Lucknow Information

Lucknow, the land of ‘Nawabs’ synonymous with lavish extravagance is well known for its ‘tehzeeb’ or extreme delicacy and cultivated manners.  Fine living is a tradition and social etiquette an integral part of life.  The proverbial pehle aap – after you – is a legendary mannerism that echoes the inherent courtesy that a Lucknow pays to every person regardless of station or rank.

The present day city was established by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, when he shifted his capital from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775.  It emerged as an important political and culture centre, rivalling Delhi in its patronage to art and literature.  In 1865, the british annexed Avadh, exiling the last Nawab, Wajid Ali Shah, on grounds of misrule.  Lucknow was one of the most volatile centres, during the Mutiny of  1857, as it was a key administrative and military centre of the British East India Company.  Today, the modern city of Lucknow sprawls on the both sides of river Gomti and is a fine blend of traditions and modernity.  It still retains the regal ambience and mannerism, while adapting to the needs of modern world.  Lucknow is also famous for its elaborate cuisine and ‘Chikankaari’ or exquisite shadow – work embroidery on fine muslin cloth.

Situated on the banks of the Gomti River, Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, has a relatively calm disposition, its urbane gentility and relative absence of beggars and touts a welcome change from the heady assault that so marks the experience in more popular North Indian cities. Lucknavis are in fact given to a peculiar strain of pomposity that seems entirely out of place in the 21st century—locals call out to you in pukka high-falutin’ English “Good evening” at three in the afternoon, and a firm “How are you, gentleman?” is popular among locals keen to demonstrate their eloquent English, no matter how limited it really is. Lucknow owes its sense of pride and heritage to the cultured Avadh Nawabs: A minor dynasty founded by the Persian aristocrat Nawab Saadat Khan Burhan-ul- Mulk, the Nawabs ruled the independent state of Avadh (or Oudh, as the British called it), which grew in splendor—so much so that by the middle of the 18th century (coinciding with the decline of Delhi), Lucknow was India’s largest and most prosperous city, filled with grandiose palaces, gilded cupolas, and pleasure gardens. It was to retain this reputation for almost a century—in 1850 a correspondent for The Times of London favorably compared Lucknow with Rome, Athens, and Constantinople. While the Nawabs were known as men of refinement and taste, fond of poetry and courtly dance, they had some decadent predilections, highlighted by the last Nawab’s weakness for muta, temporary marriages that often lasted a single night. When the British summarily unseated the last Nawab and annexed Avadh in 1856, it helped spark the notorious Mutiny, known in India as the First War of Independence, during which 2,000 people were killed on the grounds of Lucknow’s Residency. Much of Lucknow’s former glory was further dissipated when, after Partition in 1947, the city’s cultured elite emigrated en masse to Pakistan. Now the capital of a state plagued with corruption, Lucknow continues to draw the spotlight for the various political intrigues played out here by the state government.

THINGS TO SEE & DO

You can easily see Lucknow’s significant sights in a morning. At the top of the list is the Bara (Great) Imambara (see below). Your ticket also provides access to the nearby Chhota (Little) Imambara , which contains the tombs of its creator, Mohammed Ali Shah, and his mother. Built in 1837, it features opulent and ornate interiors with colorful stucco walls, gilt-edged mirrors, a golden domed silver pulpit (mimbar), and chandeliers that are lit during Muharram. In between the two Imambaras is the Husainabad Clock Tower, and near it is the Picture Gallery, where life-size portraits of the Nawabs of Oudh are housed. Don’t miss the portrait of Nawab Wajid Ali hidden behind a curtain, allegedly because a British lady fainted after seeing the last Nawab’s strategically exposed nipple.

La Martinière College

La Martinière College , a lovely stone mansion off Kalidas Marg, is one of the architectural highlights of Lucknow, and although it’s not really open to visitors, you can admire the facade of the 17th-century home of Claude Martin, major general of the East India Company, and wander around the grounds. Huge stone lions with gaping jaws stand upon the mansion gables, and it’s said that fires were lit in their mouths to illuminate the glaring eyes of these beasts in order to scare off the wild animals of the surrounding swamps.

