This Sunday evening was a welcome respite from the usual Delhi summer. The dust storm lowered the temperature which allowed all of us a pleasant heritage walk in Lodi Garden. We were a group of about 20 enthusiasts which included architects, lecturers, lawyers and two very very young children. These heritage walks are also a great opportunity for people to interact. In fact, two of the walkers found that they lived within 50 yards of each other for past 20 years, never knowing about each other until they met on this heritage walk !
Lodi garden is actually an early 20th century British creation, who called it the Lady Willingdon Park. Post-independence it was re-landscaped under Joseph Allen Stein. Stein also designed some of the important buildings in the neighbourhood: the IIC, the Ford Foundation are the most well known. The name Lodi Garden was also given post-Independence & comes from the fact that the most monuments belong to the reign of the Lodi kings. In the 20th century, before the British built a new capital in Delhi, this area was a village called Khairpur. People were living in an around these very monuments. This walk starts at Muhammad Shah Sayyid’s tomb, dated to mid 15th century. This tomb does not have a tehkhana or underground chamber below the graves so probably the bodies rest beneath the floor of the central chamber. His predecessor was Mubarak Shah Sayyid and after whom the neighbourhood of ‘Kotla Mubarakpur’ near South Extension is known. The next stop is the Bada Gumbad complex. The Bada Gumbad itself is a very large gateway to a complex which consists of a beautiful mosque, a central grave platform and hall used for assembly or prayers. When the British were surveying the area, they noted that the mosque was being used as a ‘cow-house and so surrounded by squalid huts as to be almost irrecognisable’. The complex is dated to end of 15th century. The Shish Gumbad stands opposite the Bara Gumbad. ‘Shish’ is mirror and ‘gumbad’ is dome, so this tomb probably gets its name from the band of blue tiles on the façade which would shine like a mirror. Further north, beyond the artificial lake is Sikander Lodi’s tomb. It is one of the early garden tombs in North India and the enclosure walls here are almost like a fortification for this warrior-king. The interior of the tomb is decorated with tiles in blue, green and yellow. The garden as is is maintained today does not give us an idea of how it might have been originally. At the end of the lake is Athpula, also known as Khairpur ka pul. The eight piers which support the arches of this bridge have in all probability led to its being called Athpula. A little ahead along the jogging track are a couple of late –Mughal structures, currently undergoing conservation work. One is a double-storey structure which was entrance to a garden. The entrance arch has traces of floral designs painted on the plaster. Adjacent to it is a mosque. Early British records mention a baoli or a step well just outside the garden pavilion but there is no trace of it now. The last stop on the walk was a stand-alone turret which would have been part of some kind of enclosure wall. This structure has been dated to 14th century which makes it the earliest surviving structure in the park.
(posted by Rajesh Ranjan & Kanika Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)