Uttar Pradesh tourism guide provides with a comprehensive travel guide of monuments of Lucknow. Don't miss a visit to Bara Imambara monument, its intricate labyrinth galleries were designed in such a way that enemies use to lost their ways inside the monument.

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India - Uttar Pradesh - Monuments in Lucknow

After the conquest of Kannauj by the Afghans at the end of the 12th century, Awadhi submitted to the Sultan of Ghazni and became a part of the Delhi empire and subsequently a subah (or province) of the Mughal empire. In 1526, Lucknow was temporarily occupied by the Mughal prince Humayun. In 1540, he lost the throne to his Afghan rival, Sher Shah, who occupied Lucknow where he established a copper mint.

During the Mughal reign, Lucknow became a major centre of commerce, which persuaded a French merchant to settle here. He reaped enough profits to build four splendid houses in the very first year, but was not given permission to stay further. His persistence resulted in the confiscation of his property, which came to be known as the Firangi Mahal.

The Legendary Tale- History has very little to say about the founders or the initial settlers of Lucknow. According to a popular legend, Lord Ramchandra of Ayodhya, the hero of the famous epic Ramayana, gifted the territory of Lucknow to his devoted brother Lakshmana after his victory over the demon king Ravana. The original name of Lucknow is thus believed to be Lakshmanpur or Lakhanpur. Yet another story suggests that this city was a gift to the holy sages of this region by Lord Yudhishtar’s grandson.The story of Lucknow, as we know today, begins in 1732 when Saadat Khan, a Persian adventurer, originally from Khurasan in Persia, was honoured by the Mughal Emperor, Muhammad Shah, and was made Nizam or governor of the province of Avadh and later the Nawab. In 1740, the Nawab was called Wazir, which means Chief Minister – hence he was given the title Nawab Wazir. In practice from Saadat Khan onwards, titles have been hereditary, inheritors of which were responsible for shaping the history of Lucknow.

Lucknow Flourished Under The Regime of Asaf-ud-Daulah- Nawab Saadat Khan was succeeded by his nephew and son-in-law, Safdarjung in 1814. It was his grandson Asaf-ud-Daulah, the fourth Nawab, who transferred the seat of the Awadh government to Lucknow in 1775, to distance himself from his imperious mother in Faizabad. Thereon ushered a new era. In the eight intense decades that followed (i.e.1775 –1856), Lucknow prospered and grew into a sophisticated and picturesque city with parks, palaces, gardens and imposing architectural monuments. The Nawab’s patronage of music and arts attracted poets, artists, and musicians to Lucknow in large numbers. During these eventful years, Lucknow became one of the most celebrated centers of luxury, dance, poetry and scholarship.

Bara Imambara - Asaf-ud-Daulah was also an inveterate builder of monuments. Driven with an ambition to discover the glory of the past and present and surpass them in magnificence and splendor, the numerous buildings built by Asaf-ud-Duala, like the Bara Imambara built in 1784, the testify to his architectural zeal. This is indeed a monumental feat considering the fact that it once boasted the largest vaulted hall in the world, with a 50 feet high roof, spanning an area of 162 feet and a height 53 feet in the absence of a single beam! After all, as per the Nawab’s directive, his architecture was to be original in conception with no influence of any existing structure or design. The galleries and corridors within the great Imambara form a complicated and intricate labyrinth (bhool-bhuliya) through which at times it is difficult to find your way. Its terrace provides a fine view of the Lucknow city. During one of his visits to the site, the pleasing aroma of food being cooked in giant ovens attracted the Nawab. It is here when he discovered the Dum process of cooking, wherein the food is cooked slowly in its own steam, which lends a unique aroma and flavor to the food. Impressed with the process, he ordered the royal kitchen to practice the same method of cooking.

Rumi Darwaza or the Turkish Gate-Towards the west of the Imambara is the Rumi Darwaza or the Turkish Gate built by Asaf-ud-Duala between the years 1784 to 1786. The 60 feet high gateway stands as an equally grand entrance to the great hall. During the Nawabi era, a huge lantern placed atop the Rumi Darwaza would light up the pathway, while jets of water gushed from the numerous fountains created on the rim of the gateway. Asaf-ud-Duala’s son, Wazir Ali took over the throne after his father’s death in 1798. After four months of misrule and bad behavior, the British removed Wajid Ali from the throne in 1798, who had by then acquired enough powers to manipulate the events of Awadh. Sadat Ali Khan, Asaf-ud-Daula’s brother, was offered the throne, who during his 16 years of reign, earned himself a reputation of being an able administrator and the most wise Nawab that Lucknow had ever known.

