With the train running swiftly and bringing me back from my hometown to the capital city- Delhi I recollected all the memories from my recent visit and amid all the chaos in a moving train, I decided to pen down my trip to Lucknow.
When you talk about ‘Nawabs & Kebabs’, when you talk about ‘Rich Cultural Heritage & Cuisine’, when you talk about ‘adab & tehzeeb’ (manners & sophistication), you talk about Lucknow. The beautiful city I am born and brought up in.
On architectural end Lucknow is beautifully sprinkled with British Raj and Mughal architecture.The capital boasts two large mausoleums. On the contrary Lucknow’s modern side boasts a unique Iron Curtain-esque feel, with grandiose monuments & overstated parks & gardens, the city is nothing if not interesting!
The city rose to prominence as the home of the Nawabs of Awadh who were great patrons of the culinary art and other arts, particularly dance and music. Lucknow’s reputation as a city of culture, gracious living & rich cuisine has continued till date.
Something you should know: Ever wondered who ‘Nawabs’ actually were?
Nawabs were basically royal community that served Mughals and were later appointed to manage a state province -‘Awadh’ (Lucknow). Nawabs were sophisticated, polite and highly royal, and were great patrons of art and architecture.
WALKING DOWN THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF THE CITY
The day I visited this place weather was all windy and dusty, it was surely not one of the best days to visit there (that is what I thought initially). I started my trip by first visiting to Bada Imambara so that I can get visit to all nearby places with that same ticket (Travelling teaches you budgeting!).
This colossal Imambara is something YOU SHOULD NOT MISS when you are visiting Lucknow, its highly unusual lady labyrinth of corridors inside its upper floors make a visit here particularly mandatory and special at the same time.
The ticket price is really cheap for Indian citizens and comparatively higher for foreigners but this ticket also includes entrance to Chota Imambara, the clock tower & the baradari (summer place). The complex is accessed through two lavish gateways which lead you into a huge courtyard. On one side of the courtyard is an attractive mosque & on other side a large baoli (step-well). There is a huge central hall at the end of the courtyard which is one of the largest vaulted galleries in the world.
Once I was there I steadily climbed up the stairs to reach on the top and once I did I could not believe my eyes for the treat they gifted me with, the view was spellbinding. Such that I could easily spend a day there doing nothing but writing about how beautiful it was. The dusty storm that for once I thought were going to ruin my day out turned into cool breeze for me, with my hands on camera trigger I took my shot for the day.
I nearly spent an hour sitting there and actually describing the beauty of that place in my journal.
LOST AND FOUND
Visiting to a one of the biggest beehives and not getting lost, sounds awkward! Isn’t it? Bhoolbhulaiya’ (labyrinth) has 100s of interconnected narrow passages which lead to one another and eventually lead out to rooftop balconies. You can visit there with guides (INR Rs. 100 to 200 per person, for whole of the Imambara). Since I didn’t go with one, I was lost. But if you want to explore the real zeal of the place dare to go there on your own. As there is no light it is also advisable to stay safe and stay in group. I went alone and nothing happened but remember I was a local. After struggling for a while I found my way out and as the satisfied traveller I went for my next destination that was Chota Imambara.
The huge gate that stands tall adjacent to Bada Imambara is ‘Rumi Darwaza’ which is said to be the replica of an entrance gate in Istanbul. However, this gate now serves as a logo for the city. Passing through this gate takes you back to the bygone Nawabi Era.
TICKET PRICE: Rs. 50 Per Person for Indian citizens (This ticket is valid for Chota Imambara as well)
Chota Imambara is the replica of the Taj Mahal. It was constructed by Mohammed Ali Shah who is buried here, alongside her mother. Bejewelled with beautiful calligraphy, this place has a serene and peaceful atmosphere. Mohammed’s red and silver crown can be seen here along with countless ancient chandeliers, few antique gifts from other countries and brightly decorated tazias.
Where on one hand bada Imambara is full of chaos, this place is calm and less crowded. If you are a history buff like me, you will definitely get rapt after observing all the antiques inside a small hall.
Residency was my next stop after Chota Imambara.
