed in 1572 at a cost of Rs15 lakh at that time.

The tomb, one of the three world heritage sites in New Delhi, is understood to have been chosen over the Red Fort and Qutub Minar because of its secure location and architecture.

The monument hosts almost 1,000 to 1,500 tourists everyday during peak season and it has been scouted a number of times by US security officials ever since the White House announced that Obama will visit the Humayun's Tomb.

The monument had recently hosted Germany's President Horst Kohler.

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