How's my Luck now?

Reflections, views and descriptions during my stay at IIM Lucknow from July 2004 to March 2006

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Location: India

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

ek yaatraa - XI

Day 5: Lucknow, 1 Jan. 2005, Saturday

We started the day with some work that I had in the bank. The particular branch was pretty far off and my work remained unfinished at that hour of 10am. Since we had to come back to the bank by 2pm, we asked the auto-wallah if there were any sightseeing spots nearby.
The auto-wallah gladly took us to the main attractions of Lucknow.

Bada Imambara

The auto-wallah took us from Aliganj to the old city area. We crossed the Gomti on a red-stone-parapeted bridge which was built by Lucknow's last nawab - Wajid Ali Shah. We arrived at the Imambara which stands at right angles to the Rumi Darwaza - a gateway into Lucknow made in the Roman architectural style.
The Imambara complex houses a mosque (the Asafi mosque), the Imambara and a labyrinth, as well as a step-well.
We took an elderly guide named Azhar Hussain to show us around the Imambara. On the ground floor of this huge 4-floor structure is the Imambara itself. It was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in the year 1784 (it took 11 years build - from 1773 to 1784). It is a place where the taziya-s of Moharram are kept. We saw a few of those here, and they were extremely artistic, with models of the Karbala mosque. In the middle of the hall on the ground floor is the grave of Asaf-ud-Daula.
According to our guide, the building materials for the Imambara were many and miscellaneous, and homemade. He showed us four walled-in tunnels which used to lead some distance towards Agra, Faizabad and other places in order to escape from the enemies.

Bhulbhulaiyaan

Starting from the first floor was the famous labyrinth or bhulbhulaiyaan, whose primary purpose was to get the enemies (primarily the British) confounded and losing their way. The guide took us up to the spot where it began. A very narrow stair led down. The funda of the labyrinth is that 4 sets of stairs lead out from each landing. Three stairs lead deeper into the labyrinth and only one leads out. Most people get confused in picking the right stair because, since they had descended the first stair, they think the upward stair would take them out. The trick is that it is really an alternating series of up and down stairs that leads one out.
All along the outward wall of the first floor are very small lookout windows where armed soldiers used to stand. From these windows, the entrance to the Imambara can be perfectly seen, while the person entering can obviously not look inside. This was aimed to shoot down the enemy at the entrance itself, which is probably half-a-kilometre in front of the Imambara.
The inside is lined by a narrow passage looking out into the central hall on the ground floor. Here, the guide went to one end, while we stood at the opposite side of the huge hall. He then lit a match at his end with little sound, but that sound was heard by us on the opposite side.
The second floor has an open terrace with large lookouts - a more conventional arrangement. Here the guide went down a corridor and then into another at right angles to us. Then he stood and whispered along his passage. By repeated echos, we could whisper to each other and hear the other. It was because of structures like these that the saying 'diivaaron ke bhi kaan hote hain' became prevalent.
Similarly, the top floor had a terrace giving a terrific view of Lucknow city and the Gomti river. We did not attempt the labyrinth due to paucity of time, and came out. It was a great experience which was just going to be added to.

(continued...)

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