Sheesh Gumbad


This arch is a wonderful example of medieval Indian architecture. It is a true arch, with a cleanly shaped keystone. The true arch paired with the stylized lotus symbol is an example of Indo-Islamic architecture. I liked the slight disarray in this example. The stones are slightly mismatched, and the curtain above the arch is somewhat haphazard. It does not have the overwhelming grandeur of Mughal architecture. You can almost see the hands of the workers. This is the south-facing central arch beneath the dome of Sheesh Gumbad. Continue reading “Sheesh Gumbad”


A detour through the garden


The entrance to the Lodhi garden from the Lodhi road is called gate number 1. Very close to this, and overlooking Lodhi road is the tomb of Muhammad Mubarak Sayyid. Having become an avid walker-through-Lodhi-garden this week, I found twenty minutes to walk through the garden between breakfast and the meetings, so I walked up to this structure. At first sight it is a simple enough ruin. Once you start looking at the details, it is no longer so simple.

lodhitomb-domeFirst, you see the glorious full dome. I learnt from Percival Spear the difference between a full dome and a half dome. The outline of a full dome traces out a semi-circle. The outline of a half dome is less than a semi-circle. This full dome sits on a cylinder (called a drum) lying above a building base in the shape of a regular octagon. The dome is surmounted by a lotus flower, and surrounded by smaller domes called chhatris. The purpose of the chhatris is to draw attention from the drum.

lodhitomb-calliThe railing around the drum is beautiful: full of abstract geometrical relief and Persian writing worked out in plaster. The morning sun lit up parts of the railing, throwing the plaster work into relief. I wish I could read Persian/Arabic, so that I could decipher the beautiful plaster work. You can’t call this calligraphy; should one call it plaster writing instead?


The graves inside the tomb are simple affairs: sporting writing which I cannot read. A verandah runs around the octagon. The pillars form lovely vaultings across the ceiling. I noticed that thse vaults are beautifully decorated. I took a photo of one of these decorations, and then decided I had to hurry on to my morning’s meeting.

Every morning’s walk


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.

Simple pleasures


Mumbai does not give you the simple pleasure of standing by a pool in a park and watching geese swim by. Delhi does. On this count I score Delhi ten on a scale of one to ten. Work brought me to Delhi, but in the evening before I dived into a series of meetings, I followed the locals into a lovely garden in the middle of town: the Lodhi garden. The sun was about to set when I walked through this crowded park and came to the pond full of geese. Some of them stood about in the shallows and honked; others glided through deeper waters, submerging occasionally and coming up looking satisfied for no visible reason.


In the middle of these large white birds I saw a small dark thing swimming rapidly by. Was it a duck? No. When I looked at it the purple colour was clear. A lone purple moorhen glided past the cacophany of geese. I stood by the pond as the sun went down, enjoying these utterly commonplace sights in the company of the hordes of Delhi.