Walking Past History At Lodhi Gardens
NEW DELHI:“Lodhi Gardens” -- garden beautiful to the citizens of this city and immortalised by Kushwant Singh in several of his personal memoirs was also home to other forgotten denizens from another Delhi at another time. This Sunday morning, pleasant enough for the average citizen used to the searing heat, was the perfect occasion to walk along the much-used pathways and learn about the massive old stone structures that once may have housed the Delhiites of yore.
“Tughlaq, Lodhi, and Syed – these Afghan dynasties were here before the famous Mughul, Babur of the house of Timur,” says Heritage consultant Navina Jafa, before the start of the heritage walk titled, “Afghan Tombs in a British Garden.” Afghan because of the pre-dominantly Afghani architecture, courtesy its Afghani residents, and British Gardens because the park came about as “Lady Wellington Park” much before Independence, sometime around the founding of Luteyns’ Delhi.
The first stop is the tomb of Syed Mohammed Shah made up of quartzite stone and with its pillars slightly slanted. “He was not very rich; therefore the tomb lacks grandeur, although the tomb built on raised platform indicates high nobility.” The earlier Islamic rulers before the Mughuls did not have the resources to afford grandeur. They also had a reputation for intolerance, but could not help but be affected by local Hindu influences, at least in the field of architecture.
“The pillars have the Hindu pot of prosperity mixed in with the Islamic arches and domes. Also visible is an embellishment of leaves, usually seen in entrances to Hindu temples and wedding houses.”
After that, the walk gets more fast-paced with early morning joggers and the odd picnicking couple joining in, curious about the familiar buildings that they mostly know nothing about.
“Why are there metal hooks here?” asks a white-bearded gentleman. “Well, this could have been used to tie cloth fans as there were public gatherings here,” says Dr. Jafa at the massive Bada Gumbaz . The buildings could have been used as a place of learning as one side of the central courtyard have cupboard shelves and shelves to keep oil lamps for the resident student or travelling scholar. The other side of the courtyard houses a mosque-like structure with inscriptions of the Quran.
A little distance away is the Sheesh Gumbaz. “There is no Sheesh or mirror here…it has been named that because of the blue ceramic tiles that sparkle in the sun,” explains Dr. Jafa before making one last stop before the much-fortified tomb of Shikandar Lodhi, dilapidated but with some remnants of magnificence. “His mother was not Muslim and like may children of mixed religions; he too, tried to make up for the lack of a Muslim mother by being more intolerant of other religions.”
Unfortunately, the many graves in each tomb have unknown histories, they might or might not have belonged to the families of the emperors past but would have definitely walked the same grounds that are treaded by the citizens of this city, every time the weather is fine.
The walk was organised by the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation which organises walks like this for free almost every Sunday. They have a Facebook page which keeps the avid history seeker informed. Next on the cards is a story-telling series where each monument will be subject of a story or several stories. The series will begin once the rains are over and pleasant breezes start to define our days again.