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LUCKNOW

The City of Nawabs

Visitor's Checklist

Lucknow district:

516 km (321 miles) E of Delhi.

Population:

above 5 million.

Airport:

Amausi (Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport) 15km (9 miles) South-west of Lucknow.

More tourism information:

Directorate of Tourism, Rajarshi Purshottam Das Tandon Paryatan Bhavan, C-13, Vipin Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow, U.P.Ph: 91-522-2308916, 2308017.

 
 

 

Importance of Lucknow in Indian History
Many independent kingdoms, such as Avadh, were established when the Mughal empire disintegrated. Avadh's capital, Lucknow rose to prominence when Asaf-ud-Daula, the fourth nawab, shifted his court here from Faizabad in 1775. The city was also North India's cultural capital, and its nawabs, best remebered for their refined and extravagnt lifestyles, were patrons of the arts. Under them music and dance flourished, and many buildings were erected. In 1856 the British annexed Lucknow and deposed its last nawab, Wajid Ali Shah. This incident helped helped instigate the Indian Mutiny of 1857, when the city witnesses one of the bloodiest episodes in colonial history.

Places to Visit in Lucknow :
Qaiser Bagh Palace
Location: Qaiser Bagh (open daily) 
Once the most magnificent palace in Lucknow, Qaiser Bagh, was built by Wajid Ali Shah (r.1847-56), the last nawab. When the British recaptured Lucknow in 1858, they demolished many of the complex's more fanciful structures, with their florid sculptures of mermaids and cherubs. However, the remaining buildings, although in ruins, hint at their former splendour. The Lal Baradari now houses a fine arts academy as well as the archaelogical section of the State Museum; the Pathar Wali Baradari is a school for Hindustani music; and the Safaid Baradari, now an office building was where the nawab, dressed as a fakir, used to hold court. Only two wings of the residential quarters that once housed the nawab's vast harem remain. Carvings of fish, the nawab's royal emblem, adorn many of the structures. Nearby, lie two grand tombs, the Tomb of Saadat Ali Khan(the fifth nawab) and the Tomb of Khurshid Zadi, his wife.
Under Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, Lucknow witnessed an artistic flowering. An aesthete who was not interested in governance, he devoted himself to poetry and music and is believed to have introduced the thumri (a form of light classical music). Dance forms benefited as well, and the Lucknow gharana (school) of Kathak reached new heights during his short reign, before he was deposed by the British in 1856 and exiled to Calcutta.

Sikander Bagh
Location: Sikander Bagh (open daily) 
Named after Wajid Ali Shah's favourite queen, Sikander Bagh was the royal pleasure garden of the nawabs. In 1857. In 1857, British troops led by Sir Colin Campbell relieved the siege of the Residency at this site. The National Botanical Gardens and Research Centre are now located in its grounds. To the west, the Shah Najaf Imambara has the tomb of Ghazi-ud-din Haidar(the sixth nawab).

Chattar Manzil
Location: North-west of Qaiser Bagh (open daily) 
Built during Saadat Ali Khan's reign (1798-1814), the Chattar Manzil ("Umbrella Palace"), derives its name from the umbrella-shaped gilt dome (chattar) crowning the structure. A basement (tehkhana) was built below the level of the Gomti river, so that its waters could keep the area cool in summer. The building now houses the Central Drug Research Institute.

The Residency
Location: North-west of Qaiser Bagh (open daily) 
Lucknow's most haunting monuments are the desolate ruins of the Residency.This complex of a building which grew around the large brick home of the Resident, was an exclusive British enclave, protected by fortifications. In 1857, the entire city's British took refuge here during the five-month siege. Sir Henry Lawrence, the commander of the troops, expected relief to arrive within 15 days. But, it was 87 days before a force led by Sir Henry Havelock broke through the ranks of sepoys, only to find them trapped inside. For the next seven weeks they faced constant bombardment, until Sir Colin Campbell finally retook the Residency on 17th November. By then, almost 2.000 people had died either from bullet wounds or from cholera and typhoid.
Today, the Residency looks just as it did in 1857. In its small museum, the gaping holes made by cannon fire are still visible. The Model Room on the ground floor, has a model depicting British defenses during the siege. Lying below, are the cellars where the women and children took shelter. The cemetery near the ruined church, has the forlorn graves of those who died, including that of Sir Henry Lawrence. An Indian Martyrs' Memorial stands opposite, on the banks of the Gomti river.

