A Wikipedia browse will fill you in on what are Lodhi Gardens-but a heritage walk there will fill you with that tactile breath of history that no page can. It will transport you many eras back into that 15th century 90acre Mughal expanse, replete with pavilions, mosques, fountain vistas and gateways, that abuts Jorbagh, in the heart of Delhi, capital city of India.
Lodhi Gardens- A handy guide
Not going there on a walk will also not make you privy to the information shared by Mr. Sohail Hashmi, historian and author, also, our walk leader. A ready reckoner for Lodhi Gardens begins now! Around 1930s ,the area had around it, two villages that had cropped up- Khairpur and another unnamed one- Lord Willingdon asked an army captain, Captian Young, to demarcate the area and he divided it on the basis of the inhabitant’s occupations. The area was christened ‘Youngpura’ after the delineation, that came to be faultily pronounced ‘Jungpura’ . Back to the gardens, so since its landscaping was done at the hand of Lady Willingdon, it was eponymously christened that.
Lodhi Walk begins!
You commence with a see of the tomb of Muhammad Shah, the second last ruler of the Sayyid dynasty. Built in 1444, by Ala-ud-din Alam Shah, in Tughlaq style, the building is made of Delhi Quartz. It is an octagonal chamber, with seemingly slanting walls, with a dome of 8,16 and 32 squinches, embellished with stone chajjas on the roof and guldastas on the corners. Similar building architecture is found in the mausoleum of Tughlaq at the Adilabad fort and in Ferozeshah Kotla. Amongst the carved motifs on marble or sandstone, primary eye catchers are the lotus and the kalash (pots used for storage) As the kalash in agrarian societies was used extensively to store water, wheat and seeds- it came to be associated with growth and fertility- an auspicious symbol of good luck.
Did you know?
The walk was part of the Heritage Walks with Sohail Hashmi and he suffused the trail with little nuggets of age old wisdom and beliefs, hitherto unknown, at least true for me. As we entered the mausoleum, we were informed that across cultures it is believed that we approach the dead from the south, therefore a south facing gate. The feet of the dead are also south facing. Interesting that at that time, a man’s grave would have a raised pen like structure atop the grave whilst the woman’s was flat. She was buried with a slate, so as to symbolise a man writing her fate with his pen! Also, who gets buried closest to the enclosed west wall, depended upon the hierarchical order, as well.
Towards the end of the walk we stepped inside the Bada Gumbad- a gateway to the mosue, with intricate carvings on architectural details inspired from Turkish and Iraqi styles. Fascinating how geru (brick ochre hue) and indigo patterns were made on the walls and cornices, with designs made on perforated camel skins, that were later used as stencils. The dome’s load bearing beehive structures –or the pendentives – were spellbinding to gaze at!
Symmetry and its essence be it in architecture and life cannot be spoken enough of- One with nature, we traversed the gardens circling and ending it with a stroll across the athpulla (the eight piers bridge) built by Nawab Mirza, during Akbar’s reign. The fountains as seen from the structure, beckoning us to linger on, and live the past in the present. But sigh! Life beckons- until next time then!