AS THE MUGHAL EMPIRE disintegrated many independent kingdoms, such as Avadh, were established. Its capital, Lucknow, rose to prominence when Asaf-ud-Daula, the fourth nawab, shifted his court here from Faizabad in 1775. The city was also North India’s cultural capital, and its nawabs, best remembered for their refined and extravagant lifestyles, were patrons of the arts. Under them music and dance flourished, and many buildings were erected. In 1856 the British annexed Lucknow and deposed its last nawab, Wajid Ali Shah. This incident helped instigate the Indian Mutiny of 1857, when the city witnessed one of the bloodiest episodes in colonial history.
QAISER BAGH PALACE
Daily Once the most magnificent palace in Lucknow, Qaiser Bag , was built by Wajid Ali’ Shah (r.1847-56), the last nawabs. When the British recaptured Lucknow in 1858, they demolished many of the complex’s more fanciful structures, with their florid sculptures of mermaids and cherubs. However, the remaining buildings, although in ruins, hint at their former splendour. The Lal Baradarl now houses a fine arts academy as well as the archaeological section of the State Museum; the Pathar Wall Baradari is a school for Hindustani music; and the Safaid Baradari, now an office building, was where the nawab, dressed as a fakir, used to hold court. Only two wings of the residential quarters that once housed nawab’s vast harem remain. Carvings of fish, the nawabs’ royal emblem, adorn many of the structures. Nearby, lie two grand tombs, the Tomb of Saadat All Khan (the fifth nawab) and the Tomb of Khursbid Zadi, his wife. Under Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, Lucknow witnessed an artistic flowering. An aesthete who was not interested in governance, he devoted himself to poetry and music and is believed to have introduced the thuinri (a form of light classical music). Dance forms benefited as well, and the Lucknow gharaoa (school) of Kathak (see p28) reached new heights during his short reign, before he was deposed by the British in 1856 and exiled to Calcutta.
Named after Wajid Ali Shah’s favourite queen, Sikander Bagh was the royal pleasure garden of the nawabs. In 1857, British troops led by Sir Bolin Campbell relieved the siege of the Residency at this site. The National Botanica Gardens and Research Centre are now located in its grounds. To the west, the Shah Najaf Bambara has the tomb of Ghazi-ucl-din Haidar (the sixth nawab).
Built during Saadat Ali Khan’s reign (1798-1814), the Chattar Manzil (“Umbrella Palace”), derives its name from the umbrella-shaped gilt dome (chatter) crowning the structure. A basement (tehkhana) was built below the level of the Gomti river, so that its waters could keep the area cool in the summer. The build-) ing now houses the Central Drug Research Institute.
Lucknow’s most haunting monuments are the desolate ruins of the Residency. This complex of buildings which grew around the large brick home of the Resident, was an exclusive British enclave, protected by fortifications. In 1857, all the city’s British citizens took refuge here (luring the five-month siege. Sir Henry Lawrence, the commander of the troops, expected relief to arrive within 15 days. But, it was 87 days before a force led by Sir I l enry Havelock broke through the ranks of sepoys, only to find themselves trapped inside. For the next seven weeks they faced constant bombardment, until Sir Colin Campbell finally retook the Residency on 17 November. By then, almost 2,000 people had died either from bullet wounds or from cholera and typhoid.
‘loday, the Residency looks lust as it did in 1857. In its small museum, the gaping holes made by cannon fire. arc still visible. The Model Room on the ground floor, has a model depicting British defences during the siege. lying below, are the cellars where the women and children took shelter. The cemetery near the ruined church, has the forlorn graves of those who died, including that of Sir Henry Lawrence. And Indian Martyrs’ Memorial stands opposite, on the banks of the Gomti river.
Lucknow’s most distinctive architectural structures are the iinainbaras, or ceremonial halls used during vluharram . The Barba (“Great”) Irnambara, built by Asaf-ud- Daula in 1784, was essentially a famine relief project providing much-needed employment. It is said that while one group of workers were involved with its construction during the day, another group dismantled it at night. Elaborate gates lead to this sprawling, low edifice. Its most remarkable feature is a large hall, 50-m (16440 long and 15-m (49-ft) high, totally unsupported by pillars. Above it is the bhulbjulaiya, a labyrinth of balconies and passages. The Asafi Mosque and a stepwell also lie in the compound. Asaf-ud-Daula also erected the 18-m (59-ft) high Rumi Darwaza, just outside. This portal, embellished with lavish decorations, was the Imambara’s west facing entrance.