Located between Safdurjung’s tomb and Khan Market, there lies 90 acres of beautifully landscaped garden which was once a royal burial ground of Sayyid and Lodi royalty. Today, the monuments are surrounded by walking paths and jogging paths with trees, shrubs and flowering plants on both sides. The garden as we see today was designed in 1936 by the British when it was called Lady Willingdon Park. Post-Independence the name Lodi Garden suited the area as most of the structures belong to Lodi period. In 1968, the garden underwent redesigning under the eminent architect, Joseph A. Stein who also added a glass house in the garden.
Our heritage walk starts at gate no. 1 on Lodi Road. Walking straight in & take the path to the left. You will see a tomb surrounded by royal bottle palms. This is royal tomb of Mohammad Shah Sayyid is the only building of Sayyid dynasty in the park. It is regularly restored by the ASI, the most recent being around the Commonwealth Games. Alauddin Alam Shah built this grand octagonal tomb for his father, Mohammad Shah Sayyid after his death in 1351. After discussing the architecture of the tomb, we took the path crossing the cycle path leading to the butterfly conservatory. You will also see scattered graves which are probably remains of Khairpur village which stood in this area before it was cleared off for landscaping by the British. Delhi is home to almost 90 species of butterflies, more than the total number found in all of England. There are three artificially created conservatories in Delhi at the Aravalis, Yamuna Biodiversity Park and at Lodi garden. According to the experts butterfly count is unusually good at present in Lodi garden and Ridge area. We were not that lucky as we couldn’t spot any butterflies.
Excited to see more monuments, we walked to a group of four Lodi era buildings, all four constructed in the reign of Sikandar Lodi, who ruled India for 29 years. The imposing building at the centre which is believed to a gateway, Bada Gumbad or Big dome has ornate openings on all four sides. Bada Gumbad , one of the largest Lodi buildings in Delhi was constructed using materials like Grey quartzite, pink and red sandstone, white and black marble used for decoration. On the right of the gateway is a mosque. It stands out for its intricate plaster carving. Across the mosque is another rectangular hall most probably an assembly hall or accommodation. Lotus bud/flower is a common decoration in all these buildings. Lotus, the flower of wisdom in Buddhist texts is a pre- Islamic element used by Islamic builders’ right from the beginning, i.e 12th century till the Mughal period to decorate their structures.
Our next stop is Shish Gumbad or Glass dome. It is a square tomb with traces of turquoise and cobalt blue tiles are still to be found on the façade of this tomb. The tomb of most significant of Lodi kings lies here in Lodi garden Delhi not in his capital, Sikandra, Agra. Sikander Lodi’s tomb looks like a fortress from the outside. Inside the layout is like that of a garden tomb. The gateway has an extension in form of a courtyard with two chhatris, on which we found the traces of tile work. This is probably a part which existed before the tomb was built & was merely incorporated in it.
Just outside the tomb is an ornamental lake which was added by the British on the dry bed of the tributary of River Yamuna on which Athpula, an eight pillared Mughal bridge stood. The Athpula is still there, the stream disappeared long ago. Athpula is also known as Khairpur ka Pul. As we walked along the lake we spotted ducks, geese, lapwings & a grey horn bill (the state bird of my Kerala, my home state).
Next on our walking tour we approached a rose garden with two late Mughal buildings in it: a gateway & a mosque. Older accounts of this area mention a baoli (stepwell) near these buildings but it doesn’t exist anymore. The last stop on this trail is a turret with a projecting window (jharokha).
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)