Lucknow – the capital of Uttar Pradesh is a modern city that is still home to some of the most iconic historical monuments. Situated at the bank of river Gomti, Lucknow is also known for its gardens, parks and unique archaeological sites. From Nawabi style culinary delights to the exquisite charm and flair of the Urdu language spoken here – a visit to Lucknow can never be ordinary.
However, if there’s one thing that you must not come back after visiting is the magnificent Bara Imambara, a historical edifice with such marvellous architecture that you’ll be stunned. The Imambara was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 in a famine relief programme, and is a mixture of Rajput and Mughal architecture with Gothic influences. The Bara Imambara is an interesting fort-like structure; it is neither a mosque, nor a mausoleum, but a huge building with interesting elements within it.
The Bara Imambara is basically a huge hall built at the end of a spectacular courtyard that has to be reached through two magnificent triple-arched gateways. The central hall of the Imambara is almost 50 meter in length and 16 meter wide, with the ceiling being more than 15 meter high. The column-less hall is one of the largest of its kind in the world without any external support of wood, iron, or stone beams. The roof has been put together with interlocking bricks without having used a beam or a girder. Therefore, it is viewed as a unique architectural achievement.
The whole structure has an amazing maze of corridors hidden between the halls; the dense, dark maze is called the Bhul Bhulaiya – meant to be explored only by the strong-hearted. It is a network of more than 1000 labyrinthine passages, some of which lead to spooky dead-ends. You can take the help of a certifies guide if you want a tour of the secret labyrinth without getting lost.
Another intriguing structure at the Imambara is the five-storied baoli or step-well, belonging to the pre-Nawabi era. Also called the Shahi-Hammam (or royal bath), this baoli is connected with river Gomti where only the first two stories are above water, and the rest being perennially under water.