Lodi gardens in Delhi is unique. It not only carries a few eras of the city’s history in its folds but also is one of the rare historical places, which are living. This is not a place where only tourists go, see, click pictures and go back. It is very much an integral part of the life of city’s people. Those who are fortunate to be living in its vicinity probably use it as their everyday walking garden. Young couples use it to spend time together, and other Dilliwallahs make a one-off visit to sit and breathe the fresh air here. History buffs come here to see the Lodi era tombs and mosques. And study the architecture of that time.
Lodi Gardens – Places to visit in Delhi
Photographers come to click the picturesque locations, trees, and birds. Film-makers use it to depict the backdrop of Delhi and novelist sit here and write novels about it. Often called the lungs of Delhi, most people come here to spend some time with nature. Situated enviably between the Khan Market and Lodi Road, it is easily accessible from both sides.
Going by the aura around Lodi garden, I expected it to be big, but it is actually a mid-sized park spread in about 90 acres. There were two villages that existed around the monuments till early 20th century, one of them was called Khairpur.
Lodhi Gardens – Lung of Delhi
In 1936, the place was landscaped and the garden was created. And named Lady Willingdon garden, after the wife of the then governor-general of India. After independence, gardens were named after the dynasty whose remains still adorn it. It was re-landscaped in 1968 and a glass house was added to it. Has a natural terrain that goes up and down at places, it has big and small monuments punctuating the abundant nature. It has small and not so small ponds with flowers and birds and it has a Bonsai garden. There is a restaurant too, which I did not visit, probably the walk was too small and I was not hungry yet.
Lodhi Gardens Walking Tour
My walk started from Khan market side and as you enter from the parking, the Athpula Bridge would be right in front of you. It was called so as it stood on 8 pillars forming 7 arches. The central arch is the biggest one with subsequent arches becoming smaller, giving a concave shape to the bridge. As it stands today, you wonder where is the river over which this was built, as the water surrounding the bridge is an artificial water body. Well, though the youngest monument in the Lodi gardens, this bridge is still 400 years old, built during Akbar’s time by Nawab Bahadur over a canal that connected to the Yamuna. What is noteworthy about this bridge is that this is one of the rare imprints in Delhi from Akbar’s time.
Sikandar Lodhi Tomb
Follow the paved path around the Athpula and you would see a fort-like a wall and you have to go around it to reach the gates of Sikandar Lodi’s tomb. Built in the early 16th century by his son Ibrahim Lodi, this tomb is in the typical octagonal shape of Lodi era. This tomb has an uncanny resemblance with Adham Khan’s tomb in Mehrauli, with three archways opening on each of the eight sides. The inside of the tomb has a high dome, with a painted ceiling and beam and lintel entrances in red sandstone. Arches inside have geometrical designs in blue and green. The western wall gives an impression of being a mosque with a Mihrab like a recession. The walls enclose huge gardens that surround the main tomb building. The platform outside the entrance wall has two canopies.
There is a legend that says that Mughals thought of Lodis as traitors. And hence in their era, the traitor’s tombs were made in the Octagonal style like that of Adham Khan’s. Another interesting point is that Sikandar Lodi chose to be buried in Delhi while he used to rule from Agra.
Move a little ahead and you would see Sheesh Gumbad and bang opposite it Bara Gumbad. Now, these are square tombs from Lodi era. Sheesh-Gumbad was so called because its outer finish with blue enameled tiles gave the impression of being a mirror. Very few of these tiles survive now and the dome carries a bare look. A family seems to be buried in this tomb, which is fairly well preserved from the outside but is totally ignored inside.
Bara Gumbad or Bada Gumbad (Big Dome)
Bara Gumbad has a mosque on one side and a Mehman Khana or guesthouse on the other. As you enter Bara Gumbad, you suddenly are hit by the sheer height of the dome. In the platform between the dome, mosque and guesthouse are some graves that probably belong to a later period. The Bara Gumbad mosque was the most pleasant discovery of this walk. This mosque with three domes and five arches has the beautiful engraving of geometric designs and Arabic verses in the off-white color. It is a riot of incised plasterwork. It also has some of the best Squinches that I have seen in Delhi monuments. Interior of this mosque is pretty well preserved making it worth visiting.
No one knows who are buried in these two tombs. But I guess it is safe to assume that these must be noblemen, going by the grandeur of these tombs. It is argued that Bara Gumbad is not at all a tomb, but a gateway to the mosque. But apparently, the graves have been found inside establishing it as a tomb.
Mohammad Shah Tomb
As you walk towards the Lodi road, you would see another majestic octagonal structure, with peculiar Chhatris on all around the octagon. These chhatris make the distinct element of this tomb, with everything else very typical of the tombs of that era. This is Sayyid dynasty’s Mohammad Shah’s tomb. It is the biggest structure in Lodi garden. The ceiling again has some elaborate circular painting in blue and red enclosed in a star-like formation. It makes a very photogenic tomb, as it is on a higher mound and is absolutely symmetrical.
Here and there you would see some grave platform in the gardens. It would almost feel as if you have come to meet all those who lay buried here. The dead do speak to you, not literally, but through the pieces, they left for the future generations, cast in stone carrying an imprint of their times. The monuments show the importance given to people after they died, not sure if in their lifetimes that were way smaller than the life of their tombs, if they got the same reverence and gratitude. I am not sure if they met as many people in their lives as they meet from their graves.
While absorbing history, do not miss the present, various birds live in and lot more visit Lodi Gardens. In case you do not know much about the birds, there are elaborate boards to explain the various varieties of the birds that you can see here. Of course, the trees and plants are there to admire all around.
I missed the Kos Minar built during the Sher Shah Suri’s time. And the glass house built by architect Stein. Will update this part after my next visit to Lodi gardens.
Recommend you to read following Places to Visit in Delhi on my Travel Blog.