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Lucknow :: City Information

Best Travel Duration

May to October

History of Lucknow

Surprisingly, the story of Lucknow began not so very long ago. Though the city traces its origin to the Suryavanshi dynasty of Ayodhya in ancient times, and derives its name from Lakshmana (the brother of Lord Rama), Lucknow actually came into prominence during the 18th century. In 1732, Muhammad Shah, one of the later kings of the once-powerful Mughal dynasty, appointed Mohammed Amir Saadat Khan, a Persian adventurer of noble lineage, to the viceroyalty of the area known as Avadh, of which Lucknow was a part. Saadat Khan was the founder of the famous dynasty known as the Nawab Wazirs-a dynasty that changed the face of this hitherto little-known place. Under his successors, Lucknow flowered as never before and all but became the cultural nerve center of northern India. The rapid growth of Lucknow dates from 1755 when the fourth Nawab, Asaf-ud-Daula, transferred the capital of Avadh from Faizabad to Lucknow and set about gifting to the city some of its most splendid architectural marvels, a tradition that was sustained by this successors. During this period, Lucknow also established its prominent place in the field of poetry, music, and dance. A colorful local culture, incorporating fairs and festivals, also flourished alongside. But what really set Lucknow apart from others was a certain elegance and grace of lifestyle. A romantic and courtly ambience became a part of the city. In fact, even today the city breathes history, and the sound of laughter and music, the tinkling of ankle bells and the mellifluous rendering of Urdu poetry (shairi) still echo and reverberate through the long corridors of time. Even today, when one wanders through the city, s/he will encounter the kind of refined courtesy and polish that seems to belong to another age.

Lucknow today, nestling on the banks of the river Gomti, is a modern, bustling metropolis and serves as the capital of the large north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. But despite the changes it has undergone over the decades, it still retains the vestige of the culture that once made it one of the most celebrated cities of the land. It represents a harmonized blend of the old and the new; it has the advantages of a big, modern city, without any of the disadvantages. There is a profusion of parks and gardens redolent with nostalgia of another time. More importantly, residents of Lucknow have an extremely relaxed and laid-back attitude to life. So even though Lucknow is a big city today, there is none of the mad rush and hectic pace that one normally expects in a busy metropolis.

Places to Visit at Lucknow

Bada Imambada

Description: Bada Imambada

The Bada Imambada or Asafi Imambada (Imambada: patriarch's place) is an important tourist attraction of Lucknow. It was built by the then Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 to provide succor to the famine-stricken people. Apart from the galleries in the interior, there is no woodwork anywhere. The interior vaulted hall, measuring 162 feet long, 53 feet broad, and 50 feet high is said to be one of the largest apartments of its kind in the world.

Chota Imambada

Description: Chota Imambada lucknow

The Hussainabad or Chota Imambada is an exquisite building built by Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah in 1839 as a burial place for himself. As you enter the compound, you step into a large courtyard with a rectangular raised tank spanned by a small bridge. The beautiful Imambada, reflected in the placid water of the tank is one of the prettier sights in Lucknow. On either side of the courtyards stand a miniature version of the Taj Mahal. In one of them lies buried Zinat Asuja, the daughter of Muhammad Ali Shah and in the other are preserved the remains of her husband. The walls of the Imambada are embellished with calligraphic verses in Arabic.

Roomi Darwaza

Description: Roomi Darwaza

Apart from the Bada Imambada, Asaf-ud-Daula also built the great Roomi Darwaza as a relief work during the famine of 1783. Said to be a facsimile of one of the gates of Constantinople, this soaring edifice, which is 60 feet high, can match any similar structure in point of beauty and splendor.

Jama Masjid

 

Then there is the Jama Masjid, a great mosque with two minarets and three domes, which stands to the west of the Hussainabad Imambada. It also owes its origin to Muhammad Ali Shah who started the construction but did not live to see it completed. That task was left to Begum Malika Jahan of the royal family.

Clock Tower

Description: Clock Tower

The Hussainabad Clock Tower, rising to 221 feet, was started in 1880 and completed seven years later. The clock itself, which was designed by M. J. W. Wanson of London, is said to be the largest in India. Nearby is the Picture Gallery, a double-storey redbrick building built by Mohammed Ali Shah as a baradari. Today, it houses enormous portraits of all the Nawabs of Avadh, most of which were painted in the late 19th century by European artists. The portraits, which have recently been restored, give a good insight into the grand costumes and jewelry favored by the Nawabs.

Residency

Description: Residency

The Residency was built in 1800 by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan for the British Resident at his court. Originally a very extensive and beautiful building, it received heavy shelling during 1857, when the First War Of Indian Independence took place. The inhabitants of the Residency faced a siege of 140 days before they were rescued by British troops. The red building is today in a dilapidated state and marks of cannon shots can be seen on almost every wall. Surrounded by shady green trees, the ruins of the Residency stand, still and quiet, in the afternoon sunshine. A brooding silence engulfs the ruins and one almost expects the ghosts of the dead to suddenly materialize and flit across the rooms.

Chattar Manzil

Description: Chattar Manzil

A little distance away from the Residency is the glorious Chattar Manzil that served for a while as the palace of Begum Hazrat Mahal, the heroine of India's first fight for independence against the British. For English travelers in the 19th century, it seemed like something out of Arabian Nights! Today this splendid building houses a prosaic Drug Research Institute.

Kaiser Bagh palaces

 

Among the other fabulous monuments of Lucknow are the Kaiser Bagh palaces, built by Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Avadh, who was robbed of his kingdom by the British and confined in Calcutta where he spent the last years of his life, pining for his beloved Lucknow. The buildings are said to have cost around 80 lakhs when they were built in 1850. Today a great deal of Kaiser Bagh has disappeared (the destruction took place in the 1857 uprising), but the name still applies to the historic quadrangle where Wajid Ali Shah, wearing the dress of a dramatic performer, used to participate in fairs. There are several small pavilions for the performance of plays. The surrounding yellow buildings called Lakhi were, at one time, the harem.

How to Get To Lucknow

By Air:

 

Lucknow is connected by daily flight from major towns and cities of India.

By Rail:

 

Connect Lucknow to major cities and the rest of India.

By Road:

 

Lucknow is also well connected to other cities of the country by road. The distances to some nearby cities are as follows: Delhi, 499 km; Jhansi, 340 km; Srinagar, 1394 km; Varanasi, 319 km.