Lucknow is one of those unique cities who’s reputation precedes its mention. Dripping with a heritage that dates back to mughuls , it perhaps is more stereotyped than any other city that one can think of.
Perhaps like the mention of Paris throws an image of impeccably dressed models catwalking down runways or couples indulging in freshly brewed coffee with French pastries at road side cafe . More as an antithesis , Lucknow still comes across as a city of people from the old era narrating stories of life as it was , over shero-shayri , lukhnavi tunda kebabs and intricate chickenkari .
Whether you’ve visited the city or not, you’ve known of lukhnavi aan , baan and shaan since forever.
A city that singlehandedly fuses delectable cuisine, atypical culture and art with the reminiscence of a bygone era. The bustling bylanes of hazratganj , the echoes of namaz at the old city , the tunda kebabs for travelers brought in by the morning shatabdi , the glittering ghats of gomti , the chatter of students of Le Martineire , the majestic vidhan sabah which stands tall as a tribute to the british era . A city that paints a thousand vivid pictures. And amongst these snapshots one finds the most intriguing monument of our times – the Bara Imambara.
Turning back time :
Literally meaning ‘big shrine’ , the building was built by Asaf-ud-ulah , the then nawab of lucknow in 1784 and here comes the interesting part , not as a symbol of undying love or opulence , but as a ‘famine relief project’! When the region was hit by one of the worst famines and people of his land were distraught , building this monument came as an answer to his dilemma and their worries.
Legend has it , that for 18 long years , the poor used to labour their way into building the monument through the day to earn their daily wages , while the nobility was brought in to demolish it by the night.
Now , one would wonder , why wouldnt he splurge his treasure to uplift the needy? And here comes the twist in the tale. Islam as a religion is averse to the idea of ‘easy money’ which is termed as ‘haraam’. An ideal god fearing muslim is supposed to earn his due i.e. ‘imaan ki kamaai’ . The nobility on the other hand , wasnt equipped with the necessary skills to ‘build’ , but was much better at ‘demolishing’. So , to make the idea a winsome deal for all strata , the ‘project ‘ went on for years before the monument was finally finished .
Lost & Found :
Now if thats an interesting story , then there’s more surprises these walls have in store for you. For the uninitiated , the upper floor of this royal building has one of the most extensive labyrinths of the world. but then again , that was clearly not the intention when the building’s foundation stones were laid. The bhulbhullaiya of various floors intermingling with one another into passages and stairways eventually leading upto an open terrace that gives a spectacular view of the entire city , was built the way it was built , and yes , this one’s a spoiler – to support the building’s weight in the marshy land without using beams!
Every year thousands of tourists land here and gaze with spectacle at the grandeur of the building and attempt to crack the bhulbhullaiyya without the guide’s help . But the monument still remains unknown to those who swear by our cultural heritage . One look at the litter strewn around the premises that’s now home to colonies of laboureres and touts and one wonders when would some of the most exquisite monuments of our times find their much deserved glory and come out from the shadows of Taj.
Catch the pictures in and around the gorgeous monument!