Delhi's plentiful parks provide a refreshing respite from the city, and Lodhi Garden is the most extensive. This vast 90 acre expanse is peppered with the remains of a variety of historical monuments from the 14th century Tughlaq dynasty (which ruled the pre-Mughal Delhi Sultanate) up to the 16th century Mughal period, making it a popular place for sightseeing as well as relaxing. Plan your visit with this complete guide to Lodhi Garden.
The British developed Lodhi Garden in 1936 as a landscaped setting for the monuments, which were surrounded by a village called Khairpur. Lady Willingdon (wife of the then Governor-General of India, Marquess of Willingdon) designed the garden. It was called Lady Willingdon Park in her honor but the Indian government aptly renamed it Lodhi Garden following independence from the British in 1947. The name reflects the garden's prominent monuments from the Lodhi dynasty, the last ruling dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.
Lodhi Garden was given a major makeover in 1968 by American landscape architect Garrett Eckbo and acclaimed architect Joseph Allen Stein, who also designed many iconic landmark buildings near it. The works included the addition of a glass house for plant cultivation and a lake with a fountain. Other specialist sections, such as a bonsai park and rose garden, were later created in the garden.
A mysterious turret is regarded as the garden's oldest structure, although not much is known about it. Historians think it might be part of a fortified walled compound belonging to the Tughlaq dynasty (1320 to 1413). Unfortunately, the wall no longer exists.
Most of the monuments in Lodhi Garden date back to the succeeding Sayyid and Lodi dynasties, when the area was their royal burial ground in the 15th and 16th centuries. The earliest of its tombs is that of Sultan Muhammad Shah Sayyid, the third ruler of the Sayyid dynasty. His reign lasted from 1434 until his death in 1444. The tomb was built in 1444 by his son, Alauddin Alam Shah Sayyid, and is the dynasty's only remaining legacy in the garden.
Not long after the death of Muhammad Shah Sayyid, the Lodhi dynasty took control of the Delhi Sultanate in 1451, with founder Bahlul Lodhi easily displacing the ineffective Sayyid king. It was during the reign of his son Sikander Lodhi, from 1489 to 1517, that the garden's most prominent monuments were constructed. These are the Bara Gumbad (big dome) complex, Sheesh Gumbad (mirror dome), and Sikandar Lodhi's tomb.
The Lodhi dynasty and the Delhi Sultanate came to an end in 1526, when invading Emperor Babur defeated Sikander Lodhi's son Ibrahim during the First Battle of Panipat and established Mughal rule in India.
The new Mughal emperors left less of an impression on Lodhi Garden, as they did their tomb building in grand style elsewhere. (Emperor Babur's tomb is located near Kabul in Afghanistan, Humayun's Tomb sits a couple of miles east of the garden, and Akbar's tomb is on the outskirts of Agra where he had his capital). However, the garden does have a rare surviving structure from the golden age of the Mughal Empire, made during the reign of Emperor Akbar (1556 to 1605). This sturdy arched stone bridge, called Athpula because of its eight pillars, was constructed across a tributary of the Yamuna River (now a lake).
Restoration of the monuments in Lodhi Garden has been ongoing over the last decade, and is currently being carried out by the Archeological Survey of India.
How to Get There
Lodhi Garden is situated between Safdurjung's Tomb and Khan Market in the heart of the southern part of New Delhi, bordering Lodhi Estate. By road, it can be reached in about 20 minutes from Connaught Place in New Delhi. If you don't have your own vehicle, auto rickshaws and app-based cab services such as Uber are popular options. Alternatively, it's possible to take the Delhi Metro Train.
The garden's main entrance, known as Gate 1 or Ashoka Gate, is located on Lodhi Road. It has free parking and toilet facilities. The closest Metro train station to this entrance is Jor Bagh on the Yellow Line. From there, it's about a 10 minute walk. Some Delhi Transport Corporation buses stop right in front of this entrance.
Lodhi Garden has another entrance (Gate 4) on the Khan Market side, approximately 15 minutes walk from the Khan Market Metro Station on the Violet Line. There are a number of smaller entrance gates around the periphery of the garden as well.
The garden is free to enter. It's open daily from sunrise (5 a.m. or 6 a.m. depending on the time of the year) until sunset at about 8 p.m. Avoid Sundays though, if you're searching for serenity. Locals flock there to hang out and it does get crowded.