Although The Residency is billed as one of the city’s top attractions, the ruins here hold little appeal unless you’re intimate with their history. The home of the British Resident appointed to look into the affairs of the Oudh, where more than 2,000 British residents and Indians loyal to the Raj died during the Mutiny, it bears the scars of fierce bombardment. The sprawling complex of burnt-out, skeletal buildings is in pretty much the same state as the day the siege ended. Feel free to skip this, and head for the bazaars where you can experience Lucknow’s colorful daily life. In the predominantly Shiite Muslim area of the Chowk, women in black burkas go about their daily shopping, while merchants in white prayer caps operate their businesses in premises downstairs from their family homes, protected from the sun by wooden shutters and jalis (screens). Lucknow is famous for attar, the scented oils used to make perfumes. Used by Muslim men and women, the oils are made from a magnificent variety of flowers and fruits; some fragrances are created to smell like the earth during monsoon rains. Chowk Bazaar is filled with attar shops; to purchase a sample, visit Izhar Ahmad & Sons, or the granddaddy of them all, Azam Ali-Alam Ali Industry, which has been producing attars for centuries. Lucknow is also famous for delicate chikankaari embroidery, now a major industry. Wander around the shops of Aminabad and you’ll definitely see some fabric or kurtas worth buying. Try to take lunch at either branch of the famous Tunday Kababi (see “Where to Dine,” below), which serves cheap, delicious bazaar food.

Bara Imambara

Bara Imambara Built in 1784, Lucknow’s most significant monument is a large edifice of grandiose proportions, built of lakhauri bricks plastered with lime and decorated with molding. The Great Imambara houses what is said to be the largest vaulted hall in the world. The hall’s interior is kept cool by massive hollow walls that also help lighten the load of the structure, completely unsupported by pillars or beams. Dripping with Belgian chandeliers and other ornate embellishments, the hall is where the taziyas (paper shrines representing the graves of Imam Hussain and the martyrs of Karbala) are kept when not being carried through the streets of the city each year during the solemn month of Muharram. Visitors to the Bara Imambara enter through Rumi Darwaza, an 18m (60-ft.) tower that stands like a sentinel overlooking the city’s grand monuments. For a truly atmospheric experience with fabulous views of the complex and of the surrounding neighborhood, head upstairs to the attic’s labyrinthine maze called the bulbulya; just above this is a flat roof where you can relax and observe the city. Adjacent the Bara Imambara, Asafi Mosque is off-limits to non- Muslims. Across from it is an atmospheric step well, or bauli. (The Bada Imambara is best appreciated with a good guide; see guided tours above.)

Location

Lucknow is the capital city of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, with an area of 75 sq.km extending from latitude.

Climate

Lucknow is in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh, where it is very dry and hot in summers.  Temperatures rise beyond 40°C in the day.  In winter, the temperature goes down to about 23°C during the day and 9°C at night.

History

Lucknow traces its origin to the Suryavanshi dynasty of Ayodhya in ancient times, and derives its name from Lakshmana, brother of Lord Rama, the hero of the Indian epic, Ramayana.  The city came into prominence only during the 18th century.  In 1732, Muhammad Shah, one of the later kings of the once powerful Mughal dynasty, appointed Mohammad Amir Saadat Khan, a Persian adventure of noble lineage, to the viceroyalty of the area known as Awadh, 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. Lucknow was set up in its present form by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1775.

Lucknow Tourism Information

Lucknow is the old capital of the nawabs of Awadh where culture, courtesy and courtly lifestyle reigned supreme.  The imperialistic splendor and magnificence of the Nawabi era has been glorified and eulogized down the ages by writers, poets and historians alike.  Contemporary Lucknow is a far cry from the elegance and class of the old Awadh.  Now, the city is very much a reflection of modern India with unplanned development, crowded streets and polluted air.  But the discerning traveler can still have a glimpse of the aura of those heady days in the old monuments, ruins and the inner city lanes and alleyways.

Asafi or bara Imambara

This architectural wonder was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784, as a famine relief project.  The central hall with a 20,000 tonne roof is said to be the largest room (50m * 15m) in the world, unsupported by pillars.  It is also known for the ‘Bhul Bhulaiyan’, a series of intricate labyrinth on the upper floor, which should be visited only with an authorized guide.   To the left is the majestic Asafi mosque. Also known as the Bara Imambara, it was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 and is one of the Architectural highlights of the era.  The central hall is said to be the largest vaulted chamber in the world.  Except for the galleries in the interior, there is no woodwork used in the structure.  A staircase from outside leads to a series of labyrinths which visitors are advised to visit only with authorized guides.  Within the compound of the imambara is a grand Asafi Mosque.

