LODI GARDENS , NEW DELHI, INDIA.

The mausoleum of Muhammad Shah Sayyid.

File fact: Sayyid rulers primarily depended on taxes and tribute collected from vassal kingdoms as income. Unchecked rebellions and loss of territory left later rulers of the dynasty such as Muhammad Shah and his son Alam Shah with diminished coffers and insufficient funds to build anything larger than mid to small size mausoleums. As a result the architecture of this period is dominated by tombs and referred to by historians as the macabre (derived from the word Maqbara) reign. The period saw a revival in the use of ornamentation absent from the previous Tughlaq period. The octagonal design appears to have been reserved for royalty of the time. The roomy housing area of the monument is surrounded by a ringed arcade divided by pillars decorated with light ornamentation and placed at measured intervals.

In the feuding world of medieval India, the Sayyids (surname) were a dynasty of Islamic nobles who came to power after the Turkic-Mongol warlord Tamerlame had laid waste to the weakened but formidable Tughlaq Empire that once nearly encompassed the entire country.

Muhammad Shah was the third ruler of the dynasty, hurriedly placed on the throne by nobles loyal to the ruling family after the murder of his predecessor and paternal uncle Mubarak Khan – who had died without a natural heir.

In the ensuing struggle for power, Muhammad supported by loyalists, eliminated the men responsible for the death of his uncle but failed to stem the rapid disintegration of the kingdom which by the time of his death in 1444 AD was restricted to a radius of 40kms outside the city of Delhi.

Criticized by hostile historians as a pleasure seeking, weak willed and ineffectual ruler who even lacked the courage to lead men into battle, Muhammad ‘s beautifully designed octagonal Maqbara (mausoleum) with his coffin in the center is a product of Indo-Islamic architecture.

Depleted in territory and treasury, the Sayyids during this time lacked the financial power to raise armies or construct grand palaces and forts. Instead they took to beautifying funerary monuments that could survive the ages as symbols of art and perhaps leave a better impression of the lives they led.

The Mausoleum.

Crowing the structure is a central dome ringed by eight Hindu style Chhatris (umbrella shaped domes) with lotus finials in symmetry with the octagonal shape of the roof. Carved stucco decorates the ceiling inside with arabesques and calligraphic motifs.

Underneath lies eight graves – thought to be of Muhammad Shah Sayyid and his family. The octagonal structure inspired the mausoleum of Sikander Lodi located walking distance away, within the present day Lodi Gardens.

Indo-Islamic architecture.

Indo-Islamic architecture is the use of Hindu and Islamic elements in combination. As the garrison commanders left behind by Muhammad Ghor declared independence after his death. They felt the need to commemorate their rule with lasting legacies.

Lacking architects and artisans during the initial years, they relied on the indigenous Hindu populace for their building projects. Later, Islamic immigrants trickling into the realm (and in greater numbers during the Mongol invasion of the Middle East) added to the talent pool with newer ideas and authentic Middle Eastern styles.

Many Hindu artisans by this time worked as converts and handled projects independently, jointly or under the supervision of Persian and Arabian masters.

The Period.

The Delhi Sultanate was a series of five short lived Islamic dynasties that ruled India from AD 1206 to 1526 AD from their base in Delhi. Largely of Turkic and Afghan stock, the sultans of the era are credited for spreading Islam in the sub continent and sowing in the seeds of Indo-Islamic art, music and architecture.

Internal feuds, rebellions and military invasions by foreign powers largely contributed to their individual short tenures – although the sultanate was effectively able to hold off the Mongol threat for a duration longer than other powers at that time.

The dynasty: Sayyid dynasty.

The Sayyid dynasty (AD 1414 – AD 1451) lasted 37 years and was the second last to rule as the Delhi Sultans. The founder of the dynasty was Khizr Khan Malik Sulaiman, appointed governor by Timur in AD 1414.

Plan a visit.

The monument is located within the premises of Lodi Gardens in Lodi Colony, New Delhi. The park is open on all days. Best time to visit is between sunrise and sunset. Entry is free and no fee is charged for photography.Closest metro station is the Jor Bagh metro station. One can also reach the park from the Central Secretariat metro station via an auto rickshaw.

Travel tip.

The Mausoleum of Muhammad Shah Sayyid at Lodi Gardens is a short distance from the Jor Bhag Metro Station and can be reached via an autorickshaw. The monument can be easily spotted from the road and is the first one en route to the park.