Kothi Darshan Vilas

Kothi Darshan Vilas, Qaiserbagh, Lucknow

Kothi Darshan Vilas, the building which now houses Directorate of Medical Health was once a palace, construction of which commenced in the reign of Nawab Ghazi-ud-din Haider and finished during the reign of Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider in 1837. The design of this building is an amalgamation of the architectural features of other heritage buildings of the city. Each of the three faces of the kothi are the replica of Kothi Farhat Baksh, Dilkusha Palace, Musa Bagh respectively and the fourth being a blend of the structural attributes of all these monuments. Hence, this building is also known as Chaurukhi Kothi or the House of 4 faces. The domes add stars to the architectural beauty of this building.

According to the great Historian of Awadh, Mr. Roshan Taqui, ‘earlier Kothi Darshan Vilas used to be a part of the Chhoti Chattar Manzil but since the latter does not exist anymore, the Chaurukhi kothi is all that is left. It served as a palace to the king’s begum. In the Nawabi era this kothi was referred as the Palace of Qudsiya Mahel, named after the wife of Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider.’ The splendour of Kothi Darshan Vilas has almost faded due to our negligence. The once wondrous structure now appears brownish and roots of large trees are seen making way through the walls and roof of the building.

Safed Baradari, Qaiserbagh

Safed Baradari, Qaiserbagh, Lucknow

Qaiserbagh complex comprises many grand heritage monuments of Lucknow that were built in the Nawabi era. Situated in the heart of the city, one such elegant building is the Safed Baradari which was constructed in the year 1854 by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. It is also known as Qasr-ul-Aza that means a place of mourning. Constructed in white marble, Safed Baradari is a wondrously decorative structure which has 12 outlets. It has a spacious hall ornamented with delicate chandeliers and intrinsic architectural motifs. It’s beauty has fascinated so many to such an extent that prominent films like Umrao Jaan, Tanu Weds Manu, etc were shot here.

According to the eminent Historian of Awadh, Mr. Roshan Taqui, ‘Safed Baradari was built as an Imambara or a place of mourning for observing azadaari. Court for petitions and claims by the officers and nobles of the deposed king’s reign was held here by the Britishers after the annexation of Awadh in the year 1856. During the revolt of 1857, it was used as an important meeting place by the freedom fighters. After the departure of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, a revolt broke out in Awadh and it was Begum Hazrat Mahal who made Qaiserbagh as a citadel of revolt. And during the years 1862-1867, the Britishers handed it over to the Taluqdaars of Awadh for their Anjuman-e-Hind which was also known as British India Association of Awadh.’ It is so surprising to know that a place which was once used for mourning is now in full fledge use for hosting exhibitions, weddings and receptions. This heritage monument must soon be renovated in such a manner that it retains its past glory.

Chattar Manzil

Chattar Manzil, Lucknow

Situated on the right bank of river Gomti is a lofty building that is quite popular for its Chatar or Umbrella, which glitters at the top of the building when sun rays fall on it. This structure is also popular by the name of Umbrella Palace. This is how the building got its name from its enormous parachute. The structural design of the building is an amalgamation of Italian and French architectural style. It is a five storeyed building which has two storeys below ground level while the rest are above it. The construction of Chattar Manzil was commenced by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan (1798-1814) and it was Ghazi-ud-din-Haider who later modified it. It served as a royal palace for the kings of Awadh till Wajid Ali Shah shifted his residence to Qaiserbagh. There were two octagonal towers to which the basement was connected for proper air ventilation. Two telescopes from England were placed at the roof top of the building for astronomical purposes. The palace had a state-of-the-art garden which according to the British tourists was way far better than the garden of Khalifa Harun Rasheed. It is also said that when the palace was being constructed, it was attacked by Raja Chet Singh of Benaras.

A portion of it was also destroyed by Britishers during the war of 1857. Later the government had allotted the building to an American NGO which used it as a club for recreation purposes. Post Independence, this building was allotted to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research which used it as Central Drug Research Institute. There are a few misconceptions in the minds of the people about this building. ‘According to the knowledge of some, Farhat Baksh and Chattar Manzil are one and the same building, which is completely untrue. Moreover, there’s a myth that from the time the building’s construction has begun, its basement has been waterlogged, which is again false. It’s basement has been visited and its dry’, states Mr. Roshan Taqui, the eminent historian of Awadh. There is an urgent need of restoration and conversion of this palace into a grand museum dedicated to Awadh, as it has now been vacated by CDRI. Last year, ‘chajja’ at front had been collapsed due to non-maintenance and it has been covered with cloth inspite of being restored.


