Saunter along from the Residency and you arrive at the architectural marvel that is the Kothi Farhat Bakhsh and the adjoining Chattar Manzil. Built by Maj. Gen Claude Martin in 1781, Kothi Farhat Bakhsh (then called Martin Villa) was used by him as his residence till his death in 1800. It was later purchased by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, who christened it as Kothi Farhat Bakhsh. The Chattar Manzil was later added to the grounds by Nawab Ghazi-ud-din Haider and was finally completed during the time of his son Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider. The buildings are unique specimens of an Italian-French-Mughal architectural amalgamation that has few rivals anywhere in the world.
Chhattar Manzil is so called because of the massive golden umbrella (or chhattar) on its dome. Along with Kothi Farhat Bakhsh, it served as the royal residence of successive Nawabs, till Wajid Ali Shah moved his residence to Qaiserbagh. The British used it as the United Services Club till independence, after which it was handed over to the Central Drug Research Institute as its headquarters.
Kothi Farhat Bakhsh has a 2-storied basement that has channels connecting it to the Gomti. The water flow in the basements was regulated to keep the buildings cool during the hot Lucknow summers. Recent excavations at the site also hint at the possibility of these channels being used as a private dockyard for transportation through the river.
Chattar Manzil and Kothi Farhat Bakhsh have recently been vacated by CDRI and are currently in shambles. The ASI is currently undertaking excavation and restoration of the place with plans to turn it into a living museum exhibiting the best of Lucknow’s cultural and literary heritage.
Considered to be the richest European in India in his time, Major General Claude Martin was responsible for several other majestic buildings in the city including the present Raj Bhavan, but his most enigmatic, most famous and most unique contribution to Lucknow’s landscape was his country house – Constantia. Presently home to La Martiniere Boys’ School, the building is an architectural marvel and has significant history behind it. The author-historian William Dalrymple describes it as “East India Company’s answer to Taj Mahal” and not without reason. The building is the largest and the most unique specimen of Indo-Gothic architecture outside of Europe. It has been described as, “part Enlightenment mansion, part Nawabi fantasy, and part Gothic colonial barracks”. The history behind the building is as fantastical as the building itself. A must visit place for history buffs.
There’s more to Lucknow than what meets the eye. It unravels its mysteries like the seven-veiled courtesans of Lucknow – slowly, layer by layer. Some know it as the state capital, a bustling metropolis; some know it for its monuments. There are those who are lucky enough to witness the festivals of Lucknow and there are those who remember it for lazy afternoons, musical evenings and poetic nights. Take your time with Lucknow and you’ll see the muse that has inspired countless poets for generations.