New Delhi: Described as the 'best urban oasis in Asia', city's iconic Lodhi Garden, home to historic tombs and some of the most exotic plants and bird species, on Sunday turned 81.
The horticultural delight, nestled in the heart of Delhi, bordering the posh Lodhi Estate and upscale Khan Market, was opened on April 9, 1936 as 'The Lady Willingdon Park' named after the then Vicerine of India.
Covering an area of 90 acres, this garden was laid out after shifting what was then the village of Khairpur, on the outskirts of New Delhi. "The garden happens to contain an unusually rich variety of architectural styles, ranging from Sayyid and Lodi to Mughal. The present landscaping was done by American architect Joseph Allen Stein (in 1968), and modified by a group of of Japanese landscape designers," according to INTACH.
Incidentally, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Delhi-based non-profit body, which works for preservation of unprotected heritage in the country, is located in the vicinity of the garden. Iconic post-colonial buildings in Lodhi Estate area -- India International Centre (IIC), India Habitat Centre (IHC), Ford Foundation, designed by Stein, sit handsomely with the old garden. With its beautiful flora and fauna, the garden is a favourite of many for their morning and evening walks as well as for picnickers and tourists.
Besides, scattered monuments, a variety of plants and trees can be found here, such as neem, jamun, royal bottle palm, bamboo, eucalyptus and numerous birds, including parakeets, mynahs, kingfishers, babblers, and hornbills. Mohammed Shah's (the last Sayyid dynasty ruler) tomb was one of the earliest ones to be built in the Lodi Garden (renamed post-Independence) in 1444.
The octagonal tomb situated near the periphery of the garden on the Lodhi Road side, is one of the most photographed monuments of the garden, and has been featured in various films and advertising campaigns as well. It also contains the tombs of Sikander Lodi, besides Sheesh Gumbad, Bara Gumbad and a mosque. The monuments are embellished with intricate stonework and calligraphy.
"The garden also has a stone bridge 'Athpula', built over a stream, which was a nullah at the time the village was there. Hence, it is also called as the 'Khairpur ka Pul'. "It is indeed an oasis in the time of growing urbanisation and people must celebrate it," says city-based activist Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, who conducts regular heritage walks.
The old wrought-iron entrance gate of the garden that opens on the Rajesh Pilot Marg (old name South End Road) has stone-built pillars, on each side, which says, 'The Lady Willingdon Park' and '9th April, 1936'. "But, people hardly pay attention to it. One reason is that the main gate is now on the other end of the road, but yes, we do tend to forget history. And, that is why awareness and heritage walks are important. "We remember birthday of our political leaders and cricket icons and film stars and show our love now on social media too. It should not be hard to remember birthday of our city landmarks, not for the sake of remembering, but really to celebrate our history and heritage," Rooprai said.