March 04, 2014

Sheesh Gumbad, Lodi Gardens, New Delhi


In the heart of Lodi Gardens which themselves are located in the heart of Delhi, seated on a gentle man-made hill is an impressive tomb christened as Sheesh Gumbad (“Glass Dome”) on account of the vivid blue tiles that adorn its fa├žade. A magnificent example of Lodi architecture the tomb is and bears all the features that characterize buildings of that particular period – a high dome resting on a high drum (base), well-preserved lotus finial atop the dome, exterior semblance of a multi-storied structure achieved by the use of arched niches on two levels along its faces, trabeated entrances which employ lintel beams to span the distance to form a rudimentary arch despite the availability of architectural knowledge to build true arches as reflected from the construction of the arched niches along the windows and the larger double niche in which the entrances are set, slender turrets projecting out of each corner of the square structure as well as the rectangular projection in which each entrance and their arched niche are respectively set, a row of arched alcoves ornamenting the dome’s drum and the most glaring feature – the use of leaf motif decoration along the roof and the drum instead of the kanguras (militaristic battlement-like ornamentation that evolved from the use of battlements in all structures of earlier vintage to afford protection against recurrent Mongol raids) – there is indeed not a single feature which we haven’t observed in a majority of structures of that age and yet the tomb exudes a certain magnificence, a charm that magnetically attracts all visitors to it. It isn’t just the use of the glossy blue tiles which are rare in medieval structures (must have been difficult to produce and hence expensive back then, conjecture is that once the whole top surface of the tomb were covered with such tiles. Incredible, right?? Shiny blue!); it isn’t even the majestic dome that, except for a long crack running along its side, retains its grandeur; it isn’t even the mystery associated with this particular tomb, after all there are hundreds of tombs scattered throughout Delhi (India as a whole in fact) the identity of whose occupants is not known; neither is it the extraordinarily well preserved exteriors or the masochistic style in which this massive tomb built out of hard grey quartzite towers above its surroundings – is it the combination of all these factors that makes this tomb so mesmerizing?? Enchanting enough for the historian Simon Digby to propose that this must be the tomb of Sultan Bahlol Lodi, the first of his dynasty who reigned from AD 1451-89! It is generally accepted that Bahlol Lodi is buried in a modest tomb in another part of Delhi, but what if this was his tomb and the Bada Gumbad that stands facing it actually its enchanting gateway? Enrapturing, isn’t it? How history of actual human beings, Sultans and generals, intertwine with the stories these structures hide to create this web of fables, of mysteries indecipherable, of lores forgotten, of stories untold!!


Picturesque


On the inside it’s pretty dark; several unmarked and unornamented graves lie in rows along the rough floor; squinches span the corners to support the giant dome; the walls are unadorned except for white plaster which has mostly disappeared now; the dome’s concave surface is decorated with a huge medallion composed of floral and calligraphy patterns in incised and painted plaster – the medallion is further enveloped by an eight-pointed star whose vertices are extended to touch the band of calligraphy at the circumference of the dome; the calligraphy is exquisite, intricate, the band further rests on a row of ornamental arched niches which display miniature medallions along their curved parts – though the whole roof surface is layered with orange plaster, it’s difficult to decipher the designs and patterns since most of it is covered in what appears to be white bird droppings, though looking at the way in which it covers the surface it looks as if somebody took a paint gun and began shooting white color on the roof!!


Light and dark


As dusk comes calling, the area surrounding the tomb become the haunt of hundreds of birds – eagles swoop around in gigantic circles around the tomb, pigeons and mynas come calling to the thick trees where they nest, crows raise a cacophony on the leafless trees where they come to rest – the din is terrible, but it is also easily ignorable; no wonder people can be seen jogging, exercising or just sitting around the tomb at the time. After all, it’s Lodhi Garden – a hub for fitness enthusiasts, a Mecca for city-bred couples, a pilgrimage for photographers and heritage enthusiasts and a picnic spot for families!


A leisurely romantic evening anyone?


Location: Lodi Gardens, Beside India International Centre
Nearest Metro Station: JLN Stadium
How to reach: One can walk/take an auto or a rickshaw from the Metro station
Open: All days, Sunrise - Sunset
Entrance Fee: Free
Photography/Video Charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 30 min
Relevant Links -

2 comments:

  1. I really appreciate the way u describe the places so beautifully! it's fun to read your blog about these places! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Sakshi for stopping by & sharing! Stay tuned, cheers!

    ReplyDelete