Musabagh, Lucknow

Located on the outskirts of the city, Musabagh, also known as Barooni Bagh which was once a garden complex, is now found over grown with vegetation. The surrounding of which are also seen undergoing rapid colonial expansion. The Musabagh complex originally comprised a palace and an extensive garden. It was built in European style of architecture with lakhauri bricks, lime plastering and was adorned with beautiful stucco mouldings. It was basically a four storeyed rectangular structure on one side and two storeyed on the other. There were spiral staircases on either side along with fluted domes. Portico ducts were used in this palace for air-ventilation. The structural feature that has been appealing the lot visiting this place is the leaf-like architectural design found on the domes and other walls of the building. It showcases how skilful the artisans and craftsmen of those times were.

According to Mr. Roshan Taqui, ‘Built in the year 1803-1804 by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, under the superintendence of Aazam-ud-daula, this complex was intended to be used as a place for seclusion. For the recreation of the Nawab and his royal guests, animal fights were arranged here. In the Musabagh cemetery, Captain F Wale, a British officer who was a commander of the first Sikh irregular cavalry, lies buried. In 1857, he was killed here in the last battle fought in Lucknow, between the British and the native forces in which the British finally succeeded. Captain L.B Jones, the friend of Captain Wale, was the one to erect his grave.’ His cemetery is renowned among the locals as Kaptan Shah Baba ki Mazaar and Cigarette wale baba ki Mazaar. There’s a very interesting reason for addressing the cemetery by the so called names. Locals say that they often see a Britisher asking for cigarettes and once he gets it, he goes back into the cemetery. Thinking that it is the soul of Captain F Wale, who lies buried here, people from far off places come here in large numbers bringing cigarettes as an offering. They come here to pray and when their wishes come true, they come here again in order to offer a lot many cigarettes as votive offering. Thus, portraying the fact that if one bows head in full devotion then even a stone can turn into God. The present-day Musabagh complex is now left in ruins. Although its a protected archaeological site, but very close to it rapid development is taking place.

Charbagh Railway Station

Charbagh Railway Station, Lucknow

Famously known across the country for being one of the most wondrous railway stations of India, the main railway station of the city of Nawabs is situated in the Charbagh area, whose structural designs never fail charm any of its visitors. The building is designed as an amalgamation of Indo-British style of architecture by J.H Horniman. Painted in red and white, this splendid structure looks like a Rajput palace from outside and from the sky it partially appears like a chess board with each of its turrets and domes that look like the chess pieces. The most striking feature in the designs of this railway station is that water reservoirs are so beautifully hidden inside the facade being covered by curves. It is said that the architectural style of this station is so amazing that makes it is nearly impossible for anyone standing outside the station to hear the sounds of the incoming or outgoing trains.

‘Foundation of this building was laid on 21st March, 1914 by Bishop George Herbert and it was later in 1923 when it got re-constructed. This railway station was built at the cost of around rupees 60-70 Lakhs, which was quite an expensive amount in those days. On 1st August, 1925 C.L Colvin, the agent of East India Railway laid inside the turret of the same building, a casket containing a coin of those times and a newspaper of the same day as a call to remembrance of the successful completion of the foundation of the building. It is the same place where Gandhi ji first met Jawahar Lal Nehru and from 26th December, 1916 to 30th December,1916 he took part in the opening session of legislature of Congress which was held at Charbagh Railway station and placed his proposal of putting an end to the sending of Indian labours abroad. It was again during the months of March-April in the year 1936 when Mahatma Gandhi came to Lucknow for the second time in order to attend another session of Congress Legislature’, states Mr. Taqui, an eminent Historian of Awadh.


GPO, Hazratganj, Lucknow

The building which is now called the General Post Office or GPO, stands in Hazratganj as a witness to the gamut of changing times. It isn’t a mere building but a spectator of most famous incidents that happened in the past. The GPO building was constructed with red bricks and lime stone in Gothic architectural style. The most outstanding structural feature of this magnificent building is that iron was not at all used in its construction. The outer facade of the structure is painted white. The building comprises a spacious hall in the centre which serves as the main post office. Whereas one of its side has a tall clock tower attached to it. A triangular shaped garden also embellishes this complex.

