Lodi Garden is one of the greenest & most pleasant places to walk around in the city of Delhi. It was originally royal burial area for Sayyids and Lodis. Today, it is more of joggers- paradise; the park works as a breather from the busy life of the city in the middle of numerous medieval Islamic monuments. The plan of the garden was laid down by British as a part of re-landscaping Delhi and was christened as Lady Willingdon Park. It was renamed ‘Lodi Garden’ post Independence. Not just the scattered monuments, one can find variety of plants and trees here including Jamun tree, royal bottle palm, Neem, bamboo, Eucalyptus trees etc and numerous birds such as Parakeets, Mynahs, Kingfishers etc.
The first stop on our heritage walk is Mohammad Shah Sayyid’s tomb, this grand tomb is considered as ‘predecessor for architecture’ for Lodi and Mughal structures. It is built in the octagonal plan surrounded by pillared verandahs, three arched openings on each side and mihrab on the western wall marking the direction of qibla and crowned by a high dome with royal chhatris. It becomes important to study a relatively lesser known dynasty, the Sayyids.
The next stop on our heritage trail is Bara Gumbad or the Big Dome. This is a square structure with signs of graves, has a huge dome and beautifully decorated gateway similar to a temple doorway. Its facades look as if it is double storied however it is a single structure. Some historians believe that it was a tomb belongs to an officer who served Sikandar Lodi whereas most prefer to call it a grand gateway to the complex; unfortunately it has gradually become a dull structure with blackened walls.
Next to the gateway, stands a beautifully carved monument the Bara-Gumbad mosque built as rectangular prayer-hall which has five arched openings. It was built during Sikandar Lodi’s reign. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city of Delhi. There is intricate carving and stucco work on its walls; though much damaged, they still retain their beauty. Opposite to the Masjid, lies a hall probably used as an assembly hall or guesthouse for the visitors of the mosque. Architecturally the hall is plain & simple. Next to follow in the line was Shish gumbad or glazed dome.
Some historians argue that the structures Bara Gumbad, mosque, assembly hall and Shish gumbad were connected as they were built under the supervision of Sikandar Lodi. Shish Gumbad, a square structure with a ‘double-storeyed’ appearance looks like Bara Gumbad. The tomb has several cenotaphs and one can still see the traces of the blue tiles which shine brightly in the sun, giving it its name ‘glazed dome’.
A non typical tomb with fortified wall was next on our heritage trail. Sikandar Lodi’s Tomb has an octagonal tomb pattern, much like Muhammad Shah’s tomb in the middle of a charbagh, four- fold Persian garden pattern. And the garden is surrounded by walls, which seem to be of a mini fort. Sikander Lodi was a remarkable personality with keen interest in arts, architecture and literature. It won’t be wrong to say that the simple charbagh was also introduced in the later- Lodi Period. Mughals were the ones who started a trend of complicated charbagh around the tomb which we see in some of the most famous sites in India, such as Taj Mahal & Humayun’s Tomb.
Talking about the Mughals, our next three monuments were built during the Mughal rule. During the 16th century, Nawab Bahadur built ‘Athpula’, a bridge of eight piers with seven arches during Akbar’s reign. It was extensively used by the travelers during the medieval times. Now it stands over an artificial lake built by British to add to the beauty of the park. A little further from Athpula stand two small but pretty buildings, belonging to the late Mughal times. One was a gateway to the rose garden with drop arches and other is a small private mosque with a courtyard. Older maps of this area show a step well (baoli) near these structures, but it is not be seen anymore. The last stop on our walk was a rather lonely stand alone structure, a turret with a projecting jharoka. Probably it is the oldest structure in the complex dating back to Tughluqs. Both these monuments were lit up during the beautification drive before Commonwealth Games. The lights are still there & working & gives these structures are spectacular look. This is contrary to what happed to Mohd Quli Khan’s tomb in Mehrauli Archaeological Park. The tomb was one of the monuments toe spruced up & illuminated before CWG but now the lights are all gone now. Perhaps taken away by the contractor, who decided that he could reuse them elsewhere!
Besides the monuments here, visitors to the park can see the National Bonsai Park, a butterfly conservatory, a green house & a patch of herbal garden etc. The walk ended, we realized the winters are approaching, walking in the dark made it difficult to see the minute details on the structures, about all thanks to the Commonwealth games, few monuments were lit up.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)