As you saunter out of the Asafi Imambada and turn to your left, another imposing structure rears up in front of you that immediately lets you know that you are in the famed city of Lucknow. Although modeled on a similar archway in Istanbul, the Rumi Darwaza has become the quintessential symbol of Lucknow. You can see it in logos, on posters, in artwork, on t-shirts, in films, documentaries and is as much a marker for Lucknow as the Eiffel tower is for Paris.
Pass through its perfectly proportioned, intricately ornamented, pigeon and bat infested archways and carry on for a few hundred meters to see the tallest clock tower in India. The Lucknow Clock Tower is an excellent specimen of British architecture and was built in 1881 by Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider to mark the arrival of Sir George Couper, the first lieutenant governor of the United Province of Avadh. At 67 meters, it is the tallest clock tower in the country and houses the largest clock in India. The nearby Husainabad Picture Gallery houses portraits of Nawabs and has an adjoining artificial lake to complement the landscape. The striking red Baradari was once the summerhouse for Nawabs and now houses the offices of the Husainabad Trust.
A few hundred meters from the Picture Gallery stands the Hussainabad Imambara or as it is lovingly known, Chhota Imambara. One of the most adorned imambadas in Lucknow, it was built in 1832 by Mohammed Ali Shah, the third Nawab of Oudh. Ornamented with some of the most exquisite stucco work and calligraphy, the imambada is one of the finest examples of Indo-persian architecture. It has a well laid garden and a canal running through it at the entrance and 2 replicas of Tajmahal inside its complex. During Muharram, the place is lighted up with Belgian glass chandeliers and is a sight to behold.
The Hussainabad area itself is a piece of living history, one that charms and beguiles at every step. Serpentine lanes, overflowing with spices, sweets, roasting meats, chai shops and homes running into one another, the area seems to be living in a time warp of sorts where the new and the old intermingle recklessly.
When you’ve had enough of the cloistered lanes, move out towards the British Residency to revive your spirits with a patch of greenery in the middle of a busy metropolis. The ruins of Residency tell you the story of the famed siege of Lucknow during the uprising of 1857. Spread across 33 acres, it was built during 1780 to the 1800’s to house the British Resident General as a representative in the Nawab’s court. The entire complex consists of several houses, treasury, army barracks, outposts, residential quarters, a mosque, a church and a hospital.
Today, the ruins of Residency stand testimony to the turbulent times of 1857 when almost the entire British population of Lucknow was packed inside it, under a siege that lasted 5 months. Blessed with open gardens and dense foliage all around, the Residency also houses the 1857 Museum, showcasing artifacts, maps, cannon balls and takes you through a visual showcase of the events of 1857. The cemetery at the Residency is the final resting place for several British officers including that of Sir Henry Lawrence who died here during the siege. With its natural and historical significance, the ruins of the British Residency are a must visit stop during your trip to Lucknow.