Winters are around the corner & this is the best time to explore the city. This Saturday, Delhi-ites came out in large numbers to join our heritage walk at Lodi Garden. Lodi Garden is the most popular park, located in the heart of the city. Originally known as Bagh I Jud, this piece of land has tombs of medieval rulers Mohammad Shah Sayyid, Sikander Lodi and a few other prominent buildings, including tombs, mosques & garden pavilions. However the area was landscaped into a garden only by the British as a part of beautifying Delhi, their Imperial capital. They called it Lady Willingdon Park, and it was renamed Lodi Garden only after 1947. It is an extremely popular hangout, for lovers, joggers, naturalists, picnickers & anyone who is looking for some time of leisure well spent. I started our heritage walk with a brief introduction on the history of Lodi Garden & our first stop was the tomb of Mohammad Shah Sayyid, the third ruler of Sayyid dynasty of 15th dynasty. It is a pretty building which stands surrounded by Royal Bottle Palms imported from Cuba. The tomb is a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture wherein these Muslim rulers used both the elements bought from their homeland i.e. dome and arch and also copied elements from Hindu architecture such as lotus petals to design the dome and outer façade, kalash (pots) at the gateways etc. On the way to our next stop there are several scattered graves most probably of villagers settled here post Lodi period years. We also saw the butterfly conservatory of Lodi Garden on the way to Bada Gumbad. The Bada Gumbad & Shish Gumbad are part of a large complex in the centre of the Park. The Bada Gumbad has a high platform which includes a masjid and assembly hall. All these buildings built under Sikander Lodi’s supervision in the 16th century, he added many structures in the complex. Literally the ‘big dome’, Bara Gumbad is a tallest building here. Many historians argue that this is a massive gateway to the complex rather than a tomb. The arched gateways decorated with red sandstone, white marble and black marble is quite impressive as it looks just like a ’temple gateway’. It is quite interesting to ask the participants to guess the number of storeys of Bara Gumbad as I get to hear answers like 7, 4, 3 at times 1. However, it is a single storied structure which gives a false impression of having multiple storeys. On the west is a mosque built by a minister of Sikander Lodi in 1494, I prefer to call this beautiful small mosque the ‘highlight’ of the gardens due to its intricate calligraphy and plasterwork. It is interesting to note use of huge jharokas, a local architectural element and small minarets replica of Qutub Minar, on two sides of this structure. Opposite of this mosque stands a hall with three arched openings; many historians prefer to call it a guest house or Mehman Khana or Majlis Khana i.e. an assembly hall. We all moved from the raised pavilion to our next Lodi structure, Shish Gumbad or ‘Mirrored Dome’ which gets its name from the tiles that once decorated it. The traces of the Persian blue tiles can still be seen. Our last Lodi building, tomb of Sikander Lodi is one of the earliest garden tombs. It stands inside a fortified walled complex & architecturally is closer to Mohd Shah Sayyid’s tomb. Sikander Lodi, second last ruler Lodi dynasty, was a fascinating personality; he showed keen interest in learning arts and literature. A few steps ahead is a Mughal bridge of 16th century, built by a minister of Emperor Akbar. The bridge named as Athpula was built over the tributary of Yamuna which once ran through the complex now lies over an ornamental water body. Once an active bridge used by travellers and merchants with their caravans traveling in the city. We headed towards a few lesser monuments built during late Mughal period, a gateway with scalloped arches, to the rose garden with around 25 varieties of roses. A small mosque nearby with a courtyard probably catered to the needs of the praying purposes of the travellers who used the bridge. It was dark by the time we reached our last spot, a flute like- turret probably built by Tughluqs, the oldest monument in the gardens. Monuments at Lodi gardens is always a delight for historians and history enthusiasts, now that winters are here it is an ideal for picnics with its 100 variety of trees, National Bonsai Park, Lily pond, herbal garden and lots of green areas.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)