Uttar Pradesh

Bara Imambara – A yesterday of Lucknow

हम भी बीते हुए को जी लेते हैं.
यह सब चलता रहेगा और एक दिन हम नहीं होंगे .

Lucknow inhabited on banks of river Gomti has seen the emergence of almost all North India important dynasties.  Though since last three decades there is enormous expansion in residential concrete Lucknow is still able to retain marks of past history specially from 2nd half of 18th century.

It was heavily devastated by British after 1857 war of independence but few monuments were left out. Along with Awadh regime buildings this city also has several beautiful kothis erected by British.

It has about 82  Archaeological Survey of India  listed monuments which still exist in form of schools, offices or just preserved monuments.

Important monuments to visit in 2 days

If you want to explore all these 82 monuments, it will take about 30 days to explore. A few historical monuments which can be covered in below order with total distance of about 45 Kilometers.

Moosa bagh, chhota imambara, bara imambara, residency, chhatar manzil, maqbara janab-e-alia, nadan mahal, La Martiniere College, Tare wali Kothi (currently SBI), Dilkusha kothi, Kothi Nur baksh (Distt Megistrate residence), Tomb of Saadat Ali.

Location

Capital of  state Uttar Pradesh, India. Well connected by road, rail and air from all major cities of India. Has international airport for Dubai, Mumbai, Jeddah, Riyadh and Muscat.

History of Awadh

I feel when we visit the monuments of Lucknow it makes sense to know the heirarchy of kingdom who mage Awadh.
Lucnow was seat of Awadh kingdom and specially many makbaras and kothis came up after the battle of Buxar in 1764.
Lucknow is famous for its elegant and polite populace and this I felt the way a rickshaw puller, guide and hotel agents approached me.

Let us comeback to history of Lucknow.

5000 years back it was called Lakshman pur  and was ruled by Legend Lakshman, the brother of Lord Rama. The earliest Lucknow was a settlement currently called Lakshman Tila. Later it was ruled by Janpada, mahajanpada, Mauryan empire, Gupta dynasty, Harsha, Rajput empires.

Later it came under Moghul rule and Akbar divided his kingdom in 12 provinces out of which one was Province of Awadh. Later in 1877 British included Agra and made Lucknow as capital of United Province of Awadh and Agra.

Akbar gave the Jaagir of Awadh to a noble man Abdur Rahim of Bijnaur. Later the subedari came to other Shiekhjadas who managed the Awadh subedaari till Mohamad Amin in 1722 as was declared as “Nawab”. From here real nawab shahi started for what we know Lucknow today. From 1740 the nawabs were called as ”Wazir” and thereafter called as “Nawab Wazir”.

In 1764 Nawab Shuja ud-daula was defeated by British in Battle of Buxer after which more or less British annexed Awadh and Shuja ud-daula and future nawabs were just under order of British. British resident used to represent into their court and dictate.

The rules after Shuja ud-daula and their contribution were as

Asaf-ud-daula(1775-1798) : In 1775 Asaf-ud-daula shifted Awadh capital from Faizabad to Lucknow. He was great builder and built Rumi Darwaza, Bara Imambara. Dilkusha palace, Hayat Baksh kothi, Lal Baradari, Chhatar Manzil, Tal katora karbala, Bibiapur kothi and many other kothis which were demolished by British. “Residency” was also started by Asaf ud-daula in 1798.

Saadat Ali Khan(1798-1814) : Handed over half of his capital to British. Completed construction of Residency in 1800. Constructed Hayat Baksh kothi, completed Musa bagh which was started by Asaf-ud-daula,

Ghazi ud-din Haider (1814-1827) : Constructed tomb of Saadat Ali Khan ,his father and Tomb of Khursheed Zaidi.

Naseer ud-din Haider (1827-37) : 

Construced Taare wali kothi (House of Stars)

Mohammed Ali Shah(1837-42) :

Wajid Ali Shah ( 1842-1856) : On account of performance and misrule he was exiled to Kolkata and this ignited  fury among locals of Awadh which reflected in fierce battle of 1857 in Awadh which we can see in “Residency” in Lucknow. During his time all Lucknow was prevailing with “Afeem”, Chess, luxurious life, luxurious art, dance. It is said that even rikshawala would buy Afeem instead of loaf from his hard earned money.  Built Alambagh gate. Constructed Sikandar Bagh gate in memory of Begum Sikandar Mahal, Chhatar Manzil etc.

