As we all know, Lodi Garden is a paradise for joggers, nature- lovers and history buffs in our city, Delhi. This vast ground was established in the 15-16th century by Sayyid and Lodi Dynasty and it remained active in Mughal Rule, Imperial and post independence Period. Well- preserved gardens and medieval monuments lend a charm to these gardens. One walk member noticed it’s not just the structures, but also the trees, birds, butterflies the picturesque scenery which attract many people to sit and relax here. Walk began after a brief introduction; our first spot was a tomb of Sayyid era, Mohammad Shah Sayyid’s Tomb. This structure amazed many people with its architecture, stucco work and minimal carvings. Standing on raised ground surrounded by Bottle Palm trees, the monument tells us about a lesser known dynasty to rule Delhi. His tomb has been built in a typical octagonal pattern with a central octagonal chamber, pillared verandahs, three arched openings on each side and sloping buttress. Apart from this, we see many monuments in the complex, built during Sikandar Lodi’s reign. Namely Bara Gumbad and Shish Gumbad, similar in appearance but built for different purposes. Bara Gumbad or Big Dome, is a square structure with an imposing dome. Its facades appear to be two storied.
It has turrets on corners, arches and ornamented gates similar to a temple gateway. These are structures are a perfect blend of Ind0- Islamic architecture styles. Since there are no signs of graves, it is believed to be the grand gateway to the complex. But for some it is the tomb of an officer of high rank who served Sikandar Lodi. After the relatively grey and plain, there is the Bara-Gumbad mosque, built with ashlar stone in 1494 constructed during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. Its rectangular prayer-hall has five arched openings and is a fine example of Lodi period mosques. The tapering minarets, colored plaster work and Quranic inscriptions ornament this mosque. One person noticed that the unique and outstanding intricate carvings and decoration of the mosque is missing in other structures of the complex. On the left side of Bara Gumbad, is another plain structure, can be a guesthouse (Mehman Khana) or an assembly hall, the purpose is unknown. Our next stop on this heritage walk, Shish Gumbad tomb is built in the usual square pattern, with a ‘double-storied’ appearance, and looks much like Bara Gumbad. Its ceiling has incised plasterwork, with floral patterns and Quranic inscriptions. We can still see the traces of the blue tiles and gave it the name of ‘Glazed dome’. There are several graves inside it probably of an unknown family. Next on our heritage trail we came to a unique fortified garden tomb. Sikandar Lodi’s Tomb is built in the octagonal tomb pattern, with a wall mosque on the western side. Another interesting construction here is the ‘Athpula’ Bridge called “16th century surprise” by a newspaper. It was built by Nawab Bahadur in the 16th century, during Akbar’s reign. This is bridge is called Athpula (eight pillared bridge), as it rests on eight piers, forming seven arches. It was time to learn about lesser known monuments, a gateway of walled rose garden and three domed mosque with a small courtyard belongs to later Mughal period. We ended our heritage walk at the turret with a big jharokha, which is believed to be the oldest structure in the gardens and was once a part of the boundary wall. One can always stay back in Lodi gardens after the walk to visit the National Bonsai Park and the Butterfly conservatory, this place has so much to offer. After the walk got over, I received the best compliment; a walk participant said “now Delhi seems to have some meaning”. I completely agree, if you understand the past of the area, it is not that difficult to fit into the present culture.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)