The Lodhi Garden is one of the finest examples of the potpourri Delhi has always been, it’s a unique combination of pre-Sultanate, Sultanate, Mughal and British era.
As one moves further ahead from Rose Garden ( Read about it here ) , one would come in a large beautifully maintained landscaped area. Here one can see two structures, standing parallel to each other. One structure is larger in size and is known as Bara or Bada Gumbad. The smaller structure is known as Sheesh Gumbad or the Glass Dome. These structures along with the tomb of Sikandar Lodi belong to the era of Sultan Sikandar Lodi, with most of the construction being done in stone and lime plaster. These structures also show the advanced understanding of dome construction using the principal of an arch and the transformation and transition of a square to a circle through use of squinches (squinch – a straight or arched structure across an interior angle of a square tower to carry a superstructure such as a dome) and corbels (a corbel is a piece of metal or wood usually triangle shaped designed to assist in holding up a beam or part of a wall).
There exists two patterns in the tombs built around the Lodi period (1451-1526) – square and octagonal. Both these structures (Sheesh Gumbad and Bara Gumbad are square in pattern.
The smaller structure on the right is called the Sheesh Gumbad (Glass Dome). It looks similar in shape to the larger structure or Bara Gumbad but it’s different in ornamentation.
The Sheesh Gumbad with no sloping parts is reminiscent of Alai Darwaza (Qutub Minar Complex) with its projecting entrances and blind arcades. The dome and the façade were once completely covered with turquoise and cobalt-blue coloured glazed tiles; only remains of the glazed tiles can now be seen on the outside of the structure which gave it its name “Sheesh Gumbad”.
The building gives an appearance of being double storeyed though it’s not. This structural feat has been obtained only due to the architectural mastery – the exterior is topped with octagonal minarets in the corners and is divided with the help of a projecting horizontal cornice. Each storey has been ornamented with panels of recessed niches that run above and below the string-course, the upper ones being pierced by small openings.
There are small turrets also on the parapet wall. The drum of the dome is decorated with lotus petal shaped motif.
The tomb measures approximately 17 m on both sides and has a hidden staircase along its western wall that leads to the terrace. The chamber of this tomb measures 10 meter square. The western wall has been provided with a Mihrab (arch) which served as a mosque. The other 3 sides have 3 openings, the central one being the doorway flanked by arched openings allowing light and air inside the chamber.
On the outside one can see row of blue tiles each measuring 9 square inch across all the wall below the central and upper string course. The exception to this can be seen in the central portion which is adorned with 9 square panels each containing a light blue tile with floral pattern.
The high ceiling in the interior has been decorated with stucco and painted ornamentation containing floral pattern and Quranic inscriptions.
There are many tombs here but no details are available. These tombs are plain looking and have no embellishments. It is suggested that these tombs could be of an unknown family that may have been a part of the Lodhi family and a part of Sikandar Lodi’s court. Some historians have suggested that this is the tomb of the first Lodi Sultan Bahlol Lodi who died in 1489 CE. The construction date of this structure has been assigned between 1489-1517 CE.
The best way to enjoy the beauty of this place and architectural marvel is in silence and giving respect to the dead who have long gone. But the creatures (yes I am calling them creatures because there activities and behaviour cannot classify them into human beings) who frequent this place have no respect for the dead nor for the historical importance of this place and India’s rich heritage – we saw a few of them sitting on the graves (tombstone and platform), completely disregarding the warning of guards out there. Each open niche had become a cosy corner for the love sick creatures. Sincerely wish that things improve so that the peace of this tranquil destination is not disturbed.
Evolution of Tombs in Islamic Architecture, Shabbir Lehri, ARCHITECTURE – Time Space & People March 2014
Lodhi Garden & the Golf Club, Delhi Heritage, INTACH (Delhi Chapter)