The Lodi Gardens – Like Your City’s Big Park, But With Tombs!
Even a cursory glance at the Lodi Gardens immediately makes clear the benefits of having long national histories when it comes to designing big city parks. Old tombs and mosques, quaintly a-crumble, are just the thing to make a park more than the usual patch of green.
Walking through the Lodi Gardens, my friend Vimal and I imagined coming back to the US and starting a company to build new ancient structures for America’s public spaces. Putting a whole new spin on urban decay, our company would say of New York’s Central Park: sure it’s nigh perfect but wouldn’t it be better with some charmingly faded tombs sprinkled about, just so? The kind of tombs with an awesome and scrappy resolve to stick around. The kind of tombs whose every carious detail breathes life even as it commemorates death. The kind of tombs with a few precipitous ledges from which to throw unruly children.
Vimal and I have not yet set to work on our design revolution (the motto will be: “old is the new new”), but in the meantime, if you like the idea, you can see what it would look like in Delhi’s Lodi Gardens. The park may not have had the benefit of Olmsted and Vaux’s Central Park designs, but it makes up for it with enough dead men to fill a rickshaw; men who, in fits of delusional death-defiance and self-commemoratory mania, built these wonderful tombs and mosques, so that future ages would remember their names and stray dogs could pee on their remains.
These men are both known (Mohammed Shah Sayyid, 1422; Ibrahim Lodi, 1526; Sikander Lodi, 1517) and unknown (one of the tombs, the Bara Gumbad or “big dome”, has no grave, and no marker). The style of the buildings is now called Lodi, after the latter builders, and it served as prototype for the later Mughal style (think Taj Mahal). When the weather’s nice, Delhi-wallahs and expats alike head to the park to jog, picnic, or explore the tombs. If you’re in Delhi, definitely do the same.