Delhi Darshan on Cycle: Ep 3
No Delhi darshan is complete without a trip to the Safdarjung Tomb near Lodhi Gardens, so we took out our cycles and rode to this beautiful, domed, tomb of probably the most powerful statesman in the last half-century of the Mughal Empire. Built by Nawab Sahaj-ud-Daula of Awadh, son of Nawab Safdarjung. It is one of the most iconic architectural marvels of Delhi Sultanate, and a very popular tourist destination. The beautiful mausoleum is built primarily using red sandstone and white marbles. There is a large garden with separated lawns surrounding the tomb, where Delhites picnic on nicer days. It’s one of last monuments built during the Mughal Empire, and architecturally it captures the Mughaliya design, resemblances to the Humayun Tomb and the Taj Mahal can be noticed.
While the Taj Mahal is made with pure white marbles, the Safrdarjung Tomb has the main building made with red sandstones, with a white-marbled dome, one can also see traces of pink sandstones in the dome. Bringing raw materials for the construction was notoriously difficult as parts of areas around Delhi were no longer under the Mughal rule, and there were often attacks by Jats and other Hindu rulers. Various stones were used based on the availability, parts from the tomb of Abdul Rahim Khankhana were also used. Elaborate ornamentation, and the elongated dome, are other features which distinguish the tomb from Taj Mahal. Moreover the four towers on the sides are a part of the main building, while in Taj Mahal they are separate and at a distance from the main complex.
Safdarjung came to India from Persia at the peak of the Mughal empire, during the reign of Emperor Auranzeb in 17th century. From an army general, he worked his way, via a marriage in Mughal aristocracy, to become the Nawab of Awadh (current day Lucknow). The period of Safdarjung’s life is incredibly important from historical perspective, as he witnessed the Mughal empire go from its peak to its decline and he played a role in weakening and ultimately the removal of Mughal dynasty. While the Mughal empire was declining, Safdarjung extended his rule from the Gangatic plains of North India to Bengal, and emerged as the most powerful and the richest man in India. Driven by ambition, he tried to take over the Delhi Sultanate when Muhammed Shah was the Mughal emperor by moving to Delhi and becoming the Wazir (Prime Minister), the emperor was just a figurehead. To curtail the influence of Safdarjung, the Royal family conspired with the Marathas of Deccan, and were successful in driving him out of Delhi. Later, years after the death of Safdarjung, his son - Sahaj-ud-Daula - requested the Mughal emperor to allow him to build a tomb of his father in Delhi.
We modified the route for our Sunday ride to India Gate to make a stop at the Safdarjung Tomb. It was a rainy day, and the traffic becomes notorious in Delhi on a rainy day, also before and after rains. We had to stop in Munirka as it started raining heavily, took refuge in an abandoned tarpaulin shed by the road. We saw a lorry ram into a bus on Africa Avenue near RK Puram, I was riding parallel to the bus. Delhi is infamous for waterlogged roads during rains, on a recent visit, Secretary of State John Kerry made a joke about arriving in a boat. There was a lot of water logged on the ring road in front of AIIMS turning towards INA Market, we made repeated attempts to merge into the traffic at this junction, the motorists are not very considerate to cyclists or to each other for that matter. After the ride in Old city of Delhi, this was probably the most dangerous ride I’ve ever done. I hope one day Delhi will be more tolerant to bikers, for now the biking is restricted to early morning and in nicer areas of the city. It is the purpose of this blog to dive into Delhi on a cycle and document the fun, excitement, routes, points if interests, as well as the difficulties and the hurdles.
Next, we will go the second city of Delhi - Siri and Hauz Khas.