Patch of green, splash of royalty! Lodi Gardens, Delhi

When I moved to Delhi a few years ago, I spent the first few months in the ‘new industrial areas’ of Noida and Gurgaon, much like the countless other ‘immigrants’ to Delhi. Shortly my job would send me globetrotting for months on end…and the end effect was that even though I was a resident of this great-big-ancient-yet-modern-metropolis, I had seen nothing of it! (save the childhood trips to Red Fort and Qutb Minar of course). Well, so much for context- setting…

On an exciting weekend exploring New York I was exhilarated by its massive Central Park. Lawns, lakes, flowers, woods, joggers, bikers, skaters, tourists and street-performers….this was one big breath of fresh air in a city of skyscrapers jostling for a piece of sky. What a contrast they made- Manhattan vs. Central Park! It took me hours to explore…and yet I’d walked only a fraction of its 10km-long walks.

A study in contrasts: Manhattan vs. Central Park, NY (Photo: Mathew Knott)

Then there was the only slightly smaller Hyde Park in London, where I spent many Sundays on a 6-month-long visit to the city soon after. In summer it was a glorious place, the golden sunshine casting lovely shadows on its pristine green lawns, and water-fowl cackling with happiness along the Serpentine, the channel that snaked through the Park and cut it in two. The most exciting part of Hyde Park was of course the Speakers’ Corner….any weekend I felt lonely or had nothing much to do, I could always count on entertainment from that quarter! All I needed to do was join one of the huddles at the north-east corner of the Park, and get regaled by speeches and debates that would range from the hilarious to the incendiary. This historic corner is the site where many speakers have exercised their right to speech since the late nineteenth century, prominent among whom were-hold your breath- Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell!

Water fowl at the Serpentine, Hyde Park, London (Photo: andriux-uk)
A huddle at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, London (Photo: scarty)

Back in Delhi, before I got bitten by the bug for exploring all things ruined (and before I started to fall for this city), I ached for the open green spaces of London. Then a friend told me about the Lodi Gardens. “Fantastic picnic spot”, was the way she’d described it. So off I went, scarcely expecting much more than a pretty lawn. I was humbled! Although puny in comparison (90 acres to Hyde Park’s 625 and Central Park’s 843 acres), this was really the green lungs near the heart of Delhi. Beautiful lawns, flowering plants, walkers’ trail, water channel, even a bonsai park! Suddenly the world outside had been eclipsed out. The honking vehicles of central Delhi had been unbelievably masked by the chirping of birds. Any worries I had about walking into a shady park in Delhi during twilight also ebbed away…this place was alive with people! People walking their dogs. Families relaxing on the lawns. An instructor training people in physical exercise. Photographers scouting for good views. Joggers running past with ipods stuck firmly in ears. How ignorant I felt at not having heard of this happening place before!

Palm Trees in Lodi Gardens, Delhi
A Green House overburdened with flowers
Alive with people! At Lodi Gardens, Delhi

But I haven’t even come to what makes Lodi Gardens so ‘happening’. Not the greenery, not the flowers. Not even the ice-cream and sweet-potato vendors near its gates…though all of these have their own sweet charm. What really makes Lodi Gardens so special, and to me, even more so than the renowned Central Park of New York or the Hyde Park of London….are its tombs. This is no average joggers’ park. This is a royal necropolis of old. Mideaval-age tombs lie scattered around the lawns….lit up in mellow gold after dark, lending the place an eerie yet serene feel. The gardens we now walk in are actually the surrounds of the dead Sayyed and Lodi kings of yesteryear…perhaps their souls still wander here!

Medieval tombs scattered across the Lodi gardens

The gardens around these historic tombs were landscaped in the early 20th century by Lady Willingdon, wife of the then Governor-General of British India, the Marquess of Willingdon. When inaugurated in 1936, the park was named ‘Lady Willingdon Park’, but after independence the name was changed to ‘Lodi Gardens’. I have to mention here, that ASI and SAIL have done a fantastic job of conserving these picturesque monuments and maintaining these gardens.

A splash of gold in the gathering gloom

The path that veers left from the Lodi Road entrance leads to the oldest of the tombs in the enclosure- that of Muhammad Shah, the last Sayyed ruler of Hindustan, who was interred here in 1444. This tomb is visible from the road, and is a beautiful eight sided monument, with three arches piercing each side. Inside are eight tombs, mostly unknown….the central one is believed to be that of the emperor. The stately mausoleum is bordered suitably by tall, stately palm trees.

The tomb of Muhammad Shah Sayyed, bordered by stately palm trees
March is the season when the Lodi Gardens are full of flowers
The central tomb probably houses the body of emperor Muhammad Shah

Towards the center of the park are the twin monuments of Bada Gumbad (Big Dome) and Sheesh Gumbad (Glass Dome). Both of these are Lodi period monuments. The Bada Gumbad is built on a raised plinth with what looks like a ruined grave platform in the center. On one side is a three-domed mosque, intricately carved with plaster decorations. Beautiful jharokhas (windows) project out of its sides. On the same platform is the actual ‘big dome’ which lends the structure its name- there is much debate among historians whether this is a mausoleum or just a grand gatehouse leading to the mosque.