I was too tired physically but my spirit of travel never let me down. I decided to explore residency and at the same time relax in its lush green park.
The large collection of gardens & ruins that makes up the residency offers a fascinating historical glimpse of the bygone British era. Built in 1800, the place had seen lot of military action happening during Mughal era and subsequent East India Company rule. The British centre of control of the city – The Residency – has seen months of siege & thousands of deaths during the Sepoy mutiny of 1857.
As you take a walk & explore the premises you will see that the compound has been left as it was at the time of the final relief & the walls are still pockmarked from bullets & cannon balls. Today, the residency is a pleasant park in the city which houses a museum, some ruins of erstwhile banquet hall, army barracks, a mosque & a cemetery.
Other Places You Should Visit When In The City Of Nawabs:
Spend some time with your friends or have a long walk with your soul mate on this spectacular and long strip built along Gomti River. This place has become one of the happening places in the city with many locals, youngsters and tourists strolling around. The sunset makes it a scenic splendour place.
Dr. Ambedkar Park
Not even a kilometre away is the Dr. Bheem Rao Ambedkar Park, a place which is exquisitely planned having massive stone sculptures.
The 67m red-brick clock tower is the tallest in India and was built in the 1880s. Nearby is the Hussainabad Picture Gallery, a striking red-brick baradari (pavilion) built in 1842 that was once a royal summer house. It overlooks an artificial yet beautiful lake and houses portraits of the Nawabs.
One of its kind hangout café Sheroes is located in Gomti Nagar, opposite Dr. Bheem Rao Ambedkar Park. This is unique not because of its expensive interiors but for its encouraging approach. Here you won’t find normal people working but superwomen.
Women working here are all acid attack survivors and are ready to put their foot forward and face the world. They are happy, they are confident and their positive attitude will make your heart melt. It’s a Must Visit!
What to eat?
Lucknow is famous for its kababs and the most famous name regarding kababs is ‘tundey kababi’ with their ‘melt-in-the-mouth Galavati Kababs’. More than 100 year old tundey kababi is situated in a small lane in the bustling centre of the old city chowk. But today this eatery has gone beyond Lucknow and even India.
Something you should know: Ever wondered how Tundey Kababi got its name?
In Urdu, tunda means ‘without an arm.’ Haji Murad Ali (Tunday Kababi), who used to feed the Nawabs in the old days of Lucknow, despite being handicapped, managed to earn repute and respect for his specialty — preparing delicious and mouth-watering kababs with just one hand.
Lip smacking basket chat of royal café, hazratgunj is nothing but a pure treat. Go have it!
What to buy?
‘Aroma of Lucknow’s sophistication’.
Personal advice is to not to leave this city without buying attar from SUGANDHCO. The shop is situated at janpath which is in hazartgunj and is running a family business since 1850 and still provides you with the finest quality of perfumes. The charming elderly man sitting on the other side of the desk greets you with the most pleasant smile and provides you with the variety of options to choose from.
You can also log in to http://www.scentkart.com/ and order for your sweet smell
Apart from rich heritage, Lucknow is also known for some of its finest handicrafts like Chikankari, Hand Block Textile Printing, Zari Zardozi, Ivory or Bone Carving, Terracotta and many others. Chikankari is considered to be the most popular amongst these and is recognized worldwide. The beauty of this fabric is such that you cannot leave Lucknow without buying it. There are many shops and showrooms in old Lucknow, Chowk where you can find beautiful chikankari.
Where to stay?
City offers you with the lot of stay options, from budget hotels to high end accommodations. You can simply check on internet for various options that are available to you.
Things to keep in mind
- Dress modestly, avoid wearing short dresses when visiting on a heritage sightseeing.
- Talk to people with respect, locals really offended if you refer them as ‘tum’ or ‘tu’; call them ‘aap’ instead. Keep yourself polite even if you are annoyed.
- Carry a torch wherever you go.
- Locals are friendly and will greet you with open arms
Here are few more clicks from the city of Nawabs
Editing Credits: Siddharth Malik
You can follow him on his Instagram page here: www.instagram.com/maliksiddharth/