The monsoons have blessed us a little late this year, but oh, what a treat are the rains! One of the good things about a heritage walk in Lodi Garden is has the terrain is easy to negotiate even in rains. The payments are well marked out & the trees look mighty refreshed after the rains! Hence we continued with our heritage walk in Lodi Garden, even though the clouds threatened to pour. I started with an introduction to the history of the area and why it was the chosen area for tombs of Sayyids and Lodis. Right from the early Islamic period to 2010 commonwealth games, this complex has seen several additions and changes. Our heritage trail starts at Muhammad Shah Sayyid’s Tomb surrounded by Royal Bottle Palms. The landscaping was done by Joseph Allen Stein in 1968 as a part of garden renewal. It is grand octagonal tomb as the lack of stability and empire doesn’t really affect Muhammad Shah’s ability to construct a very fine tomb. The special features of the tombs are a big dome surrounded by royal umbrellas, neatly cut stone construction, stucco and plasterwork. The 16 sided drum has four offset openings for light to pass. Our next was at Bara Gumbad followed by Bara Gumbad mosque on the right side and Assembly hall on the left, all belonging to Sikandar Lodi’s reign. After a Sayyid period tomb, it is interesting to note the continuity and changes in the way of constructing structures in Lodi Period. Bara Gumbad with its big dome stands in the middle in the raised courtyard, with no signs of graves. The history of these buildings is a mystery. Unlike the minimal decoration of the Bara Gumbad, the mosque is very stylish and glorious and is the star attraction in the complex. The masjid stands out due to its intricate carvings, plasterwork and paintwork. The three arched openings with heavy inscriptions and jharokas on both sides makes it a perfect example blend of Indo- Islamic architecture. On the left side is a domeless structure with plain architecture stands with an unclear purpose behind its construction, historians prefer calling it an assembly hall for the readers of Koran and some call it a guesthouse whereas for some it is a residential pavilion. Next stop, Shish Gumbad meaning Glass or Glazed Dome because the dome and outer façade was once covered with glazing tiles mainly dark blue in colour. The exterior is more attractive than the interior due to its poor condition. Simon Digby, a historian finds Bara Gumbad and Sheesh Gumbad quite similar due to its outer façade, size and shape. Next stop is a tomb of a ruler, a patron of learning and literature, Sikandar Lodi. It is interesting that Sikandar Lodi chose to be buried in Delhi not in his Capital Sikandra, Agra. He is considered to be an ideal monarch, good administrator, handsome, brave, just and charitable. The garden tomb is fortified and has a wall mosque on the western side. It is interesting to note and similarities and differences between Sikandar Lodi’s tomb and Muhammad Shah’s. We walk a little further around the lake to reach a Mughal period bridge, Athpula with its eight piers and seven arches. Built in 16th century during Akbar’s time by a Nawab Bahadur. This bridge leads you to a wooded area passing a group of late Mughal buildings, a gateway to the rose garden made up of bricks and plaster and a small mosque with a courtyard. These were probably part of a walled garden complex. Our last stop is a round tower. This turret is perhaps the oldest building in the gardens. Its battered walls, heavy projecting window and flute dome are typical Tughluq features. The walk concentrates on the built heritage, but this garden is also known for its natural heritage, its plants, birds, butterflies etc.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)
Lodi Garden Heritage Walk