About Bara Imambara

The Imambara complex is approached by three fore courts each with two lofty gateways and the mail court containing Asafi Masjid, Shahi Baoli and the bhul-bhulaiya (the labyrinth).

Bara Imambara Layout

Entering first gate. Second door is in far background ahead

First gate :The entrance gateway is famous for its rectangular plan and tri-arched façade similar to Mughal gateways.

First gate to Bada Imambada

Bold cusped arches, double set of fishes facing each other provide decorum. The raised parapets are composed of miniature domed arches with turrets at the end. Three biasons are crowned with chhatris.

Imambara faces north with mosque faces east.

Entrance to inside courts of Imambara

The walls of Imam Bara

The main imambara building is on raised platform and gate 2. It is 3 storyed building from inside, outside looks single storyed.

Inside is divided in 3 parts. The beauty from inside is speaks the story of luxurious piece of artwork by designer Kifayat Ulla Khan.

Asaf-ud-daula painting

The walls inside are very thick and well ventilated enabling them to be warm in winter and cool in summer. There are a series of arched openings and chhatries like parapet.

The central hall called Persian Hall is in shape of tray.  From first floor it is possible to see main hall and places are there for ladies to sit and see Majlis. The roof looks very heavy.

The main hall of imambara is one of the largest in world which is without pillars and without use of iron which is 49.7 m 16.16 m breadth and 14.95 m height.There is no reinforcement.

There was a guide who showed us the noise of matchstick lit in first floor in spite of noise in ground floor (acoustical property).

The rear part of imambara consists of Tazia and alams. The ceiling is beautifully decorated with motifs below and small projecting balconies continuing architecture of Mughals.

In center is tomb of Asaf-ud- daula and next to it is grave of his wife Shamsunnisa Begum.

260 years old Mirror used in Nawabi period of Lucknow

All halls are decorated with costly chandeliers , old mirrors and other religious objects.

bhul-bhulaiya (the labyrinth)

Outside on left side is bhul-bhulaiya, a unique labyrinth of intricate balconies and passages with 489 identical doorways which gives visitors a feeling of being lost.

Since the roof of this Imambara is without pillars , the architect laid his bed under the roof and slept for 7 days to show his confidence on design.

The imambara has elaborate gardens with grass and flowers.

Asifi Mosque

Constructed by Asaf-ud-daula.

Asifi Masjid

Lakhuri Bricks used in construction of Imambara

Musafir Khana

This existed between Naubat khana and Rumi Darwaza but does not exist now as was razed by British in 1957.

Musafir Khana

Naqqar Khana

For announcing the arrival and departure of nawabs, important members of family by playing music and drums. It is a 3 storeyed building. The parapet wall is decorated with kangaroos, small burzis, and flanked by 2 chhatries.

Rumi Darwaza

This also created by architect Kifayat Ulla Khan. It looks 3 storeyed from front and one storey from behind and looks like Mexican hat. It was built one year before the construction of bada Imambara started.

Shahi Baoli

Means stepped well. When you enter the gate of baoli you can see that it is 7 storeyed. There are multi chamberd passage in interior all along all round the stepped well which keeps the building cool.

Guide showed the reflection of in comers in the baoli water while from outside no one can see.

Also gunmen can target incomers while he can not see the gunmen.

Epiogue

By the way when i came to Lucknow I thought who were these nawabs and their origin and I thought it is very complex. But more or less this story is very simple and very interesting. Akbar had divided his regime in 12 provinces and Province of Awadh was one.
He gave Awadh to one Noble man Abdur Rahim from Bijnaur as jagir. Later few sheikh jadas were its subedar. Finally it came to shia Shuja-ud daula. In 1764 he lost  battle of Buxer which sealed awadh kings as british puppets.From 1775 till 1856 some structures like bada and chhota imambara and residency were erected. Last nawab was Wajid Ali sah and in 1856 he was exiled to kolkata which ignited fury in awadh and reflected in Residency in 1857.
Sharanj ke khiladi film was portrayed on Wajid Ali Shah regime. Also interesting is that treaty after battle of Buxer was signed in Akbar fort at Allahabad on bank of river Ganga.

Travellers- Four sisters On top of Bara Imambara

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Categories: Uttar Pradesh

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