February 19, 2012

A day in Lucknow - The City of Nawabs (Part-1)

There is this famous poetry about Lucknow
लखनऊ है तो महज़ गुम्बद-ओ -मीनार नहीं 
Lucknow hai to mahaz gumbad-o meenar nahi 
सिर्फ एक शहर नहीं कूचा-ओ-बाज़ार नहीं 
Sirf ek shahar nahi kooch-o bazaar nahi 
इसके आँचल में मोहब्बत के फूल खिलते हैं 
Iske aanchal mein mohabbat ke phool khilte hain 
इसकी गलियों में फरिश्तों के पते मिलते हैं 
Iski galion mein farishton ke pate milte hain
(Lucknow is not just its domes and minarets, 
  not just a city or markets and corridors, 
  in its lap are grown the flowers of love, 
  in its alleyways you find the addresses of angels)
We are a resident of Lucknow and have seen all the tourist points many time, but we wanted to travel the historical part of the city again in a one day package as an outsider tourist will do. Lucknow has many attractions but most of the historical heritage points are located in the heart of the town on the Mahatma Gandhi Road leading to Husainabad Trust Road. You can visit 'Asifi or Bara Imambara (Big shrine)', 'Husainabad or Chota Imambara (Small Shrine)', Clock Tower, Picture Gallary, Roomi Gate and British Residency. The heart of Hazratganj (City Center) is also nearby and you can enjoy the Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine in any of the restaurants in this area or in the roadside joints near Tulsi Complex.
See the red circles for spot locations (Source: Google Map)

Bara Imambara:

First of all we reached the Bara Imambara. Bara means big and Imambara is a shrine for the purpose of Azadari (The processions and ritual performed during the Muharram are known as Azadari). It is a large complex with Main Imambara building, Bhool Bulaiyan (Maze or Labyrinth), Bouli (Step well) and Asifi Masjid inside. It was started in 1783 by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula for providing jobs to peaple during a famine in Lucknow. It took 14 years to complete.It has two grand entrance in the shape of triple arch gateways. 
Introduction Stone
Entrance Fee
The combined entry fee for Bara imambara, Baoli, Chota Imambara and Picture gallary is INR 35 for adults and INR 15 for kids between 5 to 12 years. Entry fee for foreign tourist is INR 350, which in my opinion is exorbitantly high. 
Guide Charges
Guide charges shown above is only for main building and Labyrinth section. For Baoli or Step well, it is negotiable, we paid Rs. 50 extra for showing us the Baoli.
Below you can see the official sign of Awadh that was a pair of fishes. The same has been taken by the Government of Uttar Pradesh also in its official seal.
One arch of the first gateway
First gateway and garden from inside
Second Gateway from inside
Second Gateway leading to main building
Right side of main building with Asifi mosque
Left side of main building
After crossing the two gateways you see the main building of Imambara. It has been divided in 3 halls - named as China hall, Persian hall and Indian hall. The central hall is sized 52 meter long, 16 meter wide and 15 meter high, and is one of the largest hall of its kind in the world, without any column and beam. The whole building is made of Lucknowi Bricks (sometimes called Lakauri bricks) which are thin bricks. No wood, metal or cement has been used.The main architect of the building was Kifayatullah. The Central hall has the graveyard of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. 
The same roof covers three halls in all, the Persian Hall, the China Hall and the Indian Hall. The Persian Hall is the central hall, which is quite large in size. The China Hall is of an interesting shape, being square at ground level, octagonal at mid-height and 16-sided at the top. The India Hall is in the shape of a watermelon.
Below are some pictures of inside the main building-
Central Hall
Central Hall - the largest unsupported roof
Roof of the Indian Hall

In the balcony of central Persian hall (Graveyard of Asif-ud-Daula is seen below)
You will find some guides burning a matchbox stick at the other end of the balconies that have openings to the Central Hall.  In fact, this is another significant and architectural art of the building that has been used in this structure.  You can listen the sound  of a match stick at the other end of the hall.  It is really interesting and seems unbelievable. If you happen to visit this monument, please do observe this uniqueness
Labyrinth or Bhool Bhulaiyan:
Surrounding the main hall is a 3D labyrinth or Bhool Bhulaiyan (भूल भुलैयाँ ), one and only of its kind in India.  On left hand side you will see steep chain of stairs going up to the roof of the monument. 
Way to staircase leading to Labyrinth
Rules for Labyrinth
Shoes and slippers not allowed inside halls and in the labyrinth. The guide is compulsory if visitor is a couple.
Long staircase leading to labyrinth and rooftop
This amazing maze consists of corridors hidden betwen 20 feet wide walls. It is dark, scary and has dead ends at some points. You can enjoy it if you take services of a guide.
Here are some pics of maze corridors and view from rooftop.
Corridor on front side
Maze has many such similar looking 4 way points
Corridor on other side
Views from rooftop of Imambara:
You can see the magnificent views from the roof top with River Gomti, Roomi gate, Asifi masjid and 'Teele wali Masjid (Mosque on a hillock)' in view.
On far distance - River Gomti & White Mosque is Teele wali Masjid
Asifi Masjid on left
Roomi gate in far center and river Gomti

Roof and burj along the sides
The back side boundary
In the back side view you see present Medical college (KGMC, now CSJMMC)

Teele wali Mosque
Bauli or Stepwell:
The imambara complex has a step well also called Bauli, which is a 5 storied structure. It was made for royal baths and also for taking construction water. It's water source was river Gomti.
Way down to step well
Renovation is being done, presently well filled with construction garbage
Asifi Mosque opposite to Bauli entrance
Before exiting the imambara complex I tried my hands to test my photography skill on floral beauty in the garden of the premises. A few shots are here-

An unusual variety of palm
A craftsman selling handmade small Lucknawi Jutis (shoes) for INR 10
After visit of this place we proceeded towards chota (small) imambara, picture gallary and clock tower, which is in next episode of this series.
A day in Lucknow - The City of Nawabs (Part-2)


  1. Namashkar Uttam Saheb,
    Saw your photos on 500px & directed to your blog...went thru the 1st of Lucknow...as I have also photographed this point...but your blog is very interesting & informative...
    Happy travelling & photographing..
    Sudhanshu Gupta

    1. Dear Sudhanshu Ji, Thanks for your encouraging comments.