This was the last walk of the year & it gets colder every day! Still, there is nothing like walking through the ruins of Delhi to get warmed up. Our heritage walk this weekend was at Lodi Garden. Originally known as Bagh-i-Jud, it was a selected by medieval kings for the royal burials because of its close proximity to a dargah of a revered Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya. The garden came up as a part of re-landscaping done during colonial rulers who named the garden as Lady Willingdon Park named after the wife of then Governor General. It got its present name post Indian independence & was re-landscaped by an architect, Joseph A. Stein. There is a lane in Lodi Estate named after him, & he is the one after whom we know the Stein Auditorium in India Habitat Centre. Hence the formal architectural decorative elements like Royal Bottle Palms around monuments, esp Mohammad Shah Sayyid’s tomb. These do not interrupt the view to the building & the latter stands out as an item of beauty. Mohammad Shah Sayyid’s is the first stop in this heritage walk. The tomb is a typical example of Indo-Islamic style of architecture. The tomb houses seven cenotaphs and has interesting stucco paintwork on the ceiling inside. Nearby, there are some scattered graves on a raised mound which are probably remains of Khairpur. The village was removed by the British when they decided to ‘beautify’. Clearly history repeats itself, as we continue to see many examples of such ‘beautification’ to date! Many people are not aware of the fact that Lodi Garden is also a hub of different species of butterflies. Our heritage trail takes us around the butterfly conservatory & even though it didn’t offer us much, the information board was gave some insight about the some varieties. Now walking into the central complex in the we first stop at Bara Gumbad, literally the ‘big dome’, a tall imposing structure probably once served as a huge gateway to the complex. Interestingly the structure has detailed gateways decorated with red sandstone, white and black marble but no interior decoration. Next to this was another outstanding monument, Bara Gumbad Mosque. The detailed carvings and calligraphic inscriptions of the masjid clearly stand out. This was followed by another not-so-detailed structure, probably used as guesthouse or an assembly hall, the debate on the purpose of this rectangular hall continues. Another tomb which looks similar to Bada Gumbad stands nearby. Based on a platform, Shish Gumbad or glass dome stands out for its turquoise blue tile work on the exteriors. The group was disheartened to see its poor state and incomplete restoration work which cries out loud for some immediate care. Another imposing structure is Sikander Lodi’s tomb. It is a fortified garden tomb. This complex suggests that Lodis were making garden tombs before it was commonly used by Mughals. There are few interesting architectural elements about the tomb such as wall mosque on the western side, the pattern and designs on the walls and ceiling, the defense wall and the water pipes attached on them which was used to irrigate the garden. The Mughal bridge of 16th century built by the minister of Emperor Akbar is a unique monument in itself with its seven arches and eight piers submerged under water. Athpula or Khairpur ka pul was also a connecting bridge for merchants, caravans and traders traveling from one commercial centre to another, i.e. Mehrauli to Shahjahanabad and back and forth. All these known monuments were followed by few lesser known monuments of late Mughal period, a gateway to the Rose Garden and a mosque most probably used by the travelers and tradesmen. We reached a standalone turret which is chronologically the oldest monument in the complex. This was According to some historians, it was a part of the defense wall built by Tughlaqs in 14th century. However, there is no evidence of it now. This was also the concluding point of our heritage walk in Lodi Garden.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)