In 2007 I and my parents spent the Diwali vacation at a relatives place in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. The scenery of rural Uttar Pradesh is beautiful. One can see lush green and yellow fields, mango orchards, wells, cattle, eucalyptus tress and even peacocks roaming freely! But one can also see the lack of electric transmission towers, the darkness at most of the areas, the lack of any traffic rule and the density of population.
I didn’t get a chance to go out much in that town. We made plans of a one day trip to Lucknow (the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India) to do some sightseeing, shopping and eating – my favorite combination 😀 So here is an account of that one day trip.
Located in what was historically known as the Awadh region, Lucknow has always been a multicultural city. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known among Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Lucknow is popularly known as the The City of Nawabs. It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.
We left for Lucknow early morning in a hired car. Because of the Golden Quadrilateral project, the highways of U.P. have become quite good. As we entered Lucknow from the west side, the first place we visited was the Hussainabad Imambara or the Chota Imambara.
The Hussainabad Imambara is a major tourist attraction of Lucknow. The monument was built by Muhammed Ali Shah in the year 1837 under ‘Food for Work’ program initiated by him to bring respite for the city populace when the region was hit by a famine. The walls of the monument are decorated with Arabic verses that have been carved beautifully by efficient craftsmen. The structure has an imposing white colored dome and many pillars or minarets. There are small miniatures of the Taj Mahal on either side of the monument.
This is the Chota Imambara
And these are the two Taj Replicas on either side of the Imambara
The tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah and his mother are inside the Imambara. Also a number of tazias ,mirrors with gold frames and beautiful chandeliers are kept in the hall. From there we went to see the Rumi Darwaza.
The Rumi Darwaza of Lucknow is one of the most impressive architectural structures in India. It was constructed in the year 1784 by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula. The Rumi Darwaza goes upto a height of 60 feet. The uppermost part of Rumi Darwaza comprises of an octagonal Chatri (Umbrella) carved beautifully that can be accessed by a staircase. On top of the Rumi Darwaza was kept a huge lantern that would light up the structure at night making it look absolutely fabulous. Little jets of water would rush out of the sides of the arch from beautifully carved flower buds thus making it look like a gateway to Paradise. The beautifully carved flowers and designs speak volumes about the unique architectural style and eye for detail.
This is the back side of Rumi Darwaza
Next to Rumi Darwaza is the Asafi Imambara or the Bada Imambara.
Bada Imambara complex was commissioned by the then Nawab of Awadh, Asaf -ud-Daula in the year 1784. The complex also includes the large Asfi mosque, the Bhul-Bhulayah (the labyrinth) and a summer palace with running water. Bada Imambara was also built under the ‘Food For Work’ program. The Bada Imambara is built at the end of a spectacular courtyard approached through two magnificent triple-arched gateways. The central hall of the Imambara is almost 50 metres long and 16 metres wide. The ceiling of this column-less hall is more than 15 metres high. The hall is one of the largest of its kind in the world without any external support of wood, iron, or stone beams. The roof has been put together with interlocking bricks without using a beam or a girder.
This is one of the gateways
And this is the Bada Imambara and the next image is the central hall.
But the monument is not well maintained. The elaborate chandeliers were dusty. Lighting was tacky. There were cobwebs, paint peeling off walls, names scratched on wall by people and above all the mark of U.P. – red paan stains. In fact it was the only tourist place of all the places I have ever visited where I saw a large steel dustbin totally red with paan stains!!Here is a sample of the wall. 😦
Outside in the courtyard, there is a man who sits under an umbrella and sells tiny versions of shoes worn by the Nawab and some Begum. There is no bargaining. But the shoes were so cute that I bought many of them. Thats what I call entrepreneurship. 🙂
From there we went to Aminabad, a quaint bazaar like Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, is situated in the heart of the city. It is a large shopping centre area that has all kinds of shops for all kinds of customers. Due to Diwali, there was too much congestion. Its better to leave the car in the parking area and shop while walking. First we had lunch in one of the restaurants. The service was slow but the food was tasty and reasonable priced. This is the non veg thali I had ordered.
After lunch we went for shopping. Take care of your purses, mobiles, sunglasses,jewelery and pockets while roaming in Lucknow markets!! A very suspicious looking and shabbily dressed man tried to sell a single Ray Ban goggles to me…evidently a stolen item. Shopping in Lucknow is incomplete without buying Lucknow Chikankari clothes.
Chikankari is actually a very complex and delicate form of embroidery that primarily uses muslin clothes. This kind of embroidery is only confined to the city of Lucknow. The design motifs in Chikankari are predominantly influenced by Mughal art. There are various stitches used in Chikankari. The most often used stitch is the satin stitch. Apart from that there are others like stem stitch and chain stitch etc. Chikan has very light, gossamer like quality that makes it fit for the extreme climate.
Needless to say Chikan material is costly too depending on the quality and measure of embroidery done on the cloth. These are the two dress materials I bought.How could I resist? 😀
After 3 hours of shopping, we went to eat Tunday’s Kebabs – a must-eat advised by many people on Twitter. Not a place for vegetarians of course. And if there are women in your group then its better to get them parceled and eat outside. The mutton kebabs were as delicious as I had been told. 🙂
After spending such a wonderful day at the city of Nawabs and Kebabs, we headed back home. Hopefully, I will get a chance to go there again someday to visit the rest of the tourist places and to explore the markets and restaurants fully 😀 😀