‘Built by the Britishers, the building which is now referred to as GPO, was once a Ring Theatre. It was used by British families for recreation purposes. It was used as a platform for screening English films and English dramas were also played here. A board was permanently hung at the entrance gate bearing the text- ‘Dogs and Indians not allowed!’. Thus, signifying that the entry of Indians inside the building was strictly prohibited. After few years the theatre got converted into a special court where the famous Kakori trial took place. And during the years 1929-1932, the then GPO which was situated inside the Begum Kothi (now known as Janpath) was shifted to this building and thus, getting permanently transformed’, states Mr. Taqui, the eminent Historian of Awadh. One of the flaws in the current state of the historical building is in its clock, which isn’t in a working state as of now. It could have been a heritage monument and a perfect place for showcasing exhibition but its sad to know that the concerned authorities are not taking it seriously.

Shah Najaf Imambara

Shah Najaf Imambara, Near Sikander Bagh, Lucknow

Showcasing an impressive view when adorned with lightening on the birthday of Hazrat Ali, Shah Najaf Imambara stands tall with all its grandeur new Sikander Bagh. Built by Nawab Ghazi-ud Din Haider (1814-1827) at a place called Paltan Ghat on the banks of the river Gomti, this Imambara serves as a mausoleum to the Nawab’s own mortal remains. The mausoleum stands midst a plush green garden that adds stars to the beauty of this place. Double-arched doors serve as an entrance to the interior of the Imambara. Most of the Imambaras in the city of Lucknow have domes as a part of their architectural feature but the dome of this Imambara is quite unique in its own way. The hall of the Imambara is decorated with majestic chandeliers. It not only houses the tomb of Nawab but also his wives. Mausoleum of Nawab Ghazi-ud Din Haider is adorned with silver while that of his European wife Mubarak Mahal has work done with silver and gold. Legend says the roof of the Imambara was constructed with 9 mann gold rods. It also houses wooden and bamboo Tazia which are carried during Moharram.

According to the renowned Historian of Awadh, Mr. Taqui, “Shah Najaf Imambara is a replica of Hazrat Ali’s burial place at Najaf in Iraq. As Nawab Ghazi-ud Din Haider was a devotee of Caliph Hazrat Ali, who was also known as Shah-e Najaf (Lord of Najaf), so the building was named after him.” The holy mausoleum was built by the Nawab for the interment of his own mortal remains. He was buried here in the year 1827. It was several years after his death when two of his begums, Mubarak Mahal and Mumtaz Mahal were also buried at Shah Najaf Imambara. The building is surrounded by walls of such immense thickness that the heavy guns of the Naval Brigade during the mutiny of sepoys were unable to make any impression on them. It also offered the mutineers a perfect position for defence. Presently, one of the back domes of the structure has crumbled. Moreover, the front lawn of the Imambara is used as a venue for marriages which is not healthy exercise for any heritage monument. Qadam Rasool, which is a part of this complex is in an awful shape. All in all, poor renovation of this monument has been done till date. Furthermore, the area comprising this monument should be strictly declared a heritage zone.

Sibtainabad Imambara

Sibtainabad Imambara, Hazratganj, Lucknow

The word Imambada refers to a place of mourning. Constructed in the year 1847, by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah for holding Majlis and mourning of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom, Imambada Sibtainabad stands majestic amidst the heart of Lucknow city i.e Hazratganj. Moreover, it also houses the tomb of King Amjad Ali Shah along with the tomb of one of his grandsons – Mirza Javed Ali and Wajid Ali Shah’s queen Taj-un Nisa Begum. And hence, this Imambada is also addressed as Maqbara, for it bears the mortal remains of Nawab Amjad Ali Shah. The imambara is also the place of ‘Aag Ka Maatam’ which is on 9th day of Moharrum.

Sibtainabad Imambada is built in Indo-Islamic structural design. It has two entrance-ways, out of which one opens towards the main hazratganj market while the other faces the complex. On entering through the gateway, one finds a mosque standing tall towards the right side of the rectangular complex. A steps of stairs lead to the elevated portion over which the Imambada is built. The hall of the Imambada is very beautifully adorned with arch-ways while its walls have epic patterns designed on it. Imambada Sibtainabad was constructed by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah as soon as he acceded the throne in the year 1847. ‘It was built over the same piece of land where there was once a chhavni of Mendu Khan. This chhavni also had an inn in its proximity. On 13th March 1858, the boundaries of this structure were ruined by the Sikh troops of the British Army, while they were marching towards Qaiserbagh to assail Begum Hazrat Mahal and her supporters. During the British rule, this structure was used as a Church and it was later in 1919, when it was declared a heritage monument’, says the famous Historian of Awadh, Mr. Roshan Taqui. Presently, the structure is undergoing renovation work for which Mr. Mohammed Haider is to be credited. He’s the one to get it started. The complex is heavily flanked by encroachments on both sides of the complex.