Chhota or Hussainabad Imambara

The beautiful structure near Rumi Darwaza was built between 1837 to 42 by Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah and has the tombs of it builder and his mother.  It has golden dome and numerous turrets and minarets.  The exteriors are adorned with fine calligraphy, while the interiors have chandeliers, gift – edged mirrors, colourful stucco, the king’s throne and ornate tazias. Near the Rumi Darwaza, this structure houses the tombs of Muhamad Ali Shah, its builder, and of his mother.  It is approached through a fine garden.  The Imambara has a white dome and numerous turrets and minarets.  The walls of the mausoleum are decorated with verses in Arabic.  Chandeliers, gilded mirrors, colorful stucco, the king's throne and ornate tazia or replicas of the tombs at Karbala adorn the interior.

Kaiserbagh Palace Complex

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah built the grand palace complex between 1848 and 1850, with a view to create the eighth wonder of the world. The yellow buildings flanked by two Lakhi Gates were once used as the royal harem.  In the centre of the quadrangle is the beautiful Baradari. The construction of the Kaiserbagh Palaces was started in 1848 by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and completed in 1850.  They were built to create the eighth wonder of the world.  The yellow buildings on three sides of the quadrangle, now the property of Taluqdars, once provided quarters for the ladies of the harem.  In the centre, stands the Baradari, a picturesque white stone edifice which was earlier paved with silver.

La Martiniere

This extraordinary structure beautifully blends Italian architectural style with the native Hindu and Muslim styles.  It is perhaps the finest and the largest specimen of European funerary monument in the subcontinent and was built in 1793, by Major General Claude martin, a French soldier and the richest European in Lucknow.  The magnificent edifice has four octagonal towers with numerous rooms and the exteriors are beautifully decorated.  It houses a fine school which was established way back in 1840.

 Lucknow Residency

It was built between 1780 – 1800, as the official residence of the British Resident.  The Britishers residing in Lucknow took refuge over here for 87 days during the 1857 mutiny.  Today, it is a mute witness to one of the bitterest battle of 1857, with gaping holes made by cannon balls.

Rumi Darwaza

This 60ft high ornate gateway was built by nawab Asaf-ud-daula in 1784, under the famine relief project.  It is said to be constructed on the lines of one of the gates of Constantinople.

Shah Najaf Imambara

The white domed mausoleum on the right bank of river Gomti is named after the sacred town of Najaf, near Baghdad.  It has the tomb of Ghazi-ud-din Haider flanked by the tombs of his wives. This white-domed structure derives its name from the town of Najaf, about 200km south of Baghdad where the saint Hazrat Ali is buried.  It is situated on the banks of the Gomi, In this mausoleum, are buried the remains of Ghazi-ud-din Haider and his wives, including Mubarak Mahal, his European wife.  The entrance leads to a beautiful garden.  The silver tomb of Ghazi-ud-din Haider lies in the centre of the building and is flanked by the more imposing silver and gold tomb of Mubarak Mahal on one side, and another tomb on the other.

Sikandar Bagh

The charming summer house fortified by a high wall was named after one of the wives of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.  It witnessed a bloody battle during the Mutiny of 1857.  The summer house no w has the National Botanical Research Institute and its garden is open for public between 6 AM and 5PM.

State Museum / Zoo

The State museum islocated within the zoo premises at Banarasi Bagh. It exhibits and fine collection of artefacts and memorabilia.  The zoo has a rich variety of animals and is popular among kids.
Other places of interest are – Clock Tower, Jama Masjid, Chhatar Manzil, Maqbara Saadat Ali Khan and Khurshid Zadi, Moti Mahal, Dilkusha Garden, Alambagh Palace Bibiyapur Kothi, Charbagh Railway Station etc.

