Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Travels 2010 - Part 8: Lodi Gardens in New Delhi, India

After leaving Oman, my travels took me to India, where my first stop was the capital city of Delhi. I had hoped to get there a little bit after the coming of the first monsoon rains, which bring slightly cooler temperatures and reinvigorated plant life after months of dry, dusty heat, but alas the rains did not come for another couple of days after my arrival. Then, however, they promptly led to flooding which resulted in the cancellation of my train connection from Delhi to Chandigarh. Despite the heat, though, Delhi was great and even though I spent most of the pre-monsoon days focusing on museums, libraries, and architectural monuments, I also did visit some parks and gardens. First among them were Lodi Gardens, perhaps Delhi's most well-known public park. Also spelled Lodhi Gardens in reflection of the Hindi and Urdu spellings लोधी बाग़ and لودھی باغ, the park was first laid out in the 1930s around a series architectural monuments from the times of the Sayyid and Lodi Dynasties of the the Delhi Sultanate, including a mosque and various tombs. Inaugurated on April 9, 1936, the gardens were originally known as Lady Willingdon Park, in honor of the wife of the British Governor-General of India at the time since she had spearheaded the project and landscaped the park. After independence in 1947 the park was given its present name and in 1968 it was re-designed by American architect Joseph Allen Stein and landscape architect Garrett Eckbo.

 The Sheesh Gumbad or "glass dome" - a Lodi era tomb - as seen from the terrace at the back of the Bara Gumbad or "big dome"

Decorative detail including Arabic calligraphy and floral motifs in the mosque complex of the Bara Gumbad

The Sheesh Gumbad as seen from the opposite side

The main architectural focal points of the park from the Lodi Period include the Bara Gumbad or "big dome", a large domed structure that serves as the entrance to an attached mosque, and the neighboring Sheesh Gumbad or "glass dome", a tomb so named because it was once decorated with glazed tiles. From the earlier Sayyid Period the massive tomb of Mohammed Shah survives and dominates one corner of the gardens while the later Mughal period left behind the Athpula or "eight pier" bridge and a small, delicate mosque on which restoration work is currently being done.

The tomb of Mohammed Shah

The Athpula Bridge

The small glass house added by Joseph Allen Stein seen amid massed displays of potted plants

Joseph Allen Stein added a small glass house in one corner of the garden as a further feature of interested. It is surrounded by a terrace and rectangular pools, decorated with an abundance of potted flowering and foliage plants. In terms of the plant material used, the park is fairly typical of the park and garden flora of the North Indian plains with is abundance of white frangipani (Plumeria obtusa), royal palms (Roystonea regia), wild date palms (Phoenix sylvestris), bougainvilleas (Bougainvillea sp.), Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac), canna lilies (Canna indica), Polyalthia longifolia, neem trees (Azadirachta indica), and the like. There is also a large rose garden which looked a bit forlorn at the time of my visit but must come into its own in late winter and early spring when the temperatures are more favorable to roses as well as massive flower beds throughout the grounds. In early July these were dominated by a few species that can stand up to the summer heat, including Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus), yellow cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus), though I presume that they are replanted with a variety of other seasonal flowers at other times of the year.

View of the rose garden

A row of royal palms (Roystonea regia)

Flowers of a double variety of pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) lining a path

Hordes of potted plants waiting to be used in the park grounds

Lodi Gardens are very popular with locals for walks and activities like jogging as well as with young couples. These pictures do not show it but at times it took quite a bit of effort to find a view that did not include half a dozen cuddling couples. That being said, Lodi Gardens are worth a visit for the monuments and the tranquility even if you cannot bring a significant other.

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