How's my Luck now?

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

Location: India

Friday, January 21, 2005

ek yaatraa - XII

Day 5: Lucknow, 1 Jan. 2005, Saturday


The last structure to be seen in the Bada Imambara complex was the step-well or Bauli. It was a brick structure, but the bricks were of very small thickness compared to those used today. This structure was designed and built by an engineer imported from Iran specifically for the purpose - Kifayat Hussain.
As our guide took us through the entrance, the damp smell common to structures with stagnant water hit us. About 25 steps below us was the water. Two floors of building were above this ground level. The guide took us up to the first floor through winding passages similar to those in the labyrinth. Here also, you could view the entrance directly from a few perfectly aligned gates, while those coming in from the entrance had no chance of getting a clear view of you.
More intriguing were two facts. One, that there were three floors identical to the one we stood on, submerged completely. The water level rose and fell with that in the river Gomti and this first floor was also submerged in water on occasions. Because of the labyrinthine structure of the floors, it served as a hiding place. It is said that the nawab's treasurer once took the extreme step of plunging into the water with the treasure map. The British, pursuing him, sent many professional divers behind him, but none returned, trapped in the labyrinths below.
The second thing was that, squatting directly opposite the entrance and looking into the water below, one can get a clear reflection of the gate. Soldiers used to be in position here and used to aim at enemies looking at their reflection in water. It was a remarkable sight.

Chhota Imambara complex

Leaving the Bada Imambara complex, we went to the nearby Chhota Imambara complex. This was built by Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah in 1837. It is fully white in colour. Two structures resembling the Taj Mahal flank it on both sides. These are tombs of the nawab's daughter and son-in-law. To the left of the entrance is the royal bath - the Shahi Hammam. It has typical stone tubs of various sizes where the royals must be having their baths.
The Imambara itself is white with a golden dome. Inside, there is a silver throne where the Quran is read during Muharram. A huge taziya was also kept inside. The inside was full of beautiful glass chandeliers made in India, Japan, China and Europe. The famous Belgian glass chandeliers are also present here.
In the central hall are two graves - those of Muhammad Ali Shah and his mother. Among the curiosities here was a painting which, on close look, was found to be the Quran written in minute letters with blue ink. The elderly guide told us, "gustaakhi maaf kiijiye, par aaj ham kahate hain ki ham bahut aage hain, mujhe sirf itanaa bataaiye ki ye Quran kis pen se likhaa gayaa", to which we indeed had no answer.

Having seen two major attractions of Lucknow, we bought some chikan saari-s outside the Chhota Imambara complex, and came back to the bank, completed our work and went back to the hotel.

In the evening, we went for a long walk to Sewa chikan shop at the Burlington chauraha, which is a private shop stocking chikan saari-s, kurta-s, etc. The variety and colours here were very eye-catching. Some shopping done here, we walked back to Hazratganj. This area was packed with people - especially the eating joints. We finally ate a special pav-bhaji at a joint, which,we serendipitously found, was quite excellent.
Only one day now remained of our tour.