Lucknow Tour Information

Kanpur (65km)

The busting city on the banks of river Ganga is one of the major industrial centres of North India.  It is said to be founded by King Hindu Singh of the erstwhile state of Sachendi and later came under the British after the treaty of 1801, with Nawab Saadat Ali Khan of Awadh.  The city emerged as one of the most important military stations of the British and was one of epicentres 1857 war of Indian independence.  Leading freedom fighters like Nana Sahib, Tantiya Tope, Azimoolah Khan abd Brig.  Jwala Prasad were closely associated with the city.  Some of the attractions of Kanpur are the mound of Jajmau, the magnificent Shri Radhakrishna Temple or J.K. Temple, Jain Glass Temple, Allen Forest Zoo, Phool Bagh, Nana Rao Park and the impressive Kanpur Memorial Church (All Soul’s Cathedral) etc.

Bithoor (27 km)

The peaceful town on the banks of river Ganga is an important historic and pilgrim centre.  According to Hindu scriptures Lord Brahma selected Utpalaranya (Bithoor) for the creation of mankind.  Bithoor came into prominence during 18thcentury under the ruld of Nawab Shuja-ud-daula.  Almas Ali Khan, his administrator erected a mosque ner Lakshman Ghat on the right bank of Ganga.  It became the capital of the Pargana from 1811 to 1819.  After the departure of the courts, the palace was assigned as a residence to Baji Rao, the deposed Peshwa.  The palace of Nan Sahib was reduced to rubble by the British in 1857.  Bithoor was earlier known as ‘Bavan Ghaton ki Nagri’ or the city of 52 Ghats.  Today, there are only 29 ghats and the Brahmavart Ghat is considered to be the holiest.  It is sadi that Lord Brahma after creating man-kind installed a Shivalinga here, which is worshipped as Brahmeshwar Mahadeva.

Festivals

FESTIVALS Rooted in Shia Muslim traditions, Lucknow enjoys some unique customs, the most significant of which is Muharram, a festival that commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the Prophet’s grandson. Whereas in other parts of the world, Muharram lasts between 10 and 12 days, in Lucknow it extends over 2 months and 8 days. During this time, people gather in the Shia imambaras in the presence of taziyas (replicas of the tombs of the martyrs), and it’s not uncommon to see men flagellating themselves with knives and chains as symbolic acts of their need to be forgiven for being unable to help defend the martyr.

Deva Mela

The annual urs of Haji Waris Ali Shah is celebrated between October and November at Deva, 10km from Barabanki.  This fair attracts pilgrims from as far as Pakistan and the Middle East countries.  The shrine of the Sufi saint is much revered by Muslim pilgrims all over the world.

Lucknow Festival (November)

The Lucknow Festival is a ten-day long event held between November 25 and December 5.  This festival celebrates Lucknow's living culture.  A brilliant showcase of arts and crafts, the festival is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Colorful processions, traditional dramas, Kathak dances in the style of the famous Lucknow gharana, sarangi and sitar recital along with ghazals, qawalis and thumri create a festive atmosphere.  Exciting events like ekka races, kite flying, cock fighting and other traditional village games make the city alive.

Lucknow Distance Guide

Lucknow to Aligarh 371 Km
Lucknow to Allahabad 237 Km
Lucknow to Almora 479 Km
Lucknow to Badrinath 767 Km
Lucknow to Banda 233 Km
Lucknow to Bareilly 244 Km
Lucknow to Budaun 292 Km
Lucknow to Dehradun 647 Km
Lucknow to Etawah 248 Km
Lucknow to Faizabad 125 Km
Lucknow to Fatehgarh 212 Km
Lucknow to Ghazipur 355 Km
Lucknow to Gonda 102 Km
Lucknow to Gorakhpur 253 Km
Lucknow to Haridwar 593 Km
Lucknow to Jhansi 301 Km
Lucknow to Kanpur 79 Km
Lucknow to Lakhimpur 131 Km
Lucknow to Agra 369 Km
Lucknow to Mathura 423 Km
Lucknow to Meerut 458 Km
Lucknow to Moradabad 336 Km
Lucknow to Nainital 379 Km
Lucknow to Pithoragarh 453 Km
Lucknow to Rampur 310 Km
Lucknow to Saharanpur 600 Km
Lucknow to Shahjahanpur 178 Km
Lucknow to Uttar Kashi 647 Km
Lucknow to Varanasi 286 Km