The Bara Imambara is one of the most imposing and beautiful structures of Lucknow. The Bara Imambara is neither a mosque nor a mausoleum. It is a place where the Shia Muslims gather together for various ceremonies especially the Muharram.
The Bara Imambara was built by the eccentric Nawab of Lucknow Asaf-ud-Daula. He shifted the capital of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow. Under his rule, Lucknow emerged as a powerful centre of Shia culture. The Nawab was also a great builder and the bara Imambar and rumi darwaza was built by him. There is an interesting fact about the reason for the building of the Bara Imambara. Awadh was hit by a severe famine during the 1783. The Nawab at this time commissioned the building of the Bara Imambara so that that people would get employment. The famine lasted almost for a decade. So to generate employment, the construction also continued for that period. It is said that the structure was built in the morning and was dismantled at the night by the nobility. In this was the people were never out of work. Indeed a unique and noble idea by the Nawab!
The architecture of the Bara Imambara is unique. The whole building was made of Lucknowi bricks and lime plaster. No wood or metal had been used for the construction. What is interesting about the building is that the large central hall was built without any columns. The arched roof of the central hall does not have a single beam or girder. It is said that this is the largest building of the world without any pillar support.
The walls of the hall were made hollow to lighten the structure. The genious architecture who made the Imambara was Kifayatullah from Shajanabad. The tomb of the nawab Asaf-ud Daula and his architect both lies at the central hall of the Bara Imambara.
Bhool Bhulayia or the Labyrinth is constructed above the Imambara. It comprises of almost 1000 passageways and 489 identical doorways which gives the feeling of getting lost. The Bhool Bhulayia was built in such a way to accommodate the design of the central hall. The lucknow Bhool Bhulayia consists of a series of maze – a path breaking into multiple paths and they break down into other paths.
The Baoli and Asifi Mosque:
The Bara Imambara also has the Baoli at one side. Baoli is actually a stepwell, where the water may be reached by a flight of stairs. The Baoli is at 45 degrees angle to the main gate. You can see the reflection of the main gate in the Baoli waters. According to the guide, the Baoli acted as modern day CCTV camera. The royal guards could see any outsiders from the Baoli while they remained hidden.
The Imambara also has the Asifi mosque at one side. It is also a magnificent structure. Non-Muslims are generally not allowed to enter the mosque.
The Bara Imambara is one of the greatest attractions of Lucknow – the city of Nawabs, adab and kebabs. A few important facts for you when you visit Lucknow.
How to reach:
Lucknow is well connected by rail and road from all the major Railway stations of India .
There are also daily flights to Amausi Airport, Lucknow from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Where to stay:
There are numerous hotels available at the major places in Lucknow. It is recommended to stay at any of these places -near Charbagh Railway station, Gomti nagar or Hazratganj. Charbagh and Gomti Nagar have some budget hotels while Hazratganj is comparatively costlier.
Bara Imambara Timimgs:
The Bara Imambara is open from sunrise to sunset. Though the Bhool Bhulayia opens only at 9.00 am. The entry fee is R.50 for Indians and Rs.500/- for foreigners.
There are guides available at fixed rate. Please see the rate and then pay the guides. They often have the tendency to ask for more.