Every morning’s walk

Details of an arch in Bada Gumbad


It’s lucky that I am in Delhi and staying in a place close enough to work that I can walk to my meetings after breakfast every day. I count myself even luckier that I can walk to work through Lodhi Garden. The garden was first laid out in 1936, then landscaped again by a Japanese team in the 1950s, then finally re-designed in 1968 by Joseph Stein and Garrett Eckbo. This garden is not just about geese. It also has some beautiful architecture from the 15th century Sayyid dynasty. In their brief flowering this Afghan dynasty built hundreds of monuments, and this is probably the best place to see some. Yesterday I walked past the Bada Gumbad, and marked it out as a building which I would like to explore later.


At breakfast today I looked through Percival Spear’s book called "Delhi, Its Monuments and History". I’d bought the Oxford India paperback edition of the book a decade ago on my first holiday in Delhi. Now I carry this with me as my personal Guide Bleu to Delhi. Following Spear’s directions I first paused to look at the beautiful proportions of the gateway (photo on top), and to find that the outline of the dome is indeed less than a semicircle. I took a close look at the building materials: the walls were rubble and there was no marble anywhere; the Sayyid dynasty was not rich enough. Then I walked around to the west and saw the remarkable wall whose photo you can see above. The minarets at the corners are modelled after the Qutb Minar! Spear says that this is typical of the architecture of this dynasty. The three domes you see in the photo above stand atop the mosque which is the main part of this structure.


I walked around to the south where steps lead up to the mosque. There was a photo shoot in progress. I looked at the models, and then at the mosque, and decided that I would rather photograph the beautiful arches. You can see the central arch to the mosque in the photo above. I wish I could read the calligraphy worked into the plaster facing. Above the arch is one of those master works of Persian calligraphy: words worked into a circle. One of the circles has been cut away. I wonder where it is now. The flagstones were uneven, and I had to step carefully. Is that the effect of time, or of stonemasons who were not very skilled?

It took me less than half an hour to walk around the Bada Gumbad. Another building in the garden tomorrow morning.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


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