My visit to Lucknow happened as a nostalgic visit to the place my husband has graduated from. I pictured Lucknow as a historical city with a lot of “Tehzeeb”, great monuments, rich culture, delicious food and people with Nawabi style. A bigger part of this picture was true.
Lucknow was the city of Nawabs before the British occupied it. The capital city thrives along the banks of river Gomati and is well known for its mannerism and hospitality (adab and tehzeeb). This is evident through the way and form of “Hindi” spoken by people here. Lucknow is also known for its exquisite Chikankaari work , a shadow –work embroidery done on fine muslin cloth. This beautiful craft is mainly done in Hazaratganj.
Once in Lucknow I wanted to experience everything that I had heard so much of about the city . I wanted to buy clothes with Chikankaari work, I wanted to taste the famous Kababs and street foods and most importantly I wanted to visit the historical monuments of Lucknow.
Lucknow has always been a historically important city of north India. There are some real gems of history tucked away in Lucknow and Bara Imambara is one of them. A huge premises with a tomb, a large step-well , a mosque , gates , gardens and courtyards, you cannot enter the monument without a guide. The charges of guides are nominal and it is worth it especially when you are entering Bhul-bhuliya.
Bara Imambara is the most famous monument in Lucknow , it is an architectural wonder. It was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula of Awadh as a relief project for a major famine that occurred in 1784. The construction started in 1784 and it took 14 long years for the monument to complete. Bara Imambara is also called as Asfi Imambara after the Nawab.
As you enter through the Naubatkhana here is a big and well maintained garden, you cross the garden and enter through the second gate for a long walk towards the Imambara. On the right side of the monument there is Asafi mosque and on the left side there is Shahi Baoli, a three story structure where the royals used to take bath. After having a look at these structures we moved towards the Imambara.
Imambara literary means a hall or building used by Shia Muslims for various ceremonies, especially during Muharram. The Bara Imambara has a unique style of construction with a central hall that has the largest arched hall in the world, constructed for the purpose of prayers. This 50 meters long and 15 meters high halls has no pillars supporting it. The blocks have been put together with interlocking system of bricks and there has been absolutely no use of girders and beams. The tomb of Asaf-ud-Daula lies under this impressive roof.
The famous maze called “Bhul-bhulaiya” is located on the upper floor of the monument. As you approach the Imambara, from a distance you can make out a line of windows across the top, these are the external windows of Bhul-Bhulaiya. This is the most interesting part of the visit. This incredible labyrinth of thousand passageways has been intriguing travellers and architects from the past hundreds of years, one would get lost in these dark alleys of interlocking passageways, if is unattended by an experienced guide . This was exactly the intentions behind the construction of the maze, to keep the invaders out.
There were many points to spot the intruders right at the entrance. As our guide kept telling us more about the monuments, we kept wondering about the marvel, architects of that time has created without having much knowledge of modern science. Our guide told us that there has been no use of wood or any other metal in the construction of the entire structure.
One can have a panoramic view of the city from top of the monument. You can see the entire Lucknow from the top level.
Other things to do in Lucknow
Apart from Bara Imambara there other historic structures in the city worth visiting like Rumi Darwaza, Husainabad clock tower, Chota Imambara, British Residency etc
Do visit Hazratganj market to do Chikankari shopping
Savour the delicacies of Lucknow
Visit Ambedkar park , a grad park established during BSP rule.
Visit the mosques in Lucknow