Bara Imambara, the largest Arched Monument!

First arched gateway

It was a day with full of training work, when it started to drizzle down. Being in the city of Nawabs Lucknow, I decided to get to the Bara Imambara, as the weather was so pleasant. And, thereby when i finally reached the first gateway to the Imambara, I was perplexed by huge and elegant design of the World’s largest unsupported structure. It is definitely a marvel in engineering work.

Bara Imambara of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, built in 1784
Bara Imambara of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, built in 1784

Built under the royal patronage of fourth Nawab of Awadh, Asaf-ud-Daula(1775-97 A.D.) and designed by prominent architect of that time Hafiz Kifayat ullah, this grand structure locally known as Bara Imambara contains the graves of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula and his wife Shamsunnisa Begum. It is often also known as Asafia Imambara.

It was built in the year 1784 of devastating famine which lasted over a decade, and thus the noble objective behind this shrine was to provide employment to people, as the ordinary or needy ones worked to build it up in the day, while noblemen worked to break down anything that was built at night.

Thus, it took 14 years to complete the whole structure, which shows the mixture of Rajput and Mughal architectures with Gothic influences.

The Bara Imambara is a large complex, which has a mosque, courtyards, gateways and a step-well with running water, thus was used as a summer palace. Entered through triple-arched two magnificient gateways, its scheme comprises Naubat Khan on the north, Asafi mosque on the west, Shahi Baoli on the east, while the main buildings stands on the rear south. The main building of Imambara is a three-story-ed building constructed on a raised platform.

Second Gateway to the Bara Imambara
Second triple-arched enormous Gateway to the Bara Imambara, Asafi mosque and Shahi Baoli

The Asafi Masjid with sculptured domes and minarets, it provides a most splendid look and many thousands of people of Lucknow reach here on Friday to offer namaz.

Asafi Mosque
Asafi mosque on the west of Bara Imambara

The Bara Imambara is neither a mosque, nor a mausoleum, but a huge building having interesting elements within it. The construction of the halls and the use of vaults, portray a strong Islamic influence. There are seven arched opening in the facade. Then,there are three halls made for different concepts known as main hall measuring 47.71*16.16 meters with a maximum height of 14.65 meters flanked by Chinese hall on the right and Indian hall on the left.

This hall is said to be the largest arched hall in the world. The construction is very interesting, as the bricks have been interlocked without any support of girders and beams! The roof stands steady still till date without any pillars supporting it.

It is made up of Lakhauri bricks laid in lime mortar, the monument is exquisitely decorated with stucco work and adorned with parapets and chattris. The interior is ornamented with costly chandeliers, tazias, alam, etc. No wood or metal has been used to built it.

On the top, Bhul bhulaiya or labyrinth with intricate balconies and passages with 489 identical doorways is a very special attraction. Some of which have dead-ends, some end at precipitous drops while others lead to entrance or exit points. Recommended only with the consult of guides.

Bada Imambara is the venue for the Muslims to celebrate the religious festival of Muharram every year. One can view a scenic panorama of the city from the top of this monument, which is absolutely breath-taking.

 The Asafia Imambara is not only a great monument of Lucknow providing tourists, but also provides Nawab city a message of humanity, kindness and love. It is not just a visual treat to our eyes, but its halls have many stories to tell.

Tanga’s or horse carriages provide a very royal view of the area.
The second gateway to the Imambara also provides us with different ornamental shops with jewelry of designs representing Nawab culture.