Bada Gumbad or ‘Big Dome’, with the triple-domed mosque on the right
“Jharokha” or projecting window of the Bada Gumbad
Back view of Bada Gumbad, lit up in gold at twilight

The Sheesh Gumbad (which we saw earlier in this quiz) is so called because of the lovely blue tiles which at one time supposedly covered much of the exterior of the building. A few pieces of brilliant blue still remain above the arches. The Sheesh Gumbad is sometimes confused with the tomb of Ibrahim Lodi (the last Lodi ruler, who was defeated by Babur in 1526 in the Battle of Panipat, which paved the way for the creation of the Mughal Empire in India). But Ibrahim lies in a tomb in Panipat today, and inside the Sheesh Gumbad are actually a multitude of unidentified tombs, perhaps belonging to an important family of the Lodi period. Standing alone surrounded by graves in this dark chamber does give me the creeps!

“Sheesh Gumbad” or Glass Dome, deriving its name from the tile work that once covered it
A few remaining tiles of brilliant blue on the Sheesh Gumbad
Graves of the unknown Lodi family that lies buried in the Sheesh Gumbad

At the far end of the garden is the large mausleum of Sikander Lodi (buried here in 1517), surrounded by its own walled enclosure, almost like a mini-fortress. The mausoleum itself is another octagonal chamber surrounded by an arched verandah and a bed of bright poppies swaying in the March breeze. The lone grave of Emperor Sikander Lodi lies at the center of this mausoleum. He sleeps a peaceful sleep within his private enclosure; the only disturbance is caused by some parrots and squirrels.

The fortress-like walls of Sikander Lodi’s mausoleum
Poppies in full bloom by Sikander Lodi’s tomb
The lone grave of Sikander Lodi
A parrot resting on the wall of Sikander Lodi’s tomb
A nest of squirrels, huddling on a wall in Sikander Lodi’s tomb

 An artificial creek flows infront of Sikander Lodi’s mausoleum, through clumps of greenery, and under the ‘Athpula’ (eight-tiered bridge), a later Mughal bridge which once spanned a tributary of the river Yamuna. This bridge was probably built much later, during the reign of Emperor Akbar, one of the few surviving structures of Akbar’s time in Delhi. It is a beautiful curving structure, placed diagonally across the creek. It is not known which road went over the bridge in Akbar’s time, but an old mosque and the remains of a Mughal garden nearby suggest that this area was once an important resting place. This little mosque really completes the picture of the Lodi Gardens, an abode of peace and serenity, and a wonderful living specimen of the rich history and heritage of Delhi.

Athpula or ‘Eight tiered bridge’, built during Akbar’s reign
Artificial creek where a tributary of the Yamuna once flowed
An old gateway to the Mughal Garden of Akbar’s time
An old Mughal mosque…housing the silent prayers of five hundred years ago

Afterthought: The Lodis built lovely monuments! You might want to check out the pics of a particularly beautiful mosque and an exquisite step-well.

17 Comments Add yours

  1. twobitwo says:

    Lovely pictures, great read 🙂

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thank you twobitwo 🙂 Lodi Gardens is actually such an amazing place for photography that even a complete novice is inspired!

  2. Thanks for the tour. I know these gardens well and you capture their character and charm exactly – and the photos are fabulous! As you say, Lodi has a role in Delhi rather like Central Park for NYC or Hyde Park for London, and yet achieves it in an utterly different way.

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thank you for reading. As for the snaps, glad you liked them, that’s a first for me…I’m rather a novice with the camera!

  3. Soon it will be too hot to enjoy the gardens, go as much as you can now.

  4. Lovely images! Definitely on the list next trip to Delhi!

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thanks a lot, and great to have convinced someone to visit my favorite place 🙂

  5. varsha tiwary says:

    wanderfool Lovely post : I just shifted to Delhi and Lodi Garden has become my favouritest place too !
    Your pics bring out the soul of the place!

    1. wanderfool says:

      Thanks so much! Welcome to Delhi and my blog…hopefully you’ll soon find many other gems this city has to offer!

  6. thats really wonderful wanderfool 🙂

  7. lodi gardens is my fav place in delhi ……i have written on this beautiful plc so many times on ym blog and captured its beauty in every season…still i feel i havent captured it well!!

    1. wanderfool says:

      Just saw a couple of your Lodi Garden posts…they are beautiful!

  8. lindaeee says:

    Just found this while researching a blog I’m doing on my trip to India and Delhi. I was similarly impressed with Lodi Gardens – completely unexpected spot – I wish I could have stayed longer! I would like to repost this and will read your archives and continue to follow your blog. I’ve fallen in love with India and am eager to return.

    1. wanderfool says:

      Hey lindaeee, thanks. Please feel free to repost my article- glad you liked it 🙂 I do hope you are able to return soon to see much more of India.

  9. Uncovering Delhi says:

    I stumbled upon your blog while looking up “Mehrauli fort”! I have relocated to Delhi for some months now and have done a bit of sight-seeing. Coming from another city, Delhi does give a newcomer a hard time in many ways and I was almost not liking this city when I decided to try and give it another chance! That’s why I am checking out places to see in order to uncover the spirit of the city. Your blog certainly does a wonderful job of helping one do that!

    1. wanderfool says:

      Hey, thanks again 🙂 I am so glad you decided to give this city one more chance. Delhi can appear brash and snobbish to begin with, but there are a thousand deeper layers of history and culture that make it a fantastic place. Happy discovering!

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