Aug 8, 2015

The Imambaras of Lucknow


Bara Imambra Lucknow
Asifi Mosque in the same complex as Bada Imambara. People easily get an idea that this imposing mosque is the bada imambara.
This post is from my last backpacking journey through the states of India. Lately, I haven't been updating my blog for several reasons. I traveled from Allahabad to Lucknow in a "Delux" bus which broke down in between and I had to board another bus after waiting for half-an-hour on the roadside. It was a good start- I reached the city with no other difficulties. Lucknow is a busy city. This city of Nawabs is the capital of the Uttart Pradesh, a part of the Heritage Arc, and is home for many historical monuments, most popular being the Bada Imambara. The city is also synonymous with the chickan embroidery work popular as luckhanvi chickan

The whole city looked like a beehive of dusty looking shops. I took a budget accommodation near Char Baug railway station which was a clean bit of that large dusty beehive. From here I started my sightseeing trip of the old town in a series of shared rikshaws and cycle rikshaws. 

Bara Imambara was built by the Nawab of Lucknow for employment generation during a decade long famine. It seems there are underground passages which lead to Faizabad, Allahabad and Delhi which are blocked due to disuse. A similar tunnel is believed to reach the Gomti river. It seems only bricks and lime mortar are being used in the construction of this huge monument, no wood or metal! Very interesting to see here is the Bhool bhulaiyya. It is a labyrinth of dark archways which can confuse everyday visitor too. There are guides available for a fee. Without guides visitors are not permitted inside, they say. I hired a guide on sharing basis with another elderly couple from Ahmedabad who were very nice. At times I was lagging behind in pace because I was taking pictures, then I wondered which way to go! Man! It really is a bhoolbhulayya!

Bhool bhulaiyan Lucknow
Bara Imambara

When I came out of the Bara Imambara a cycle rikshaw approached me to take me to other attractions of old city. The man looked aged and skinny. He looked tired, may be because of age, poverty, hard work and also may be alcohol. First he offered the ride for Rs. 20. I was not sure what was I doing next and so kept silent. That could have made him think I wanted to reduce the price and he pleaded wiping the sweat on his forehead "Could you at least agree for Rs. 10?" It is very hard to see people are so poor. Rumi Darwaza is a beautiful archway and west entrance to the Bara Imambara. Clock tower can be seen from the road to Chota Imambara. Satkhanda is a ruin of a seven storey tower and can be seen on the way to Hussainabad Gallery. The Gallery isn't big but houses few impressive paintings of nawabs of Avadh with 3D effect and painted with gold and studded with jewels. The gallery is actually the Summer Palace with an artificial pond. All this was decayed beyond recognition I believe now being renovated aggressively. Other than the gallery I wouldn't qualify the other three as even attractions.

Few of the many pathways of Bhulbhulayyan Lucknow
Few off the many misleading patheys of the labyrinth

Chota Imambara is small as the name says. As soon as I entered the premises a guide approached me to explain about the tiny golden fish displayed in the garden. I thanked him for his offer before proceeding. I very well knew there was nothing so much to hire a guide for that fish. It is a wind vane the emblem of nawab of Lucknow. There are gold plated statues of two women holding chains connected to a lightening spike. The imambara has a gold plated dome and inside it huge chandeliers of colored glass hang from the ceiling. A graceful man with long beard dyed deep orange with henna smilingly nodded to see an outsider. It wasn't far off journey in that cycle rikshaw but, I paid the man Rs. 30 for his hard work telling him not to waste it on alcohol but eat something good. I proceeded with my tour of old city while he blessed me!

The main hall of Bara Imambra
The main hall of the imambra doesnt have beams supporting the ceiling
Later, I went looking for the tombs as per the brochure I had. Then realized my efforts were in vain, either the structures were inhabited by beggars or inaccessible inside a slum where people were gawking at me. Visited Jama Masjid only to be asked to get out because I am a non-Namazi. Then, had a peek into the British Residency on the way to Hazratganj the posh area of Lucknow. Here, I saw a tourism center on the roadside. The person was kind and he too gave me the same brochure I already had and ticked 2-3 attractions out of 15+ listed in that long piece of paper. He was glad to see someone came to avail his service :) He asked me about the weather in Bangalore, Rameswaram and told me about his plans to visit these places with family and friends later that month. I laughed out loud when he enquired about the severity of winter in Rameswaram that if he needed to carry thermals! Hazratganj has some branded stores and banks. I bought some delicious cookies from a popular bakery here which served as food for next three days in Uttar Pradesh.

Shahi Bawli Lucknow
Arches, steps and gates at Shahi Bawli

The capital city has two faces- the shahi and the poor. It has a very rich history of nawabs. And the city also is home for some hitech projects announced. But, still the city looks like a large slum. Locals seemed very nice though few were very scheming and rude. I had a long trip ahead in Uttar Pradesh and I wondered how the smaller towns would be! 
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Related articles-
Varanasi- As I Saw, A Photo tour
Bhopal, The state capital of Madhya Pradesh
Delhi- The capital city of India
Backpacking India Part II- A Parallel Journey
Stories from Backpacking India

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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

7 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful city with gorgeous monuments. Lovely post!

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  2. such a beautiful post

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  3. How nice it is? Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh state. Bhulbhulaiya is the vary beautiful and historical place in Lucknow. It has the sight attraction of various tourism points. So, you can hire taxi services for traveling there.

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  4. This article is really mesmerising and can captivate anyone's attention to it. Lucknow is a amazing place to travel, with lots of monuments and artifacts avilable to visit for.You can hiire a taxi in Lucknow for better travelling experiences.

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  5. Lucknow has always been a great city in Uttar Pradesh, India. Lucknow has so many places to travel within the city.The Ambedkar park , a major attraction of modern Lucknow and it spreads over 107 acres of land in Gomti Nagar and many places for visit in Lucknow . Planing a road trip by car to Lucknow can be can be a good deal and the taxi services by the Bharat Taxi in good and affordable rates.

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