Lodhi gardens are the best garden which I have personally seen. A few distance away from the Safdarjung’s garden and in close vicinity with India International Centre, India Habitat Centre, Tibet House and India Islamic Cultural Centre. Who would not want to visit a garden as such who has among its various components, serenity of lake, affluence of a herbal garden, tranquility of yoga ground, abundance of historical monuments, variety of birds and butterflies, exuberance of various flowers in a nursery, opulence of trees and a comfortable jogging track, etc.! It houses a lot of tombs of Mughals, earlier the garden was a charbagh styled garden but now it is more of a contemporary style after it was redesigned by Joseph Allen Stein, the architect of India Habitat Centre and Garrett Eckbo in 1968.
As one enters the grand gardens from Gate 1, also known as the Ashoka Gate, present at the Lodhi Road, one may see the tall trees reaching up the sky and the lane moving towards infinity. At the end of the lane is the Bada Gumbad. It appears to be a gateway but is in fact a tomb. It looks as double storied but is a single storied structured. It is an epitome of lodhi architecture. The building is located on an elevated ground so as to create dominance over the other area.
The building appears to be ruined and got scars on it by time. Made up of grey quartzite and some other stones. The façade looks plain and lacks gravity. It is only the combination of red and black stone used at some places which somehow manages to break the monotony of the grey sandstone used.
The building has Islamic arch at the Centre and Islamic arched niches on either side. At the top of the roof is a dome which is surrounded by kangura or merlon pattern at the edges. The entrance is from the eastern side, through a pair of stone stairs. The plan is simple and is made up of a square with squinched arches at the top, surmounted by a dome. Ample amount of light filters into the interiors through the doors on each sides and clerestory windows at the top of each door and from sleek arched windows on either side of door. The interiors are quite plain and also the stone is unplastered and uncarved. One aspect is the detailing done at the door which contrasts against the rough and unplastered mostly uncarved stones of the tomb. One could imagine the time and expertise required to create the intricate calligraphic carved band surrounding the door frame and decorative corbelling at the door and also the kalash carving done in red sandstone.
At the back of the Bada Gumbad, there is a courtyard, which is covered on 3 sides by a mosque and a Mihman Khana, a guest house for pilgrims and of course the tomb. The mosque and the guest house both have same size and shape. The fourth side has stairs of stone leading to ground level. At the center of the courtyard is a mound of rubble which was earlier a burial platform. Although it is not known who was buried here but the person hold a special position during the rule of the Lodhis. The mosque which is a 3 domed structure and have 5 arched openings. The mosque has some unique features like the oriel windows or jharokhas on north and south sides, the corner turrets, just like Qutb Minar, on the real side of the mosque which is a Tughlaq style and a bracket chajja cornice located at the front. In the interiors of the mosque one finds exuberance of arabesque stucco and paintings which are consists of floral and geometrical designs and Quranic inscriptions all around the mosque. There is also incised and painted limestone plasters used. And inscriptions like the southern mihrab which points out the direction of the prayer. The detailed engravings done in the walls will make anyone fall in love with them. The three domes have lotus carving at the top and merlon or kangura detailing at the edges. The guest house at the opposite side is plain, has three arched openings and two arched windows at the ends. There are lamp niches provided at the interiors with minimal decoration.
Now in close vicinity with the Bada Gumbad is the Sheesh Gumbad. The Sheesh Gumbad looks similar to the Bada Gumbad. Both have similar square plan and gives the deception of being double storied when looked from outside. This double storied looks comes from the horizontal string course dividing the facade and sunken niches present above and below it. There is a katcha raasta which leads to the sheesh Gumbad, flanked by vidya bushes.
This tomb has several graves present there but the names of the people who are buries are not known. There are interiors which are plain but the high ceiling contains stucco and painted plaster consisting of floral patterns and Quranic inscriptions. The front façade has glazed blue ceramic tiles, from which the name comes Sheesh Gumbad or the dome of glass. There are dressed stones in the interiors as compared to the uncarved and unfinished interiors of Bada Gumbad.
Surrounding both the domes are lawns which invites children playing and people discussing. Now heading through the lane in the north direction, one goes towards the lake. The lane is quite good in condition with lamp posts at appropriate intervals. Finally one reaches a small bridge above the lake, when heading towards the Sikander Lodi’s tomb. Throughout the journey through the lane, there are plenty of trees and bushes. There’s also a small park which is surrounded by tall trees on its periphery. At one corner of the park is a sculpture, nicely created. Now if one head towards the Sikander’s tomb, one realizes that the garden is enclosed by high walls. There is an entrance gateway for the garden on the southern side, which is no longer used. So one needs to use the gateway on the eastern side. The southern gateway is approached through a platform which itself is at a high plinth and is reached through a flight of stairs. The platform is a rough square with two chattris at the front. The chattris are today in very poor condition but once had glazed blue tiles which is now broken.
The dome is octagonal in plan and has quite preserved tile work, painted and carved detailing. The gateway at the eastern side is made up of dressed stone masonry and the bottom and rubble masonry above. The garden is a typical charbagh garden with the enclosed garden divided into four squares by four pathways and the tomb at the center, where the pathways meet. The enclosure wall is consists of recessed arches and fortification on top of it, at the four sides are gateways although only two gateways are used. On the western side there is a gateway with a mihrab or arch with qibla inscription that shows the direction of prayer. The tomb has a central chamber and verandah surrounding it. On each side of the octagonal pan there are 3 arched openings. At the exterior there is a chajja which are supported by decorative brackets. The dome has kangura or merlon decoration around its edges. The interiors are quite plain except for the decorations on the door frame, including kalash decoration at the door jamb and lovely corbelled arch at the top of the door. The interiors are well lit by the door openings on each of the eight sides and clerestory windows above each door.
