Delhi was pleasantly surprised by showers for a couple of days and we decided to carry on with our heritage walk at Lodi Garden since it is a comfortable terrain to walk in all seasons. The park has well laid out pavements all through our heritage trail. And we happened to be the only ones in the park, which is an unusual sight. The park is always full of people, joggers, people reading, children playing, lovers spending a quite time here. ‘Lodi Garden’ happens to be a modern, post-independence name. It was originally called Lady Willingdon Park. She was the wife of Lord Willingdon one of the Viceroys to India & made many a additions to the new city of Delhi, much to the horror of its architect, Edwin Lutyens. The first stop on this walking tour is the tomb of Mohammad Shah Sayyid, the third ruler of Sayyid dynasty. It is eight sided monument standing on an elevated mound, with a high dome surrounded by eight small umbrella like pavilions or chhatris. It is interesting to observe how a 14th century monument underwent gradual changes, as the stonework of the mihrab on the western side marking the direction of qilba looks like an afterthought. Walk participants especially our friends from abroad noticed that the trees and plants are well trimmed and properly taken care off, my answer to this was ‘well the credit goes to the horticulture department and the gardener’. A little further ahead, one can see some graves on raised ground, which probably are of the villagers of Village Khairpur, which existed here in the early 20th century, before the garden was laid. The Butterfly conservatory is modern feature of Lodi garden, even though we couldn’t spot any butterflies. Bara Gumbad was our next stop; it unlikely to be a tomb, and seems to be a massive gateway with ornate openings on all four sides. The interiors of the structure are blackened with no carvings and paintwork left. This is not the same scenario with the mosque next to it. Bara Gumbad mosque has detailed carvings on its five arched openings and ceiling. One of the calligraphic inscriptions states that the mosque was constructed by Abu Amjad, a minister of Sikander Lodi in 1498. Opposite to the mosque is a plain rectangular hall which was either a Majlis Khana, an assembly hall or a Mehman Khana, a guesthouse. The raised pavilion in the middle of these three structures was originally a hauz or a tank to perform wazu, a ritual to be followed before offering namaz. Shish Gumbad or glass dome stands very close, most probably which is why Simon Digby, a British historian stated that these four monuments built during the reign of Sikander Lodi was connected with each other. We still see traces of blue and turquoise colour tiles on the exteriors. On the way to our nest stop, we discussed the layout of the garden and the flora and fauna, including the fish and aquatic birds in the pond. Climbing the steep stairs, we reach the tomb of Sikander Lodi, a ruler known as a good military man & also for his keen interest in arts and literature. The tomb is very similar to the first tomb .i.e. of Mohammad Shah Sayyid, only prominent differences are that former has no royal umbrellas or chhatris and houses only one cenotaph. This fortified tomb has a wall mosque on the western side and traces of tile work on the canopies on the defense wall. The best view of Athpula, a 16th century bridge constructed during Mughal emperor Akbar’s reign is standing outside the fortification. Its eight piers and seven arches run over the ornamental pond which was once the river bed for the tributary of Yamuna. The bridge is also called Khairpur ka pul & the water body here would have been the main water source for the villagers. The gateway and a small congregational mosque close to the rose garden of Late Mughal period have lost much of their decoration which Mughal buildings are famous for. Yet, the rose garden beyond, is well maintained and a delight to be in. The last stop on our heritage walk is a turret which was most probably of Feroz Shah’s reign.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)