Friday, 16 February 2007

Lucknow - Faded Glory

As I mentioned we went to the Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh state. But we decided to stop at a few other places of interest in the area. Our first stop was Lucknow, which in it's heyday was famed to be the second most beautiful city in all of India and one of the most cultured.

Today the glory has faded immensely due to post-independance neglect, political corruption and incompetence. There are however still many clues left of how grand this place once was. The most grand area left is the Hussainabad complex, mostly dating back from the mid 1700s, when Lucknow was at it's political and cultural peak. In the picture above you see a mosque, illustrating that the rulers of Lucknow were muslims, as it was the case in much of North India.

The mosque, which you just saw, is attached to this building, called the Bara (meaning large or great) Imambara. I apologize for the poor qulity of the picture, but hope that the magnitude of the building becomes clear. An Imambara is a congregation hall specifically designed for Shia-muslim ritual ceremonies. It also doubles as a tomb for the builder Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, his wife and the building's chief architect.

On the inside the Bara Imambara hosts a large hall, which is allegedly one of the largest in the world, not supported by pillars.

Behind and above the large halls, the Bara Imambara also host an amazing maze called Bhul-Bulaya. It is absolutely huge and confusing and stories abound of travellers getting lost in there spending hours to get out.

Susanna peaking out from a column in a wonderful long colonnade at the top of the imambara.

People chill in the arches of the imambara roof.

Same arches seen from above.

The nearby Rumi Darwaza is the entrance gate to the complex, and allegedly a copy of a similar gate in Istanbul ("Rumi" meaning Rome referred to Istanbul when it was capital of the east roman empire, "Darwaza" meaning door or gate).

Everywhere in Hussainabad you see fish insignia, such as the one above. This is the royal crest of the moguls in Delhi and emperor Aurangzeb granted the rulers of Lucknow the right to use this. I've noticed the crest may other places in India, also.

Down the street from The Imambara complex you find the tallest clock tower in India, built in 1880. It doesn't work any more, but still looks very impressive. If you enlarge the picture you might be able to see some people at the foot of the tower to gain an impression of how tall it actually is.


Alison said...

What stunning architecture! That hall is incredible.

traveller one said...

I definitely MUST visit this place!

the opoponax said...

wow! i'd planned on skipping lucknow on my upcoming trip to india even though it's right on my way to varanasi, but your posts make it seem like it's definitely worth a look-see.

Esben said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Even I didn't expect too much before going to Lucknow, but it really turned out to be a cool destination. Definitely underrated as part of the tourist trail, and for that exact reason without much of the hassle you experience in all the tourist traps of North India.