Doing a heritage walk in Lodi Gardens is quite different from most of DHW’s other trails. More often than not, the ruins we wish to explore are empty on a weekend, and seem to be part of a distant world. But Lodi Gardens at 7:30am on a Saturday is bustling. It’s not called ‘Jogger’s Paradise’ without reason— walkers, runners, and exercise groups of all ages were out and about.
We made our way to our first stop, the tomb of Mohammad Shah of the Sayyid dynasty. The Sayyids were part of the Delhi Sultanate, and ruled before the Lodis and after the Tughluqs. With their rule lasting less than 40 years, there is not much architecture remaining from this period. This particular tomb, is known for being one of Delhi’s oldest octagonal tombs, with eight smaller chhatris surrounding the main dome. The fusion of Indic and Islamic architectural styles is clearly present, with lotus motifs as well as arches and calligraphy from the Quran.
The tomb is enclosed by a large number of palm trees, spaced out such that the tomb is visible through the trees as well. These trees— indigenous to Cuba— were brought by the British while they were landscaping the park in the 1930s. In fact, not many know that Lodi Gardens was primarily a British project, and was originally called Lady Willingdon Park. It was partially re-landscaped in the 1960s by The monuments, of course, existed long before the British arrived, but during the time of the Delhi Sultanate, the area was a royal burial ground— a Bagh-e-jud.
Unraveling the various layers of history, we moved on to our next stop, the Bada Gumbad. Literally meaning big dome, Bada Gumbad is an appropriate, albeit uncreative title. There are three adjacent buildings here— the central one is the dome itself. Its purpose is not clear, but it is thought to be a large gateway. It is flanked on one side by a mosque with stunningly intricate carvings on the wall. On the other side, across from the mosque, there is a walled structure that is thought to be an assembly area, or the residence of the caretakers of the mosque.
Across from the Bada Gumbad was our next stop, the Shish Gumbad, the Glass Dome. It may be difficult to understand the rationale for this title now, as one can hardly see glass on the structure. However, when it was constructed, it was covered with blue tiles that shone radiantly in the sun. There are precious few tiles remaining, but their luster is absent, and the beauty of the original building is left to one’s imagination.
Our last major stop on our walk was the tomb of Sikandar Lodi. Approaching the monument, one can see a boundary wall with turrets, which gives it a fort-like appearance. Inside the complex, the tomb is in the center, surrounded by a four-path garden, a simple but aesthetically pleasing precursor to the elaborate gardens of the Mughal era. We ended the walk at the oldest architectural structure in the in the park— a stand-alone turret from the Tughluq period. And thus ended our journey across centuries and dynasties, all the while intertwined with the present, of course. So next time you visit Lodi Gardens, take the path less traveled and explore its history!
(The walk was lead by Moby Zachariah and this post is by Tanvi Bikhchandani. Both are team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)