There are some places that are not far in terms of distance but somehow we take too long to go there. Lucknow is one of those cities and finally, I managed to take a short solo trip to the city of Nawabs. I traveled from Delhi to Lucknow by Indian Railways. There are some interesting places to visit in Lucknow.
Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh and popularly known as the city of Nawabs. It is a beautiful city and still retains its old world charm though new areas developed to meet the growing demand. Lucknow has some unique historical buildings, old bazaars for shopping, and centuries-old food shops along with new shopping malls. There is something for everyone.
My main agenda for Lucknow was to see the monuments built during the Nawab’s rule. Lucknow food is a different experience and can’t be compared with any other food of India, it has it’s own flavors and made with delicate techniques. The chicken embroidered garments and fabrics are one of the popular things to carry back home from Lucknow.
The purpose of my short trip was to see monuments and taste some yummy food from old lanes of Lucknow.
These are some must see monuments in Lucknow
Bara Imambara and Bhool bhulaiya
I started my sightseeing tour of Lucknow in morning and booked an Ola cab for Bara Imambara. It is one of the most popular monuments and must see in places to visit in Lucknow. Bara Imambara is in the older part of Lucknow but the roads are broad around it. There is no traffic issue in this area. Bara Imambara is also known as Bhul Bhulaiya due to the labyrinth on the first floor of the main building.
It was built in 1784 by Asaf-Ud-Daula then the Nawab of Awadh during the famine to provide employment to the people of Awadh. There is a very interesting story related to the construction of Bara Imambara.
It is said that common people used built the structure all day, while nobleman worked at night to break down anything that was raised during the day. Even if the story sounds funny but the construction work provided employment to the people of Lucknow during the famine. I had engaged a guide because they don’t allow the entry into Bhul Bhulaiya without a guide because in past some people got lost in it for hours.
The main attraction of the Bara Imambara is the large vaulted central chamber, which is situated in the center of the compound. It is a 50 meters long, 16 meters wide and 15 meters tall hall.
The tomb of Asaf-Ud-Daula is in the center of the hall. There are no beams supporting the ceiling of this grand chamber which makes it one of the largest such arched structure without beams in the world.
There are eight surrounding chambers built around it with different roof heights and the space above these permit the reconstructed of a three-dimensional labyrinth. Another interesting story related to Bara Imambara is of Lucknow’s biryani. It is said that during the construction of Bara Imambara state provided the food to the thousands of people working on construction site.
Since there was a shortage of things due to famine, so the cooks devised a one-pot dish. They used rice, lamb meat with some basic spices to make a rice dish for thousands of people. One day during the inspection of Bara Imambara, Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daula got the whiff of this rice dish. Nawab liked the smell of dish so much that he asked his personal cooks to make this dish in his kitchen and that’s how Lucknow Biryani developed.
Labyrinth on the first floor of the Bara Imambara has passages interconnected with each other through 489 identical doorways. These identical doorways make the passage confusing.
The Bhul Bhulaiya is unique not only due to the labyrinth but has interesting acoustic properties, and airflow system.
My guide told me some interesting stories during the tour and how people used to get lost here. Inside the first floor of the central chamber is a small balcony. Here my guide demonstrated me an interesting acoustic property of this chamber.
He went to the further end of the balcony and lighted a matchstick, the sound of burning matchstick was clear to me at 50 meters distance at another end of the hall. The sound was so clear that as if he is standing next to me. This interesting acoustic effect is one of the specialties of this place.
The labyrinth is complicated, I followed the guide and we crossed many up-down narrow tunnel-like passages, some have windows and some without proper light. It took me a couple of hours exploring it and by end of it, I was mesmerized by its uniqueness.
There is a place in a labyrinth where if you whisper, it can be heard clearly at a good distance.
The ventilation system of the grand chamber is very scientifically designed and due to this, it remains cool and airy even in hot winter months. Cool air flows inside the chamber from the labyrinth and hot air moves out. It is one the best example of a scientifically designed building.
