City Monument – Ruined Graves, Lodhi Garden
Links to past.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Squirrels, a great many of them, are prancing about the dusty stone slabs. Water pitchers—probably kept for birds—are reflecting the cold cloudy sky. Dry leaves litter the ground. And there’s some stirring within the thick bush. Maybe some more squirrels, one thinks, and hopefully not snakes.
This is a little graveyard in Lodhi Garden, so secretively situated, so invisible amid this screen of trees, that it is barely noticed. Actually, there is a chance that it has never been clicked, in this otherwise extensively photographed public park of central Delhi. It has three graves; the third one is so disintegrated that it is but a pile of stone chunks.
This afternoon, the tiny plot of land is devoid of any human presence, as always, though the jogging track runs just a few metres away. A parrot makes a landing. It ignores the water pitchers and hops along the dust, making a semi-circle about a grave before flying away. Meanwhile, a few men are exercising in the park’s open gym nearby, one of their mobile phones set to Punjabi pop.
In some ways, chancing upon graves in this park is not out of the ordinary. Lodhi Garden is cherished as a place where flowers, trees and lawns entwine with much more imposing monuments, two of them being memorials to long-ago emperors—Muhammad Shah Sayyid and Sikandar Lodi. But these roofless memorials in the park’s unseen corner might be easier for us to relate to, after all, sheltering what one might imagine to be regular folks. No headstone is there to suggest their identities. No inscription to be deciphered anywhere. The stones of the graves are in ruinous states—cracked and broken in places, and covered with the grime and dust of what might be several centuries.
Like all living cities, Delhi is constantly changing. Lodhi Garden used to be a village crammed about its great monuments until the 1920s. One wonders what it was like before the village. So many of the old edifices that must have once stood here have been lost. A few of them have remained as residual ruins in the form of stand-alone gateways and turrets. These graves too have survived, if barely. Their endurance is a precious link to the past.
Graves in the garden