Tombs within Lodi Garden
Lodhi Garden lies on the main Lodhi Road and just a kilometre away from the famous ancient Tomb of Safdarjung and before Khan Market. Easily accessible via local taxis, buses and auto rickshaws, the Garden is a welcome respite to all Delhiites especially from the scorching summer heat. It spreads over a green expanse of 90 acres and houses the Tombs of Mohammed Shah and Sikander Lodi along with ancient monuments like Bada Gumbad, Sheesh Gumbad and Athpula which are protected and conserved by ASI or the Archaeological Survey of India.
Sikandar Lodi's Tomb
The Tomb of Sikandar Lodi sits within the lush greens of Lodi Garden. Though it lacks the extensive Chattris as seen in many tombs, the rectangular shaped structure, indicating that it belongs to a high ranking person during that era, sits on a raised platform and depicts a typical Lodi Style of architecture with a huge central dome. It is flanked by an arched opening on each side that leads you into the grave of Sikander Lodi. The Tomb was built by Ibrahim Lodi (His son and the last Sultan of the Lodi Dynasty) in the year 1517 AD. During the British rule, the Tomb was renovated and the defeat of Ibrahim Lodi after the war against Emperor Babar makes a mention in an inscription added by the British in 1866.
The British vacated the villages that surrounded Sikander Lodi's Tomb to another area in 1936 and the beautiful manicured garden that we see today took shape. The Garden and its landscapes were designed by Lady Willingdon and hence was name after her in her honour. It was opened to public view on 9th April 1936 and was renamed as 'Lodi Gardens' post Independence. In 1968, J. A. Stein and Garrett Eckbo re-structured the Gardens and constructed a Glass House within the Garden premises. Even today, this glass house is being used as the entrance gateway into the Garden.
Muhammad Shah Sayyid's Tomb
The tomb of Muhammad Shah Sayyid is known as one of the bigger ancient Tombs that have survived from the Sayyid era up till today. This is where the 3rd Ruler of the Sayyid Dynasty was buried after his demise in 1444 AD. Located within the Lodi Gardens, it was designed by the Lodi as well as the Sayyid Dynasties sometime between the 15th and 16th Century AD. The Tomb is designed in a typical octagonal shaped structure surrounding the exterior of the Tomb.
The Tomb is crowned with a central dome that is surrounded by eight Chattris which typically depict Hindu architectural influences. The entrance into the Tomb is from the Southern end however each octagon side of the chamber is supported by a Lentil Beam entrance. Each colonnade of the octagonal faces measure 10 metres and are perforated with three arched openings supported by stone brackets and seen with protruding eaves that have been re-strengthened with sloping bulwarks.
The Chamber of the Tomb measures 8 metres in diameter also shaped as an octagon while its ceiling is carved with exquisite stuccowork that depict serpentine lines and calligraphic as well as linear motifs. There are a total of eight graves within this Tomb and one of them belongs to Muhammad Shah Sayyid. This Tomb is also considered as a more refined structure than the Tomb of Mubarak Shah Sayyid who was Muhammad Shah's father as it has a higher dome and a more exquisite design that lends a better view.
Bada Gumbad and Masjid
The Bada Gumbad or 'Big Dome' lies in the heart of Lodi Gardens and is crowned with a big rubble domed structure. It is situated on the north-eastern side of the Tomb of Muhammad Shah Sayyid about 300 metres away. It was once a gateway to the Bada Gumbad Masjid [Mosque] constructed in 1494 AD. The Mosque was built with three domes and lies towards the west of the Tomb of Muhammad Shah as per inscriptions seen on a Mihrab that survives even today and was once known to occupy a very significant place during the Lodi reign.
The Bada Gumbad was also built during the Sikander Lodi reign in 1494 AD that formed the entrance gateway into the Bada Gumbad Masjid and showcases spires and facades. It was built in the shape of a square structure with a huge dome and hence the name was derived. The interiors were once engraved with exquisite stuccowork and intricate paintings which has disappeared today. An unidentified grave can be seen within this square shaped structure that may have belonged to a high ranking officer of the Imperial courts of the Lodi Dynasty. A central Courtyard that is surrounded by a residential complex today had once housed a water tank and its remains are definitely visible even today.
The Sheesh Gumbad also spelt as 'Shish Gumbad' which means a 'Glass Dome' is situated just a few metres north and opposite of Bada Gumbad. Both these Gumbads are similar in structure except for the glazed blue tiles that once covered the dome from where the name was derived. However, today these tiles are visible only above the main facade of the Sheesh Gumbad. The western end of this Gumbad houses a Mihrab that was once a part of a Mosque while its interior was once covered with plasterwork engraved with floral designs and inscriptions from the Holy Book of Quran. The Dome houses the graves of an unidentified family that may have been a part of the royal courts of Emperor Sikander Lodi.
Further east of the Tomb of Sikander Lodi is the Athpula which means 'Eight Piers' from where it derives its name. It is known as the last ancient and Mughal structure in Delhi constructed by Nawab Bahadur during the reign of Mughal Emperor Akbar. This is a stone bridge supported by eight piers and seven arches of which the central arch is the highest which is typical of the Tughlaq architectural style that had greatly influenced the Mughal architects who took its design and style to a different height all together. This bridge crosses over a small water canal that runs through the Lodi Gardens which meets with a waterway that connected the canal to the main Yamuna River as well as the Tomb of Sikander Lodi.
Even today fortifications are visible near the Garden which is seen in ruins, however, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has awarded the restoration work of this garden along with five monuments to INTACH which is funded by the Steel Authority of India Limited or 'SAIL' and conservation works are underway since 2009. ASI also organises Heritage Walks for Tourists and Students within and around Lodi Gardens. In fact INTACH has printed out small booklets providing information on the history and construction of the monuments within this garden including names of trees, birds and flowers that occupy the complex.