British Residency- Unlike his predecessor, Sadat Ali proved to be a great builder who introduced a large number of architectural styles. One of his best-known monuments is the Residency, which was built in 1800 for the British residents. Today it stands desolate as a mute witness to the Mutiny of 1857 when it was almost completely destroyed. Despite its numerous scars, this monument retains till today its original charm that almost recreates the history associated with it and is a stark reminder of the numerous sieges during the Mutiny. Among the long list of grand palaces commissioned by Sadat Ali the Moti Mahal, Dilkusha Palace, Hayat Baksh, Chattar Manzil, Khusheed Manzil and Lal Baradari, deserves a visit.

Shah Najaf Imambara- Gazi-ud-Din’s most outstanding building is the Shah Najaf Imambara where he is buried together with his three wives. The Imambara is a huge masonry structure with a large dome. The wise Nawab gave the British a large sum of money for its embellishment and maintenance. Under the terms of agreement, this mausoleum is well cared for. The British kept their word and this word has also been followed by present day establishments so much so that Imambara is in excellent condition even today.

Tarunvali Kothi- Ironically, the proclamation of kingship coincided with a period of almost complete dependence on the British. The titular King neither improved the administrative capabilities of the rulers nor their morale. The second King Nasir-ud-Din Haider, son and successor of Gazi-ud-Din, was so effeminate that he often spoke and dressed like a female. His only contribution in the field of architecture was the construction of Tarunvali Kothi, an archeological center, which was equipped with sophisticated instruments and entrusted to the care of a British astronomer.

Muhammad Ali's Imambara- the British crowned the third king of Awadh, Muhammad Ali who was the second son of Nawab Wazir Sadat Ali, in 1837 at a ripe old age of 63. Muhammad Ali was just and popular ruler under whom Lucknow once again regained its splendor for a brief spell. Interested in building activities, he built his own Imambara (congregational hall for Shaia Muslims) as well as the Juma Masjid. The Imambara, left incomplete by Muhammad Ali, was later completed by Begum Mallika Jehan of the Royal family. Between the Imambara and the gateway is a large courtyard with a rectangular raised tank spanned by a bridge.Within the Imambara is the burial place of the king while his daughter and son-in-law are buried on one side of the courtyard. The Imambara is noted for its golden dome, exquisite chandeliers, huge mirrors, silver mimbar, colourful interiors and delicate calligraphy on its arched entrance.

Juma Masjid-The Juma Masjid, with its two minarets and three domes is yet another delightful place to visit in Lucknow. An interesting building built by Muhammed Ali Shah is the Baradari, also known as the Picture Gallery, which houses the portraits of the erstwhile, Nawab’s and Kings of Awadh. Here one can admire the marvelous costumes and jewellery that the nobles a adorned themselves with. A patient of chronic rheumatism, Muhammad Ali died in 1842 and left behind a number of incomplete monuments, which would have honored him as the greatest builders amongst all Awadh Kings.

The Sat Khanda (or seven slices) was an edifice planned to resemble the minaret of Babylon with each of its storeys superimposed on the other -the top of which was to provide one of the finest views of Lucknow. Not far from the picture gallery is yet another marvel, the Clock Tower which is said to be the largest in India. This was however completed in seven years at the cost of more than a lakh of rupees- an enormous amount at the time!

Qaiser Bagh Palace -Muhammed Ali was succeeded by his son, Wajid Ali Shah in 1837 who was also the last of the rulers to ascend the throne. A poet, singer and a great patron of arts, his pursuit of personal pleasure left little time for looking into administrative responsibilities. This led to the British annexation of Awadh. Wajid Ali Shah’s single contribution to Lucknow was the Qaiser Bagh Palace built in 1850, which he wanted to be promoted as the eighth wonder of the world!

La Martiniere-A Funerary Monument- The architectural skyline of Lucknow remains incomplete without the mention of La Martiniere-a funeral monument. Built at the end of the 18th century, it is said be the largest in Asia and houses the coffin of its builder, French Major General Claude Martim. Martim had come to India as a penniless soldier but gradually his luck and hard work fetched him a fortune big enough to lend a princely amount of 250,000 pounds to the Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah! La Martiniere is today a school of great repute.

Luck now’s Cultural History Remains Unrivaled- In almost all forms of art and entertainment, Lucknow developed its own variety, be it poetry, music, dance, storytelling, fashion, animal combats and gastronomy. The Dastarkhans of the Lucknow courts are still proverbial. In fact the master chefs excelled in their talents to such a great extent that they are believed to have received salaries more than of the prime minister today. In this period alone, there were more poets that in any other part of the country. Subsequently the Mughal monarchy was battling for its survival and in their sinking empire, had no time for patronizing creative talent. This led to the influx of several artists to Lucknow where they received considerable patronage. Cultural refinement was thus, not just confined to the courts but thrived even on the streets and by-lanes of this ancient and historical city.

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