Bara Imambara Hussainabad
(open daily except during Muharram) 
Lucknow's most distinctive architectural structures are the imambaras, or ceremonial halls used during Muharram. The Bara ("Great") Imambara, built by Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784, was essentially a famine relief project providing much needed employment. It is said that while one group of workers were involved with its construction during the day, another group dismantled it at night. Elaborate gates lead to this sprawling, low edifice. Its most remarkable feature is a large hall, 50-m 064-ft) long and 15-m (49-ft) high, totally unsupported by pillars. Above it is the bhulbhulaiya, a labyrinth of balconies and passages. The Asafi Mosque and a stepwell also lie in the compound.
Asaf-ud-Daula also erected the 18-m (59-f high Rumi Darwaza, just outside. This portal, embellished with lavish decorations, was the Imambara's west facing entrance.

Some of Lucknow's best architectural sites lie beyond the city centre. The religious monuments, such as the imambaras and mosques, reveal a distinct Persian influence, while the secular buildings, which include the palaces of the nawabs as well as colonial structures, are more European in style. A particularly extravagant example among the latter is La Martiniere. 
Close to the Rumi Darwaza , Aurangzeb's Mosque stands on high ground known as Lakshman Tila, the location of Lucknow's original township. To the east is the Hussainabad Clocktower, erected in 1887. The 67-m (220-ft) high Gothic tower was built to mark the arrival of Sir George Cooper, Avadh's first lieutenant governor. To its west lies the 19th-century Baradari, built by Muhammed Ali Shah (the eighth nawab), where the Picture Gallery is located. Splendid life sized portraits of the then nawabs, painted between 1882 and 1885 and recently renovated, are on display here.To the west of the Picture Gallery is the Hussainabad Imambara, better known as the Chhota Imambara. This gem-like structure is surmounted by a delicate gold dome, and its outside walls are engraved with superb calligraphy. The interiors are adorned with gilt-edged mirrors, ornate chandeliers, silver pulpits and colourful stucco decorations. The tazias (replica tombs) and alams (standards) used during the Muharram festival between March and April, are kept here. The Jami Masjid, to the southwest is another striking structure, built by Muhammed Ali Shah in the early 19th century. Its walls are heavily ornamented and its arches are covered with fine stucco work.
Northwest of the Jami Masjid, the Daulat Khana was the palace of Asaf-ud Daula. Constructed in the late 1780s, it includes numerous Indo-European buildings. The most prominent of these is the Asafi Kothi, its elegant facade marked by semi-circular bays. Lucknow's main market is situated in the Chowk, the city's atmospheric old quarter. Stretching from Gol Darwaza to Akbari Darwaza, this maze of narrow galis (lanes) is lined with shops selling a range of goods from colourful kites to paan to Lucknow's famed chinkari fine muslin delicately embroidered with threadwork. Wholesale flower markets overflow with roses and jasmine and attar shops sell tiny bottles of fragrant perfume. The Chowk is also the best place to sample some authentic local cuisine (especially the many varieties of succulent kebabs), refined to an art form by chefs attached to nawabi households.
At the southeastern corner of the city, situated in the Zoological Gardens, is Lucknow's State Museum. Its collection includes rare silver and gold coins, 16th-century paintings, and stone sculpture from the 2nd century BC.
The extraordinary La Martiniere stands further south. It was built by Major General Claude Martin, a French soldier of fortune and, in 1793, the richest European in Lucknow. A fanciful Gothic chateau, it has four enormous octagonal towers, containing numerous rooms. The exterior is lavishly decorated with a variety of animals and mythological figures, including lions, gargoyles and a female sphinx. One of the two cannons on the terrace was cast by Martin in his arsenal, as was the bronze bell. He died in 1800 and is buried in the basement. In 1840, the building, in accordance with Martin's will, became a school for boys. The school was evacuated during the siege of Lucknow, but re-opened a year later after extensive renovations.

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