Lodi Garden is quite a treat to explore. An easy walking terrain, picturesque monuments, birds & trees keep the senses engaged & if you are lucky, you might come across a hilarious photography session too! Our heritage walk here looks at the history of the buildings and the park.
The majority of the monuments in the garden belong to the Lodi period, hence the name Lodi Garden. Historically, both Sayyid and Lodi dynasties, both short lived reigns are sandwiched between two long-lived and powerful dynasties, the Tughluq and the Mughal. Delhi doesn’t have many remains of the Sayyid dynasty, but, there are two tombs are quite spectacular. In contrast Lodis seem to have built a number of mosques and tombs, some step wells & quite a few out of all these still remain. However, for many, we do not have an accurate idea of their patrons or users.
When British decided to create New Delhi, their new imperial capital, they went about landscaping the area chosen for it. They laid a garden around these tombs & named it Lady Willingdon Park. Lodi garden is a post independence name. Much later, in 1960’s, an American Architect named Joseph Allen Stein, who designed the adjacent buildings like India International Centre, India Habitat Centre, Ford Foundation and World Wildlife Fund re-landscaped it. The design of the garden, planting of trees and the placing of pathways was done in such a way that the historical monuments stand out. This garden has been laid on the principles of the English landscape where the old buildings were used as eye catchers.
We start out walk from gate no. 1 of Lodi Garden & walk past the small over bridge over the cycle track, we reached the tomb of Mohammad Shah, third king of Sayyid Dynasty who died in 1444. The tomb stands on a raised ground & the tall bottle palms surround the lower ground on all four sides. From here take the path leading to the butterfly conservatory. One can see a group of scattered graves, sometimes grouped together on a platform. These might be remains of the settlement of Khairpur, a village which stood here till the area was landscaped into a park.
A patch of land fenced off, appears on the right side of the path. This is the butterfly conservatory. The path leads on to Bada Gumbad & Shish Gumbad. The Lodis, who succeeded Sayyids, were Afghans and Bahlol Lodi was the first Afghan ruler. He died in 1489 and was succeeded by his son, Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517), the greatest of the three Lodi rulers who extended his empire from the Punjab to Bihar. He was a good administrator and during his reign roads were laid and many irrigational facilities was provided to the peasants. Sikandar Lodi was succeeded by his eldest son Ibrahim Lodi; Lodi rule lasted for only seventy-five years. The Bara Gumbad, which means ‘large dome’, is a square building, a typical of the Lodi period. The purpose of the building is not clear. Some argue that this is a gateway to a tomb & mosque complex. Others maintain that the large gateway itself was a tomb once. It is also said that the octagonal tombs were for the rulers and the square tombs were meant for the nobles and official, so this might be a tomb for a very important nobleman, given its magnificent size. The mosque attached to Bara Gumbad has some exception plaster work decoration. It was built by Abu Amjad, a noble man of Sikander Lodi in 1494. When the British officials came here to remove the village during the making of New Delhi, they found the mosque being used as cow shed.
Right across the Bada Gumbad stands the Shish Gumbad, or ‘glass dome’. Scholars such as, Simon Digby considered this to be the tomb of Bahlol Lodi, the first king of the Lodi dynasty. However it is commonly accepted that his tomb is in Chirag Delhi. The next stop on our walking tour was the tomb of Sikander Lodi. The boundary walls of the tomb complex resemble a mini-fortress. They enclose a garden tomb, a prominent pre-Mughal example of garden-tombs in north India. A little later in the 16th & 17th centuries, a series of garden-tombs were built by the Mughals.
Close by is the Athpula, a bridge with eight piers, was built during Mughal emperor, Akbar’s time. It was constructed to make a passage over the stream which must have been significant as to reach old cities such as Siri and Mehrauli. A few minor monuments are covered towards the end of the heritage walk. A late-Mughal period gateway & mosque stand at the rose garden. Colonial records mention a step well (baoli) near these buildings, but none exists now. The last stop on the walk was a lonely, stand alone turret. Thank you all for joining us.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)