Exploring Lucknow, the city of the Nawabs

August 31, 2019

Bara Imambara

Introducing the place –

Brilliant architecture around Lucknow
Brilliant architecture around Lucknow

Lucknow – the first thing that comes to the mind when we think of this city is that it’s the City of the Nawabs (nawab means a high ranking Muslim ruling prince / governor). A city that is known for its rich cultural heritage, the magnificent locations and mouth-watering food.

Muskuraiye, aap Lucknow mein hai

This is a phrase that you will hear widely when you are in this old charming city. It means smile because you are in Lucknow. Incidentally, this city is also known for being one of the happiest cities. The capital city of the state of Uttar Pradesh in the northern part of India has so much to offer to all the travellers.

The complex housing the most famous sites in Lucknow
The complex housing the most famous sites in Lucknow

Here, I will take you through some of the most loved places and the most delicious food from Lucknow.

Places to visit –

Bara Imambara –

Entering the Bada Imambara
Entering the Bada Imambara

The most iconic structure in Lucknow, the Bara Imambara is situated in the old area of Lucknow. Teeming with travellers and locals alike, the first thing that strikes you about this place is the stunning architecture. An imambara is a place constructed for the ‘avatars’ of Allah, meaning incarnations of God.

The magnificent halls of the imambara
The magnificent halls of the imambara

Erected during the reign of Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daula under the design and supervision of the famous architect Kifayatullah, this structure boasts of an intricate ornamental Mughal style of architecture.

Replica of a revered site in Islam
Replica of a revered site in Islam

The Bara Imambara consists of large arched halls that are not supported by any wooden or iron beams. In fact it’s considered to be the largest unsupported hall in the world. Consisting of the graves of the Nawab and the architect lying side by side here, magnificent triple arched entry-ways, replicas of some of the most revered Islamic sites and beautifully carved domes – the Bara Imambara is surely a sight to behold.

View of the Bada Imambara
View of the Bada Imambara

Bhool Bhulaiya –

Inside the Bhool Bhulaiya
Inside the Bhool Bhulaiya

Essentially the Labyrinth or the Bhool Bhulaiya is part of the Bara Imambara itself. It’s a highly renowned place and has been spoken about or shown in many a movies. The fifteen feet walls of the Bara Imambara have two and a half feet passageways all around the structure and these make up the labyrinth. It is said that there are a thousand ways to go inside but only one to come out. At every turn, every passage you will encounter 4 ways that you can take, of which 3 are wrong and one will lead to the correct path. A very interesting place, the labyrinth attracts lots of travelers each day.

The corridors of the labyrinth
The corridors of the labyrinth

The Bara Imambara complex also houses the Asafi Mosque and the Shahi Baoli. While the former is a mosque where the Muslims offer prayers to the God, the latter is a beautiful and enigmatic structure.

Asafi Mosque
Asafi Mosque

The mosque is built in traditional Islamic architectural style and looks amazing beside the Imambara.

Shahi Baoli

Getting inside the Shahi Baoli
Getting inside the Shahi Baoli

It was contructed to be a water reservoir originally. Only 2 storeys of this structure was above water level and the rest of perpetually remained submerged.

Inside the Shahi Baoli
Inside the Shahi Baoli

Legend has it that, a trusted commander of the Nawab threw the key to the Nawab’s treasures in this water so that it could be never found by the British soldiers. But it could be just a myth!! However, this Baoli served another pupose. Being always under water, it reflected everything that was happening on

View of the Shahi Baoli
View of the Shahi Baoli

the other side and thus the Nawab’s soldiers could track the incoming hostiles when needed. Today though, the Baoli has been completely drained off water as the structure was getting damaged by erosion.

Rumi Darwaza –

This impressive gateway used to be the entrance to the old city of Lucknow. These days it serves as the gateway to the Bara Imambara complex being situated adjacent to it. The gateway is built in ornamental Mughal architecture and is said to be identical to an old gate in Istanbul, which is why it’s also referred to as Turkish Gate.

One side of the Rumi Darwaza
One side of the Rumi Darwaza

The uniqueness of this darwaza or doorway is that it looks different from two sides.

The other side of the Rumi Darwaza
The other side of the Rumi Darwaza

On one side you can see three arches indicating three pathways whereas from the other end, it’s a single arch. From this end if you view the gateway, you will notice that the design incorporates the shape of a clove, the neck pattern of the Indian style kurta (a traditional dress worn by men) and when pictured as a whole, a heavy bridal necklace. This gate is an eye-catching structure right at the middle of a road!

In close proximity to this place are the Shahi Taalaab, Picture Gallery and the Clock Tower.

Shahi Taalaab –

This is the water body where the Nawab used to come to bathe. The numerous stairs leading down to the pool of water with the Picture Gallery in the background and an incomplete circular structure on one side and the Clock Tower on the other is a superb place to visit.

Shahi Taalaab
Shahi Taalaab
The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower here is constructed almost identical to the Clock Tower in London.

The Picture Gallery itself is an impressive structure in red and houses some life-size portraits of the Nawabs, noblemen and their distinguished family members.

Picture Gallery
Picture Gallery

This place also consists of the fantastic Chhota Imambara, which unfortunately we could not visit.

Concluding one day in Lucknow –

The trip of Lucknow has just begun – Lucknow has many more sights to offer. Plus there are the mouthwatering delicacies. So be with me on this journey as I end this blog post here and continue on the next post.

Let me know if you have been to Lucknow and how your experience has been. Till we meet again on my next blog, see you and keep smiling.

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