Upon taking a look around the tomb one may follow the pathway which moves through the side of the lake. One may spot couples enjoying the lovely water and the beautiful greenery over here. Further going through the lane, one reaches the other end and one of the eleven gates of the garden. This is one of the busiest gates. The reason is the parking located near to the gate. Now heading towards the other lane one moves through the bridge, this is where one could see the lovely lake and the fountains shimmering water all around. This is where the traffic coming from the Max Muller road stops and gets eradicated from the bubbling water of the lake. The bridge is itself a historic monument. It is known as Atpula. It was created when there was a small stream of water coming from Yamuna. Today the stream has died but to recreate the scenery, lake has been created. The bridge consists of six arched piers. It’s lovely to see the reflection of bridge and the trees and the ducks enjoying their swim. The serenity of the lake along with its lovely curves makes it a beautiful.
One could spot a number of birds taking baths in the lake. There is also a circular island in the middle of the lake. Now walking again through the lane, one reaches another park spaces, filled with Champa trees. There are people offering food to ducks at one corner and at another corner there are people enjoying picnics and some taking nap. Now running through the pedestrian pathway where people jog and people come with their dogs, one could see eucalyptus on one side and Bottle Brushes, Neem and Asoka trees on the others. Also there are lot of flowers throughout the pathway Including pansies and lilies and marigolds and various show and ornamental plants.
The lane leads towards another garden which is enclosed in a wall. Now the rubble masonry wall has broken and only a part of the wall could be seen. There is a double storied gateway which is rectangular plan. Bangaldar roof, Lahori brick chajja, fluted columns at all corner and decorative arches relieved in rectangular column are its features. The interiors are filled with paintings of floral patterns on the plastered walls. There is a Peepal tree beside the gateway which brings a gauntly appearance. The mosque is single chambered with three bays. It consists of three domes, the middle one is the largest and the other two are ribbed. The western wall has three arched mihrab. There are paintings on the plaster in the interiors which are in a desolating condition. There is also a courtyard on the eastern side. The rose garden is at the center of the enclosed wall has well-trimmed false Asoka trees at the periphery and different varieties of roses arranged in concentric circles at the center and radiating lines around it. Well, moving forward through the lane, one reaches a turret. It is presumably the corner tower of the enclosed area at the time of Lodi rule. The turret is made up of random rubble masonry and consists of two levels. The level could be seen by a horizontal string course at the middle. The decorative feature is the jharokha and the ribbed dome.
While moving across the lane which now runs at the periphery, one finds public conveniences buildings which provide toilets, drinking water facility and changing rooms. These buildings are made up of contemporary Indian style. Walking through lanes is also an enjoyable journey as the lane meanders around instead of walking in a straight path like the jogging path. This meandering path makes the people walk in a moderate and slow pace, through which anyone could look upon the details present around both sides of the lane. These details include the type and colour of pavements used and public art including sculptures at junctions and variety of trees and shrubs used.
While moving forward through the lane one reaches the junction which uses hard landscaped elements. These include sculptures at one end and a small garden design of various desert ornamental plants and gravels and boulders. Nearby is a small playground where people come to swings and see saws and also exercise equipment. In close vicinity is a small herbal garden containing small beds of various Indian herbs including Tulsi, etc.
Moving ahead one reaches a small mosque enclosed by a wall. But only a part of the random rubble masonry wall is left. The mosque has a rectangular chamber with vaulted roof and three arched openings on the eastern wall. The western wall has arched niches with mihrab that shows the direction of prayer. The interiors have moldings while the exteriors have floral kanguras with mouldings at the cornice and inverted lotus finial at the top of fluted dome. The mosque is made up of stone masonry and has red coloured plaster.
There is also a small pond present nearby and there are designed landscape with palm trees and small shrubs. All these spaces are filled with variety of trees and invite a number of butterflies.
Now heading towards west through the lane one reaches the Mohammad Shah Sayyid tomb. Sayyids ruled over a small territory for a short period of time and therefore neither had money nor time to create cities, palaces or great architecture to celebrate their reign. This tomb belongs to the third Sayyid ruler. To acknowledge its real beauty one should come from gate no. 10 which provides a perfect setting of serial vision. The gate no. 10 leads to a path flanked by tall bottle palm trees and short heighted bushes on both sides. While moving forward the path, the vista gradually discloses itself. Firstly, only the entrance at the center of tomb is seen but as soon as one walk forwards, the whole tomb could be seen. Since the mausoleum is itself located on elevated ground, it creates a hierarchy over the surrounding area and mesmerizes people. Chamber has seven graves, the center one belongs to Muhammad Shah Sayyid and the other graves belong to his family. Each face of the mausoleum has three arched opening with sloping buttresses on each corner. The interiors have incised and painted limestone plaster. Also on each side of the interiors there are clerestory openings which filter in light. Plus the interior decoration includes carving of Quranic inscription and incised medallions places at the sides of each clerestory opening. It’s lovely to see the view from the door of the mausoleum. Even if one sees the ceiling at the colonnade, there is incised limestone carving around the floral pattern at the center. Although it is not a charbagh but perhaps the underlying principle is charbagh only: The building at the center, raised on a high platform and four pathways running on four sides of the tomb.
Now moving further one could see the nursery which is the reason of beauty all around the 90 acre garden. A lot of people come and click there pictures over here, getting bamboozled with the awesome variety and ambience of this space.
Lodi garden is one of the most visited public places in Delhi per day. Thanks to the various monuments present over here, the public amenities which are provided and the lovely ambience which the space has created. It is surely a blessing to the city.