What to See and Do There
Health-conscious Delhi residents start their day early at Lodhi Garden with activities such as yoga, jogging and cycling. If you'd like to participate in yoga there, book a comprehensive two-hour morning class conducted by Vidhi of Awaken Inner Buddha Yoga and Meditation.
The monuments are the prime attraction in the garden though. If you're particularly interested in history, you may wish to visit them on a guided walking tour. One of the best options is this Legacy of Sayyids and Lodhis tour offered by Delhi Walks. Delhi Heritage Walks also conducts periodic group walking tours through Lodhi Garden (or take one of their private tours).
Enter Lodhi Garden from the main gate and turn left, and you'll reach the tomb of Muhammad Shah Sayyid. It features an octagonal design, and elegant Indo-Islamic architecture with small Hindu-style chhatris (dome canopied pavilions) surrounding its distinctive central dome. There are other graves inside the tomb, presumably belonging to family members.
Head back along the path, and you'll come across a small 18th century mosque between Muhammad Shah Sayyid's tomb and the Bada Gumbad complex. This complex, which sits on a raised platform, is one of the largest and finest Lodhi-era monuments in Delhi. Its imposing domed principal structure is believed to have been a gateway to the attached mosque, built in 1494, as it doesn't have a grave. Look closely to admire the amazingly intricate decorative detail on both buildings. On the corner of the mosque, there's also a minaret that resembles Qutub Minar in Delhi.
Opposite the mosque is an arched pavilion that was apparently a guesthouse. It's known as Mehman Khana.
You'll see Sheesh Gumbad facing the Bada Gumbad complex. This building contains a number of unidentified graves and some historians claim it could be the tomb of Lodhi dynasty founder Bahlul Lodhi, who died in 1489. The glazed blue tiles, which once covered much of its exterior including the dome, are a highlight.
Sikandar Lodhi's tomb sits to the north of Sheesh Gumbad. The tomb itself isn't really impressive in comparison to the others. In fact, it looks quite like that of Muhammad Shah Sayyid, minus the chhatris on the roof. However, it's enclosed by a substantial protective wall that has an elaborate gateway.
To the right of Lodhi's tomb is the lake with Mughal-era Athpula spanning part of it. If you exit from this end of Lodhi Garden, near Khan Market, look out for the old wrought-iron gate that opens onto Rajesh Pilot Marg. Its stone pillars have historic inscriptions from the inauguration of the garden, stating "The Lady Willingdon Park" and "9th April, 1936."
There are a few minor monuments in the vicinity of entrance Gate 3, on the western side of the garden. The turret is on one side of it, and the ruins of a late Mughal-era wall gateway and small mosque are on the other.
In addition to the monuments, assorted attractions for nature lovers are spread throughout the garden. These include the National Bonsai Park (near Gate 1), the glasshouse (beside Muhammad Shah Sayyid's tomb), a butterfly park and herb garden (around the mosque between Muhammad Shah Sayyid's tomb and the Bada Gumbad complex), a rose garden (next to the wall gateway and mosque) and duck pond (on the lake). Lodhi Garden is home to almost 30 species of birds too.
If you're interested in finding out information about the trees in Lodhi Garden, scan the Quick Response (QR) Code on many of them with your smartphone.
What to Do Nearby
Feeling hungry? Have a meal at Lodi - The Garden Restaurant adjoining Gate 1. It serves eclectic global cuisine in its atmospheric garden. There are plenty of other great places to eat in neighboring Lodhi Colony and Nizamuddin, as well as hip Khan Market.
Lodhi Colony is renowned for its vibrant street art murals on the buildings between Khanna Market and Meher Chand Market. Those who love handicrafts can also browse the boutiques in Mehar Chand Market.
Want to see more tombs? Safdarjung Tomb, Humayun’s Tomb, the Tomb of Najaf Khan (a chief commander of the Mughal army), and Nizamuddin Dargah are all in the area. Plus, there are many more lesser-known Mughal-era ones in the Lal Bangla complex, wedged between the Delhi Golf Club and Oberoi Hotel.
Culture vultures should drop by the India Habitat Center on Lodhi Road next to Lodhi Garden. It has a visual arts gallery, exhibitions, and regular culture events. Tibet House is recommended for those who are interested in Tibetan culture. This five-story building on Lodhi Road was set up by the Dalai Lama in 1965 and has a museum, library, resource center, gallery and bookshop.