Alambagh Palace / Kothi Alamara

Alambagh Palace / Kothi Alamara, Alambagh, Lucknow

Situated on the Lucknow-Kanpur highway, the area which now encompasses one of the major shopping avenues and eating points of the Nawabi city is the same place which has been inhabited by the refugees’ families who migrated from Pakistan after Independence. History of Alambagh began with the construction of Alambagh palace which was erected by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah during the years 1847-1856, for his wife Alam Aara, who was also known as Khas Mahal. It had a well kept beautiful garden in its surroundings. Moreover, a huge gateway known as Alambagh gate (Kothi Alamara Gateway), designed by the architect Chhote Khan was constructed in the same area. Now the same gate serves as an entranceway to the Chander Nagar colony. Both the palace and the gate were made up of lakhauri bricks. The two-storeyed palace comprises spacious halls and rooms. The rooftops of the rooms are quite high. The interior walls of the palace were once decorated with floral designs but are now in ramshackle.

According to the eminent historian of Awadh, Mr. Roshan Taqui, “The garden was occupied by the freedom fighters, who converted it into a military post and held this place till 23rd September 1857. Later it was General Havelock who got hold of it and transformed it into a command hospital for the injured and unwell British soldiers.” This immense area was also a witness to the fierce battle fought between the Indians and the British. Complex also houses the tomb of General Havelock which was erected by his family members. It was at Dilkusha when he died on 23rd November 1857 and got buried here on 24th November 1857. The present state of the Alambagh Palace and Alambagh gate is deplorable. Both of these structures are poorly maintained. Furthermore, encroachments of numerous shops and vegetable stalls surround these so-called protected sites.

Rumi Darwaza

Rumi Darwaza, Hussainabad, Lucknow

‘Being an entrance to the city of Lucknow, Russell, the reporter of The New York Times who accompanied the victorious British army that entered Lucknow in 1858, after India’s First War of Independence, had called the stretch of road from Rumi Darwaza to Chattar Manzil the most beautiful and spectacular cityscape that he had ever seen, better than Rome, Paris, London and Constantinople.’

Built by Nawab Asif-ud-daula during the years 1784-1786, Rumi Darwaza is no less than an ornament on the streets of Lucknow. Adjacent to the Bada Imambada stands a 62 feet grand gateway built in Indo-Roman architectural style. This entranceway is so immense that it seems to be multi-storeyed from a distance. Rumi Darwaza is said to be a replica of an archway in Constantinople and is therefore, referred to as Turkish gateway. This gate further has three arched-ways on one side and a huge single arched-way on the other. A huge cupola or chhatri crowns the structure. Two slender towers are present on either sides of the gateway.

According to the great historian of Awadh, Mr. Roshan Taqui, “The spikes atop the multiple arches of the gateway signify the rising sun and the design of large petals of Lotus which according to Hindu mythology brings good fortune is used to adorn the imposing gateway.” The architectural feature that amazes its visitors is that no wood or iron was used in its construction. Moreover, this structure gives different looks when viewed from different directions. The design of this magnificent gateway was so biasing that many of the structures of those times like Jama Masjid (Lucknow), Hussainabad Imambada, Nadwat-ul-ulama and Salar Masood Ghazi’s tomb have the same design reproduced in the form of their entranceways. It was Nawab Asif-ud-daula who had got the complex of Bada Imambada (which also comprises Rumi Darwaza) built during the years 1784-1794, in order to provide food and work to the famine-stricken people of Awadh. The design of this structure was drafted by Kifayat-ullah. And with this initiative, Nawab succeeded in providing work to about 22,000 people at a time. It is said that during the daytime ordinary people used to build up this edifice while noblemen, who did not wanted to be recognised as labourers during daylight were called after the sunset to demolish the structures raised. It took them 10 years to build Bada Imambara complex and the estimated cost of the construction of this immense edifice came to Rs. 1 crore, which was a huge amount back then. The structure which is often called the face of Lucknow has suffered some cracks as its preservation is somehow being neglected. The prominent crack is at the centre of the archway. These cracks may be a result of the vibrations produced by the vehicular movement through it. Thus, this area should be declared a no-traffic zone!