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While the park around the Lodhi tomb wakes up every morning to leisurely thumps of joggers and excited chatter of a health conscious crowd, the tomb of Safdarjung - an equally magnificent historical monument barely a kilometer away - stands in an eerie silence. Both are part of India's rich historical heritage which is being celebrated today on the occasion of World Heritage Day. But, only a few New Delhi residents wander into the grounds of Safdarjung tomb, a sandstone and marble mausoleum built for a discredited chief minister of an 18th century Mughal ruler. And it all comes down to money. Most people attribute the Safdarjung tomb's low popularity to the fact that visitors have to buy an entrance ticket, unlike at the Lodhi Gardens complex, which is of far more historical importance and is yet free. The gardens are laid out around mosques, domes and tombs including that of Sikandar Lodhi, the sultan of Delhi from 1489 to 1517. His octagonal tomb, the first garden tomb in the Indian subcontinent, was built by his son Ibrahim Lodhi, whose defeat by Babur in 1517 ended the Lodhi dynasty and started the Mughal dynasty. "People connect more with a place which is easily accessible, when there are no restrictions, a place which can easily become a part of your life," H K L Magu, a businessman who has been visiting the Lodhi Gardens regularly for last 20 years, said. "When you make tickets mandatory for entry, nobody would want to go there regularly. Because there is nothing new to be seen every day.
And ultimately you lose that people connect," he said. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) says it charges an entrance fee at monuments including at Safdarjung tomb because ticketing helps regulate visitors at a monument. And although the ASI also controls the Lodhi Gardens' monuments, it cannot charge people for entering the grounds because they are maintained by New Delhi Municipal Corporation. "We are aware that Lodhi Garden has substantial footfall. While the monuments there are protected heritage, the garden is maintained by the NDMC. So how can we put tickets on that?" T J Alone, the director of monuments at ASI, said. He told PTI that while deciding tickets for a monuments, footfall is not always the primary criterion. "There are monuments where we get only 10 people in a day but tickets are mandatory," he said. Apart from monuments like Lodhi Garden, India Gate and other open complexes, which have become parts of people's daily lives, are frequented by locals but most historic monuments in Delhi are only visited by travellers or visiting relatives of Delhiites, he added. For regular visitors at the Lodhi garden, easy accessibility to the venue also works well, making the complex "a part of their life". Regular visits to the Lodhi Garden have also increased people's awareness about the environment and they now ensure cleanliness of the monument and its surroundings. "It also becomes a habit for people like us who have been coming here for 15-20 years to not let anyone ruin the structures or throw garbage in the garden," Rajeev, a regular at the park, said. Some also feel that it is not the heritage but an urge to keep healthy that draws people to the garden. "They come here for a good walk. And the good atmosphere here adds to a good walk," Pallav Shishodia, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court, and a regular at the garden, said.
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