Having been brought up in Delhi, there were many times had either crossed Lodhi Gardens while travelling from Central Delhi to South Delhi or had been there on School picnic or had just whiled away some time with our group in Post Graduation between those erratic class schedules where you had some classes in the morning and rest late in the evening. I had been always fascinated by the structures and the greenery around but had never had the inclination to write about them in details.
Many of us would have visited Lodhi Gardens or would be visiting Lodhi Gardens for our morning walks, or those lazy family picnics or for those brief moments to satiate our carnal desires, but did we ever realise the historical importance of this place. A green belt or lungs of Delhi, Lodhi Gardens deserve to be talked about in details.
It’s interesting to note how a royal burial ground of the past became the favourite gardens of today.
Yes, what today is known as Lodhi Gardens was a Royal Burial Ground for the Sayyieds and the Lodis. It was known as Baag e Judai or Vidaai Baag (garden of separation or garden of final farewell). Tombs of the Sultans (rulers) or the nobles of both the dynasties are located here. The Mughals also built some garden pavilions (though not tombs) in this location. The British also fell in love with this location. A village by the name of Khairpur had developed around the Royal Burial Grounds. Lady Willingdon, wife of Lord Willingdon, Governor General of India, got the village relocated and got some beautiful landscaped gardens built around the area in 1936. The name Lodhi Gardens was given in 1968.
This beautiful 90 acre land has more than 110 species of trees (some being endangered too) and 50 species of birds today.
All these along with some amazing heritage structures with a lot of historical value.
In this series we would be talking about some important structures in the Lodhi Gardens.
If you enter Lodhi gardens from the Max Muller Road (intersection of Rajesh Pilot/Subramaniam Bharti Road) (Gate No. 4) the first structure you would cross after entering the gate from the parking area is the Athpula bridge. This bridge was built during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar by a noble man in the court known as Nawab Bahadur. It is one of few the surviving structures built during Akbar’s reign in Delhi. The bridge once spanned a tributary of the river Yamuna, probably joined the Barahapula Nullah further south which fed into the River Yamuna. Athpula comes from the word ‘ath’ meaning 8, it is an 8 piers bridge with 8 arches, out of which today 4 arches are visible.
The span of these arches decreases from the centre to the bank of the streamlet. The top of the bridge is paved with local grey stone. The bridge was repaired 1st time in 1913-1914. It is not clear which road went over this bridge, but the presence of a Mughal rose garden nearby suggests that this was an important resting place.Today the stream or the water body over which it runs has beautiful fountains and is a home to geese and ducks.
Mosque and enclosed Rose Garden with a gateway
As you move forward, southward from Athpula ahead of the duck pond, one can see 2 structures. These structures belong to the Mughal period.
There is rose garden which is enclosed within 4 walls entered through a double storied gateway.
The gateway is made of Lakhori bricks, has Lakhori bricks Chhajja, a Bengaldar (Bengal style) roof, fluted columns on all 4 corners, decorative arches relived in rectangular panels and beautiful paintings in floral pattern on araish plaster ( a type of Indian herbal lime plaster – Araish is the detailed and intricate finish, done in layer by layer. It uses marble dust, lime (slaked for long periods) and various natural pigments. It is applied with care and precision and is an art work mastered through practice).
The second structure is a small mosque – single chambered with three bays. There is a small courtyard on the eastern side. West wall has 3 arched Mihrabs. Inside of the mosque has remains of decorative ceiling with ribbed pattern and inscriptions on very fine plaster layer.