Its Christmas time, the winter chill increases everyday and everyone is in a mood for holiday. This weekend our heritage walk was planned at Lodi Garden in the evening. The park was full of people enjoying their day off. We have been leading walks here regularly and an addition to the flora, fauna & historical buildings is the colourful dustbins. They have been painted by local artists, some have slogan, others use graffiti and cartoons & are most certainly an incentive for people to use them.
This walking tour tells the story of the Lodi Garden, how the royal tombs of Sayyids and Lodis of 15th and 16th centuries respectively were beautified into a European garden in the 20th century. The British called it Lady Willingdon Park and it was renamed Lodi Garden after Indian Independence. Our first stop is one of Delhi’s earliest octagonal tombs, the tomb of Mohammad Shah Sayyid. It is also the second oldest structure in the garden. It is beautifully placed in the centre of a mound, laced by a series of Royal Bottle Palms. The tomb was constructed by Alauddin Alam Shah to pay a tribute to his father Mohammad Shah. The tallest tree in the garden, Narikel or Buddha’s Coconut is also located here.
Moving on towards the centre of the park, one can see some scattered grave platforms, almost hidden by vegetation. These are probably remains of the village of Khairpur, which was here before the British landscaped this area. Take the path that cuts through the bicycle track & skirts the butterfly conservatory to reach Bada Gumbad & Shish Gumbad. The Bara Gumbad and the mosque were built in 1494 by during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. Some scholars call Bara Gumbad a gateway. The information on the Archaeological Survey of India slab at the site states that “The name of the personage who was buried in the Bara Gumbad, but whose grave no longer exists, is not known, but he must have occupied an important position during Sikandar Lodi’s reign.” The mosque itself is one of the prettiest buildings in Delhi. Its plaster work is full of delicate patters & calligraphy which blend together to create a perfect example of arabesque. The Shish Gumbad stands across the lawns from Bada Gumbad. Architecturally, both buildings are similar, Bada Gumbad being larger in scale & having subsidiary buildings like a set of rooms & a mosque with it. Shish Gumbad is a standalone tomb.
The tomb of Sikandar Lodi is the next stop on our heritage walk. We cross the artificial lake which is currently being cleaned, to reach the monument. It is built like a fortress with curtain walls & bastions. The inside plan is that of a garden tomb. It is notable that it is one of the pre-Mughal garden tombs in North India. Built in 1517 the tomb building resembles the tomb of Mohammed Shah except that the former does not have chhatris or umbrellas around the dome. Another monument on the lake is Athpula. Originally built over a tributary to the river Yamuna, this a a bridge built in 16th century. The tributary is now replaced by the ornamental lake. One can imagine the height of water level in the 15th and 16th centuries by looking at the openings or seven arches of the bridge.
If you walk across the bridge, the path leads you towards our starting point. On the way are a couple of small buildings from the late Mughal period: A gateway/pavilion of a rose garden & a small mosque topped with three domes. Our heritage trail ends at a standalone turret, believed to be the oldest existing structure in the garden. It was a pleasure interacting with the group which was made up people from diverse backgrounds including interior designers, technology experts, doctors. Thanks all for joining us.
(posted by Moby Zachariah & Kavita Singh, team members, Delhi Heritage Walks)