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The Lodi Garden Complex: A series of Sayyid, Lodi, and Mughal structures

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

With Khan market on one side and the Safdar Jang tomb on the other, the Lodi Garden is a 90-acre garden filled with a series of Sayyid, Lodi, and Mughal monuments. Today, the garden is part of an area where the Delhi high society resides, but originally this place was part of a village known as Khairpur. Until 1936, the entire area was nothing but a village, until exotic trees were planted and gardens were laid out around the monuments, and the area came to be known as Lady Willingdon Park; named after the wife of then British Viceroy.

After independence, American architect Joseph Stein was given the task of redesigning the gardens, and hence after the redesign in 1968, it was renamed Lodi Garden. Joseph Stein also built the Indian Habitat Centre and the India International Centre; both of which are adjacent to the Lodi Garden. The place was originally known as Bagh e Jadd during the Sultanate and the Mughal Period.

One of the most famous structures of the Lodi Garden is the Tomb of Sultan Mohammad Shah Sayyid. This particular monument has been a photographer’s favourite simply because of the lush gardens that surround the tomb and the octagonal structure which is very attractive. This tomb is of the third Sultan of the Sayyid dynasty, Mohammad Shah Sayyid and it was built by his son Alauddin Alam Shah. Built of lime and stone, it was locally known as Mubarak Khan ka Gumbad.

The small architectural details of this tomb make it a fascinating structure. Apart from being an octagonal structure, the corbelled doorways and the chattris along with a decorative plaster finish, make it distinctive. On the topmost part of the ceiling of the dome; the Ayat al Kursi has been written. The Ayat al Kursi is one of the most known and most recited verses of the Quran and is considered one of the greatest verses according to the Hadith. Along with the Ayat al Kursi, there are also 3 other quranic verses with the 99 names of Allah inscribed on the dome. There is an inverted lotus finial on the top of the dome. There are many graves within this structure, and they are believed to be that of Mohammad Shah’s family. Unfortunately, the graves have been plastered over and it is now not possible to know about the person buried in these graves.

In the centre of the Lodi Garden is what we know as the Bada Gumbad complex. This complex comprises the Bada Gumbad itself, with a mosque and an arched pavilion known as the Mehman Khana. A unique feature of the Bada Gumbad is that it does not have any graves. We do not know who built it, but we know that it was built under the reign of Sultan Sikander Lodi, and hence he was probably the one who built it. Because of the absence of any graves, this structure is considered to be just a gateway with a lofty dome. The Bada Gumbad is considered to be one of the finest examples of Lodi architecture in Delhi. The Bada Gumbad is an interesting piece of architecture because of the use of black marble, Kalash in the gateways, and the use of Kangura/merlon pattern, which can also be seen in the Humayun’s tomb. The Kangura pattern that has been used in this monument, has become very famous today because of its use in handicraft products.

The adjoining mosque with the Bada Gumbad was also built at the same time during the Gumbad. The mosque marks a considerable advance in Lodi period architecture with decorative techniques and painted limestone. Other unique factors of this mosque are cornered turrets which give us a glimpse of the Qutub Minar, and Jharokhas. It is a five-bay mosque with the three central bays having squat domes and the two end bays having vaulted roofs. One can see minarets (turrets) on the corners of the mosque, which will remind any viewer of the Mamluk-built, Qutub Minar. The plasterwork of the mosque is exemplary, with finely incised plasterwork in the interior and on the arch at the entrance of the mosque.

Towards the opposite side of the mosque is the Mehman Khana or a guest house. If we see the interior of this structure, it has a typical guest house interior. In terms of height, it is of the same scale as the mosque opposite it (without the domes of the mosque). The front of the Mehman Khana has three arched gateways, with red sandstone used on the spandrels.

The structure opposite the Bada Gumbad is the Sheesh Gumbad or a glass dome. The name probably comes from the glazed tiles that used to be a part of this tomb. There are eight unidentified tombs in the Sheesh Gumbad, and one of them. Similar to most Lodi tombs, the Sheesh Gumbad is also square with a hidden staircase towards its western wall. Towards the western wall of the tomb, there is the mihrab, and the other three sides have openings. It has a central doorway with three arched openings. While in many terms, the Sheesh Gumbad is similar to other Lodi structures, it also has some parts it which are different. One can see turquoise and cobalt blue tiles tilework on the façade of the structure. There is a running band of blue tiles on the structure, with the Kangura pattern above it.

Also evident are the octagonal minarets in the corners of the structure.

Towards the north of the Sheesh Gumbad, is the tomb of Sultan Sikander Lodi, who was the second ruler of the Lodi dynasty. Nestled in a corner of the Lodi Garden, not a lot of people have visited this tomb. This tomb was built by his son, Ibrahim Shah Lodi, after his death. While many people believe the Humayun’s tomb to be the first garden tomb of India, it is actually this tomb that is the first garden tomb of India. The most important feature of this tomb is the double dome, which was later brought to perfection by the Mughals, especially with the Humayun’s tomb. It was not until Humayun’s tomb that the double dome was perfectly made. The tomb of Sikander Lodi is also an octagonal tomb similar to the tomb of Mohammad Shah Sayyid. In the interior of the tomb, there is exquisite tile work with mainly green and blue mineral pigments.

Along with Sayyid and Lodi structures, there are also Mughal structures within the Lodi Garden complex. When one enters the Lodi Garden from the side of Subramania Bharti Marg, one comes across the Athpula or an eight-pier bridge. It was built during Akbar’s reign by Nawab Bahadur. This bridge was locally known as “Khairpur ka Pul”. It was intended to be a bridge over a tributary of the Yamuna.

Another Mughal structure is a small complex of the late Mughal period consisting of an arched gateway and a small mosque enclosed within a small garden. There is also a turret (tower) near the Sheesh Gumbad, towards the gate which opens to the India International Center. It is a small 6m turret, and historians believe it to be the oldest structure of the Lodi Garden complex.

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