Another unique aspect of the Bara Imambara is that the sponsor and the architect of it were buried beside each other.
The view from the top floor is spectacular. The whole structure is not big in terms of area but I took approximately 1.5 hours to explore the main chamber and Bhul Bhulaiya area.
There is Asfi mosque inside the compound and every Friday hundreds of people gather here to offer namaz.
The garden inside the Bara Imambara complex is well maintained.
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Shahi Baoli in Bada Imambara
I came down and said goodbye to my guide. Next, I went to the Shahi Baoli (Royal Stepwell), which is located on the right side of Imambada. Here an old man approached me and introduced as the guide for Baoli. I was not interested in a guide anymore but he asked only 20 INR so, I engaged him.
He was a simple man with lots of enthusiasm, he showed me different areas and explained different aspects of the Baoli. It was initially dug as a reservoir to store water for construction work of the Bara Imambara.
The unique feature of this Shahi Baoli is the secret view of the visitors as they enter from the main gate. The person coming from outside can’t see who is inside the Baoli but the person inside can see the reflection in the water of Baoli.
Also read about one of the most beautiful stepwell in India, Rani ki Vav in Patan near Ahmedabad.
This unique feature developed with the alignment of one of the windows of the building and its entrance pathway. One can see the colorful shadow of the visitors standing at the entrance of this structure, on the water of the well.
In olden days this worked as a protection against enemies or in case of sudden attack, the person inside Baoli get alert before the attack. It is a small place and I finished it in 20 minutes.
When I came out from Bara Imambara, I saw many cycle rickshaws and Tangas (Horse carts) standing outside Bara Imambar. They were offering a tour to Rumi Darwaza, watchtower called Satkhanda, Chota Imambada, art gallery and clock tower. All these buildings located within a radius of 1 km. The horse cart looks tempting but I took cycle rickshaw for Chota Imambara.
On the way, I stopped at Rumi Darwaza for some time. It is iconic monument and a must see in places to visit in Lucknow.
It was built by Muhammad Ali Shah as his own mausoleum and his mother was buried beside him.
Chota Imambara is also known as the Palace of Lights because of its chandeliers and decorations. The chandeliers used here were brought from Belgium.
The main hall here also houses the ceremonial Tajias for public display. The walls of this Imambara are decorated with Arabic calligraphy.
There are two replicas of the Taj Mahal that were built as the tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah’s daughter and her husband. The tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah and his family members are inside this Imambara.
The water supply for the fountains of Imambara and the water bodies inside the compound came directly from the Gomti River. These water bodies add to the beauty of Chota Imambara.
Art Gallery of Nizam’s portraits
Afterwards, I visited the art gallery, where I saw some 3D effect paintings of Lucknow’s Nawab. Photography was not allowed here.
Satkhanda and Clock tower
Finally, I saw watchtower called Satkhanda. It was in bad state and need restoration work.
The clock tower was on the road and I came to know getting up is not allowed.
The Residency Lucknow
I booked an Ola from here for The Residency. It is in located in the heart of the Lucknow city and also known as British Residency.
It is mostly in ruins but historically an important monument. This served as the residence for the British Resident General who was a representative in the court of Lucknow’s Nawab.
Indian Rebellion sieged the residency during 1857 and many British men, women, and children died during the fight. The residency badly damaged during the fighting and after that nobody restored it. There is a cemetery at the nearby ruined church, where the graves of approximately 2000 men, women, and children.
It’s a historically important place that’s why a popular tourist attraction. There is a museum inside though there is nothing much to see in it. The Residency is surrounded by lawns and flowerbeds. I saw many people were doing a picnic on the lawn of residency.
From Residency I went to Hazratganj market. It is another interesting place to visit not just for shopping but for its historical importance. The market is renovated and the facade of shops are uniform. A good place to go for shopping and spend time with family or friends in a restaurant.
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These are some of the historically important places to visit in Lucknow in a day’s time.
Also visit Varanasi, which is one of the oldest city in world.