United States President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle on Sunday had a glimpse of India's rich cultural and historic heritage as they visited the 450-year-old Mughal marvel Humayun's Tomb in Delhi.
Obama, who kicked off his engagements in Delhi with the visit to the 16th century tomb, went around with his wife intently getting the feel of the monument, which is said to have inspired the creation of the Taj Mahal. Obama and Michelle drove to the monument soon after their arrival from Mumbai at the airport in Delhi, where the US First Couple was personally received by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur.
Obama became the first American President to visit Humayun's Tomb, the resting place of Mughal emperor Humayun, which is an artistic precursor to the 17th century monument Taj Mahal.
"Wonderful. Let's take a look," Obama said as he entered the main building. ASI Superintendent, Archaeologist K K Mohammad, took the First Couple around the monument while explaining its history.
The beautiful red-stone monument in Nizamuddin in south Delhi, built over 450 years ago, now sports a new look after a major renovation exercise thanks to the efforts of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India.
At the entrance of the monument, Obama was received by ASI Director-General Gautam Sengupta and other officials. Obama, dressed in a white shirt, tie and black trousers, and Michelle listened intently and were seen enquiring about the various elements of the 450-year-old structure.
Then, Obama and Michelle met 14 children, children of workers at the monument, and even shook hands with them. The kids, aged between 4 and 10 years, were accompanied by their parents. Obama was seen striking a chord with the kids as he chatted with them and distributed gifts.
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 the 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.
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.
'Spectacular was how Obama described the tomb. "It is spectacular. If our guys have to build it in seven years, it would be pretty tough. Good contractor," Obama said after visiting the monument.
About the national capital, he said, "Delhi is such a modern city, yet rooted in civilisational heritage."
Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters