An Amble Through A Storied Park – Lodhi Gardens

If there is one thing I envy Delhi-ites, it is the green oasis of Lodhi Gardens. Over ninety acres of unexpected tranquility to escape the gridlocked delirium of their capital city. The landscaping would be easy enough to replicate elsewhere in India (who am I kidding!). But it is the historic ambience, those omnipresent vestiges of Delhi’s storied past, that make this space even more special.

The oppressive September heat seems to drop a palpable couple of degrees as we enter gate 1, from Lodi road. A royal palm lined path leads to a mound topped by one of few surviving structures from the 37 year reign (1434 – 1451) of the Sayyid dynasty, the second to last of the Delhi Sultanate.

Lodhi Garden Tombs
Tomb of Muhammad Shah Sayyid
Lodhi Garden Tombs
Tomb of Muhammad Shah Sayyid: Incised plaster detailing on the ceiling

The octagonal tomb – a shape generally reserved for rulers – with Indo-Islamic architectural elements including the umbrella like chhatris and the inverted lotus on the dome, houses the remains of Muhammad Shah Sayyid and members of his family.

We traverse the timeline to some of the distinctive monuments of the next dynasty: the one that gives these gardens its (post independence) name. Earlier – following the 1936 transformation of what was once Khairpur village into this heritage landscaped garden – it was named Lady Willingdon Park, after the wife of the then British viceroy.

Lodhi Gardens - New Delhi
The Bada Gumbad Complex
The Jama Masjid in Lodhi Garden, Delhi
The Jama Masjid shares the plinth with the Bada Gumbad
Lodhi Garden Tombs
Jama Masjid- details

The angular, (mock) double storeyed architectural style of the Bada Gumbad complex is characteristic of the Lodhi period.  The ‘tomb with the big dome’ as the name suggests, might very well have been the gateway to a mosque, since no graves or human remains were found inside. A beautifully decorated mosque – the Jama Masjid – and a domeless arched pavilion – the Mehman Khana (guest house) – flank the Bada Gumbad.

Opposite, is the Sheesh Gumbad (Glass Dome) whose dome and facade were once clad with reflective glazed tiles. It is believed to be the tomb of the first Lodhi emperor, Bahlol, although I do not spot any distinguishing features among the half a dozen or so graves inside. The plaster detailing on the facade is eroded, but bands of square turquoise and cobalt blue tiles beneath the external cornices still glisten in the morning light.

Lodhi Garden Tombs - New Delhi
Sheesh Gumbad framed in an arch of the Bada Gumbad
Sheesh Gumbad - Lodhi Gardens, Delhi
Sheesh Gumbad

If tombs are not your thing, this part of the garden offers plenty of opportunities for people watching. We stop to watch a mini football game in one corner. A breakfast picnic is laid out on another. Joggers, yoga enthusiasts and young lovers add colour to the late summer setting stripped of winter blooms.

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Bada Gumbad - Lodhi Gardens, Delhi
Picnic in the shadow of the Bada Gumbad

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Up ahead is the final resting place of – Sikander Lodhi: the second and greatest of the (Afghan) Lodhi Sultans. It was built by his son Ibrahim Lodhi in 1517 and appears to have been loosely styled after the older Muhammad Shah Sayyid tomb, sans the chhatris and set within a walled garden and accessed from a fairly elaborate gate.

Part of the enclosure wall has a Mihrab (prayer niche facing Mecca) worked into it, so it functions as a wall mosque. Inside, is a simple rectangular grave devoid of any ornamentation. Sikandar was the last of the Delhi Sultans to be interred in Delhi. His son lies in Panipat, where he fell to the first Mughal: Babur.

Tomb of Sikandar Lodi, Delhi
Gateway to the walled tomb of Sikandar Lodi
Lodhi Garden Tombs
The octagonal tomb of Sikandar Lodi
Wall Mosque - Sikandar Lodi Tomb
Wall Mosque – Sikandar Lodi Tomb
Athpula Bridge - Lodhi Garden
Reservoir and the 16th century Athpula

My envy multiplies at the sight of a large man made reservoir nearby, and the Mughal era bridge: the Athpula (eight pier). The 16th century bridge possibly spanned a tributary of the river Yamuna that once flowed through here.  The dreamy, verdant setting complete with frolicking geese is certainly not what I expect to find in the heart of this smoggy city.

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Lodhi Garden Monuments
A lesser mosque and an old gateway.
Lodhi Garden Monuments
A turret of unknown origin.

On our way out, we pass a small arched gateway, a lesser but beautiful mosque and a strange circular turret with an ornate window believed to be the oldest structure in the gardens, whose origins and history have been lost to time.

Then, as if ejecting from a teleportation machine, we exit Gate 3 on Max Mueller Marg, into the frenzied bustle of modern Delhi.

Related:
More Posts From Delhi
Jo’s Monday Walk

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

46 thoughts on “An Amble Through A Storied Park – Lodhi Gardens

  1. Lodi Gardens will always remain in my childhood memories of escaping my drab homes of 1960 when Delhi was rehabilitating the multitude shift from the divided India. It was an oasis and another spot down the road Safdarjung Tomb. Thanks for reviving old memories. Musafir

  2. I had made many trips to Delhi in 2010 & 2011 but never made a trip to Lodi Gardens 😦 Or maybe because I was mostly based in Gurgaon at that time. Hmm, perhaps this gardens and the stepwell will be my must-see if I go back to Delhi in the future. Does Chennai have such gardens/parks like Lodi?

  3. The images are so well defined, great shots. And I loved the concept of just strolling through. My guess about the Mughal bridge is that they built it for their man-made pond or lake or whatever…they were known for their water stuff in their gardens, eh?

  4. Thanks for a look at some of the beauties of your country. Good to see you on the WordPress. All the best.

  5. I have visited Delhi umpteen times and never been here 😦 Hangs head in shame its not like I didn’t know about it, but I have never ‘experienced’ delhi and its monuments.
    Beautiful post Madhu. The details are so finely captured. I envy them for all the green as well! My relatives rub it in when they say they go for a walk here! 😀

  6. What a beautiful place Madhu. I don’t know how we missed it when we were in Delhi. We loved Delhi by the way, for all its smog and craziness.
    Alison

  7. What a treasure! Delhi-ites should really take care of this green oasis — such a beautiful and peaceful place in a very big city like Delhi. I’ve heard of the Lodhi dynasty before, but I wasn’t aware of its Afghan origin. A few weeks ago I was actually wondering about how much influence the ancient Afghan dynasties had left in the Indian subcontinent history. Thanks for this informative post, Madhu, and your photos are fabulous!

  8. I’ve been there Madhu, it was the first place I went when I arrived in Delhi! It’s wonderful to see your photos, I loved it there thankyou 🙂

  9. Madhu, what your post is to me. It’s one of the places in Delhi I didn’t make it on my recent trip to India. Now I know that i missed out on beautiful treasure. Thank you for sharing

  10. That was a wonderful tour. I hope the Indian government always cares for these treasures and doesn’t let them fall into disrepair.

  11. What a beautiful and tranquil place, Madhu. As Mary said, I also felt as though I was walking with you. I chuckled at your last sentence about the teleportation machine, as it discharged you back into the hustle and bustle. 🙂

    1. It feels like there is a suspension of time within the gardens, and the shock of returning to the sounds and smells of everyday Delhi is very real 🙂 Wishing you a fabulous Sunday Sylvia!

  12. What a spot for a picnic, Madhu! 🙂 My favourite shot is of Sheesh Gumbad framed in the doorway- superb! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing. I have meant to come and seek you out but it doesn’t always work that way, does it? Sending hugs!

    1. I would have had ‘working’ picnics if I lived in Delhi Jo!
      Have had a lot of distractions keeping me away from WP. Pa in law broke his hand and a long lost brother has re-surfaced with Alzheimer’s. Their care is all sorted and they don’t need our constant attention, but my muse seems to have deserted me in the bargain. Finding my way back in fits and starts. Thanks for the hugs 🙂

      1. You were missed, hon. I assumed, as people do I suppose, that you were off enjoying yourself- and why shouldn’t you? 🙂 🙂 Glad things are settling. You’ll always have writing, Madhu. It’s a part of you.

  13. What a great post, Madhu…looks a wonderful place for a wander, thanks for giving me the virtual tour!

  14. A beautiful walk through history! Welcome relief after watching two short movies on the crassness and gaudiness of Delhi society

    1. Ha ha, which ones were they? I often find myself wishing I could truly teleport myself to a more gracious age. Appreciate your stopping by Ashu. Many thanks.

    1. Thank you for reading Tish. I just discovered a whole series of images in my Delhi archives, that I had forgotten about!

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