Remnants of Lodi period

Syed Zafar Mehdi

Besides big brand outlets and hip showrooms, South Extension I is also famous for its ancient ruins. The major draw here is the well-manicured park near D-block with three majestic tombs standing high and mighty. Made on a square pattern, they were built during the Lodi period. Surmounted by a dome, with arches openings to the east, north and south, and the main entrance from the south, the western wall of their interior is through a mehrab.

The smaller one, named Bhure Khan Ka Gumbad tucked in a distant corner lies in dilapidated state, seemingly abandoned even by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The other two tombs, known as Chhote Khan ka Gumbad and Bade Khan ka Gumbad stand tall and splendid.

Chhote Khan and Bade Khan ka Gumbad

Bade Khan and Chote Khan are random names, given possibly because of their respective sizes. Those buried in these splendid tombs sometime in the late 15th century have been men of some importance.

There are striking similarities between the two tombs, which stand about 20ft apart. Both are square tombs, topped with a flattish dome and made of gray quartzite and red sandstone. Both have intricate latticework carved from red sandstone, and both have an ornamental mehrab carved into the Western wall to indicate the direction of prayer—Mecca.

But there are certain features that are unique to each tomb. Bade Khan Ka Gumbad, for instance, has striking heavy columns at each of its four corners while Chhote Khan Ka Gumbad doesn’t have these superbly carved columns, but it does have a few remains of what must have been some very pretty tile work in bright blue and green.

As in almost all medieval Lodi period buildings in India, here too the staircases are built inside a thick wall, and so are narrow and dark. The steps in Chhote Khan Ka Gumbad are very steep, by comparison, the steps in Bade Khan ka Gumbad are comfortably low but some are broken.

Kale Khan Ka Gumbad

About 300m north of the Ring road is Kale Khan ka Gumbad, with its ceiling decorated with painted plasterwork. This tomb is dated to 1481 AD as per an inscription on the mehrab inside the tomb. Kale Khan was a courtier in the Lodi period during the reign of Bhalol Lodi. It is the earliest dated square tomb of the Lodi period and the only one in New Delhi.

(First published in Hindustan Times)


How unfortunate it is that we pass by historic remnants and not know its significance.