Of Sayyids & Lodis: heritage walk in Lodi Garden, 9feb14

February 18, 2014 in Delhi Heritage Walks,DHW,Heritage sites in Delhi,Heritage Walks,Lodi Garden,Lodi Garden Heritage Walks,Monuments of Delhi,Walking Tour | Comments (0)

A park in Delhi’s heart, Lodi Garden has something to offer for everyone: it has a cluster of medieval structures, a bonsai park, a lake with ducks & aquatic birds, butterfly conservatory, trees, birds, butterflies- you name it. This variety is not limited to flora & fauna, but extends to people too: joggers, poets, yoga practitioners, pet lovers, families on picnics, painters & lovers all lay claim to Lodi Garden. Even the dustbins have character!

Our heritage walk here talks about the history of the garden & the medieval ruins in it. Change has been part & parcel of Lodi Garden’s history. It was not always Lodi Garden. We discuss its transition from Bagh-I Jud to Lady Willingdon Park (colonial times) and finally Lodi Garden (post 1947).

The first stop in this walking tour is Mohammad Shah Sayyid’s tomb. Sayyid dynasty followed the Tughluq & preceded the Lodi. Mohammad Shah Sayyid, the nephew and successor of Mubarak Shah, who died in 1445 and is buried in the octagonal tomb which stands out on a small hillock surrounded by palms. It is a very good example of Indo- Islamic architecture which combine innovation like the dome & the arch with indigenous elements of architecture like chajja (eaves), chattri (small domed pavilion) & inverted lotus atop its dome.

Moving on towards the cycle track & the butterfly conservatory across it, we come to a cluster of graves on ruined pavilions, almost overtaken by vegetation. These could date from the time when this area was inhabited by a village called Khairpur. Khairpur was removed from here in 20th century when the British decided to landscape this area into a park. It was named Lady Willingdon Park. The butterfly conservatory is a recent addition, coming up in 2009. This garden has more than 200 trees variety including bamboo and palms and more than 100 species of shrubs with climbers, an ideal habitat for birds and butterflies. Many plants, such as Murraya exotica, Grewia asiatica and Lantana camara, have been brought from outside Delhi by NDMC to attract these butterflies.

The garden has both square buildings such as Bara Gumbad & Shish Gumbad and octagonal buildings including the tomb of Sikandar Lodi. It is believed that square layout was used for secular and public buildings and whereas royal tombs were constructed in octagonal design. Some non-royal tombs of Lodi period in Delhi are square too, such as Bagh i Alam ka Gumbad in Deer Park. The Bara Gumbad mosque stands out among all buildings here, for its terrific decoration. It has intricate carvings on plaster, a combination of calligraphy, geometric patterns & arabesque. The Bada Gumbad & Shish Gumbad are typical of Lodi architecture with grey quartzite being the main construction material & specific architectural features being highlighted by  yellow &  red sandstone, white & black marble.

Our heritage walk proceeds to tomb of Sikandar Lodi & the first question asked is if it a fortress. To which I replied no, it is definitely giving an impression of a fort but it is a fortified tomb of a well known ruler of Lodi dynasty, Sikandar Shah Lodi. The reign of this sultan was known for its literary splendor including compilations on medicines, music, poetry, dances, food etc, cultural achievements and atmosphere of peace. He was an intellectual, well versed in Arabic & Persian, wrote poetry with the penname Gul Rukh, and kept constant associations with scholars from Middle East, Central Asia and other parts of India. It is said the oldest work in Persian on Indian music and dance is from his reign. His tomb is located in a garden, the walls incorporate a mosque & the interior is decorated with tile work.

Lodi Garden also has a few Mughal period buildings. There is Athpula, a bridge built during Abkar’s reign; a double storied gateway to the walled rose garden and a three domed mosque further from the bridge dating to sometime in Late Mughal period. Our walking tour ends at a standalone turret, a fairly humble structure with little historical evidence to show whether it belongs to Tughluq era or later in the Lodi period. It may have been part of some sort of boundary wall.

 It was good to see all enjoying the stroll in this beautiful monumental complex. Thanks all for joining.

(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)

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