City Monument – Gol Gumbad, Lodhi Road
The romance of an illuminated ruin.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Lodhi-era Gol Gumbad, tucked in a corner of Central Delhi’s Centenary Methodist Church, got its present look way back in 2010. The monument was set up with night-time illumination. The effect continues to be magical.
Reach after sunset. Rows of tubelights are fitted on the floor; the domed roof is bathed in a bright orange glow. The chamber inside is washed in a deep-gold shade; strobe lamps are arranged artistically at several vantage points. Someone outside the complex could mistake this blaze for fire.
It just doesn’t look like one of those unlit, ignored, abused Lodhi tombs that litter Delhi. You’ll be surprised to hear that some people actually prefer that kind of neglect in our monuments. May be they find some sort of romance in the damp walls, the musty smell, the bird droppings, and the bat sounds. Dressing up a ruin, however, might compromise its wildish appeal. The unwise placement of a single lamp could have rendered Gol Gumbad soulless. Then it would have merely been vulgarly lit; its secrets sucked out and its gloomy romanticism smashed. No such mishap here.
The electric lights have not diminished its mysteries. The radiance coming out of the recessed arch on each of the four sides is intense.
There are many Lodhi-era tombs in Delhi and all are alike: stone flooring, walls of random rubble masonry and locked stairways. This predictability, plus the anonymity of the buried men, make these structures somewhat boring. But the beamy atmosphere in the chamber of this tomb is beautiful. The light rays cast melancholic shadows on the austere niches. The dome’s artwork instantly catches the eyes. In the night, standing alone inside the illuminated tomb, you spin into a roller-coaster ride of longing, love, and regret. Just what an old abandoned building should do.
While the gate remains locked, the guard will happily open it for you. Be warned: sometimes the lights are not fully on. Good luck.
The night queen