Curious Tales of Bara Imambara in Lucknow

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Bada Imambara, also known as Bhul-bhulaya, is among the historical buildings of Lucknow, the city of Nawabs. Lucknow is famous not only in the country but also all over the world for its culture, architecture and cuisine. This famous Imambara of Lucknow has historical and cultural significance. Its structure has a mixture of Rajput and Mughal architectural style with Gothic influence. It is also known as “Asafai Imambara”. This Imambara symbolizes the benevolent step of a Nawab who was raised keeping in mind the interests of his subjects

Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah built the Bada Imambara in 1784, and its architect was Kifayat Ullah, who was associated with the architectural tradition of the Taj Mahal. An Asafi mosque, step-well and labyrinth are also present in the premises of Imambara, built in 14 years. Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah used to take special care of his subjects, that’s why the Nawab built it under the famine relief project.

There is also an interesting story behind the construction of Imambara. Once in Awadh province, there was a severe drought, people became deprived of their livelihood, and there was chaos everywhere. People started taking their problems to the court of Asaf-ud-daula, the fourth Nawab of Awadh. Then Asaf-ud-daulah started the construction of Imambara to deal with this problem. When the work of Imambara started, the people got the work, due to which the livelihood of the people was met.

Historians say that Asaf-ud-daulah used to build Imambara with people in the day, and in the night he would demolish this construction so that the next day people would come to work again and their livelihood could run smoothly. The people of this place were so happy with this relief plan of Asaf-ud-daula, that every person had the same slogan on his/her tongue, “Whom the God does not give, will be given by Asaf-ud-daula”, which is said still today. When Asaf-ud-daulah heard this slogan, he said the line, “Whom the God does not give, how can it be given by Asaf-ud-daula”.

Architecture:

In fact, Bada Imambara of Lucknow is an example of Nawabi era in which the confluence of noble destiny coincides with the grand vision of architectural art. The architecture of Imambara exhibits the typical Mughal style that closely resembles the Badshahi Mosque of Lahore in Pakistan and is considered to be the fifth largest mosque in the world. Imambara has been given the status of an interesting building, as it is neither a mosque nor a mausoleum, or even both; that is why it is considered perhaps the fifth largest mosque in the world. Asaf-ud-daula was buried here after his death.

bada imambada, lucknow city

Bada Imambara is a large hall built after a bird’s eye courtyard, which can be reached by two huge archways. The central chamber of Imambara is about fifty meters long and sixteen meters wide. The roof of this column-less chamber is fifteen meters high. This hall is the largest building in the world without wooden, iron or stone beams. The roof is stacked by interlocking bricks without the use of a beam or girder, which is an amazing feat. Bricks have been linked to paddy husk.

Imambara’s Central Hall is the largest domed roof hall in the world. Nawab Saheb used it as his court where public problems were heard. Now Shia Muslims use it for Nawaz Azadari. Here people of Shia Muslim community gather and mourn on the day of Muharram. Muharram is celebrated on the anniversary of the death of Hussein Ali, the grandson of Mohammad Ibn Abdullah, who was killed in the Battle of Karbala.

bada imambara

Why is it called Bhul-bhulaya?

The Imambara has three huge chambers, with long corridors between the walls, which are about 20 feet wide. This dense and deep structure is called a labyrinth. In fact, there are more than 1000 small avenues which look alike. The surprising thing is that they all go on different paths. There are some avenues whose ends are closed.

bhulbhulaiya

Network of tunnels:

When it comes to tunnels, a thought comes in everyone’s mind that there will be some secret pathways in it. According to experts, the paths of the labyrinth are very dangerous, some paths were so dangerous that people have lost their lives by getting trapped in it. The labyrinth is said to be a network of underground tunnels that connect Imambara to Delhi, Kolkata and Faizabad, which has been closed keeping in mind the safety of the people.

Stepwell in the maze:

The stepwell in the maze is an astonishing structure in Imambara. It is a heritage of the former Nawabi era. This stepwell called Shahi Hamam is connected to the Gomti River, which has only two storeys above the water, the remaining floor remains submerged underwater throughout the year .

Stepwell bhulbhulaiya

Some interesting facts about Bada Imambara:

  • The main feature of this building is that no iron has been used to make it.
  • No European style architecture has been included in making this building.
  • No European style architecture has been included in making this building.
  • It cost Rs 5 to 10 lakhs to build this building at that time.
  • Imambara has 3 large chambers, with long corridors between the walls, which is about 20 feet in width.
  • The most famous place of this Imambara is the labyrinth where the paths are connected to each other, there are a total of 489 doors.
  • Earlier there was a long road leading to the Gomti River, but it has been closed at present.
  • Rumi Darwaza outside Imambara is considered the gateway to ancient Lucknow, its height is about 60 feet, which has 3 floors.

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