Rediscovering Lucknow- the City of Nawabs



Lucknow the Capital of Uttar Pradesh,popularly called as the City of Nawabs,was my home town for several long years.The city has a rich historical and cultural heritage laden with art and literary works. Mythology suggests that the city has  been setup by Lord Lakshman hence named also as  Lakshmanpur.

 

The unique composite culture of doaba i.e. land of rivers Ganga and Yamuna has fostered the growth of literary traditions of Hindi literature as well as Urdu poetry known as Shero-Shairi .Colourful stories in back drop of Lucknow culture and history  have   provided inspiration and motivation to celluloid masters of Bollywood to spin some unforgettable masterpieces like Gurudatt’sChaudavin Ka Chand Rajendra Kumar and Sadhana starrer lyrical Mere Mehboob and tale of two ex Nawabs in Satyajit Ray‘s Shatranj Ke Khilari,.

Around 35 years ago I had boarded Lucknow Mail the popular train to Delhi from Lucknow’s Charbagh Railway  Station to join my new job.

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The Charbagh Railway Station

In between the city was revisited for short spells for occasional family commitments.When I had to recently make a series of short stays at the place for finalising some family matters, there was an opportunity for re bonding with the city.

Now having retired I had no time constraints, and there was ample time to freshly savour the history and culture of the town and have a leisurely trip down the memory lane.

The Chaudhary Charan Singh Airport at Lucknow is named after the famous Kisan leader and one time Prime Minister of India. Coming out of the Terminal a towering statue of former PM greets the visitor.

Initial glimpse of the city while driving through  Airpot Road is quite majestic as Mayawati regime has decked up the drive from Airport to city with lavishly built monuments and Parks.

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The Samta Chowk
 
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City Skyline from dusk to  nightfall

Our stay in Lucknow at UPTDC owned Hotel Gomti offered view of an ancient house from the window and city skyline which looked more beautiful as dusk settled and later night fell and skyline lit up with exciting colours.

 

For the morning exercises the proximity of the place to botanical garden made it the best choice.

Exotic Flowering Species at the Botanical Garden

The Lucknow Botanical Garden has been made to grow into a collection of exotic plants in back drop of  a beautiful pond with water lilies. Joggers and morning walkers spread out on the middle area for utilisation of green lawn for yoga and aerobics.

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Panormic View of The Botanical Garden
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Early bird Health freaks at the Garden
The ShahNazaf Imambara

The Shahnazaf Imambara in the vicinity is being given a facelift as if it is coming out to welcome the visitors and faithful .

Mosque at the Immabara 

A mosque in proximity gives an insight into architectural accomplishment of architects and masons in the middle ages .

 

 

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Portrait of Wazid Ali Shah

The lobby at Hotel Gomti has a large beautiful painting of Wazid Ali Shah last of the Nawabs who is remembered for his munificence and love for art forms. His regime had provided the backdrop for movie Shatranj Ke Khilari. 

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With opening of Malls all over the city the landscape appears to have changed with time, but city has still retained the old world charm. Hazratganj the less than 2 km long stretch of market in heart of town covering  land mark buildings like GPO, Northern Railway Hqs and the Press Club besides the old Hanuman temple still remains the favourite shopping destination for upmarket Lucknowites.

 The GPO Building Lucknow
Panormic view at Press Club crossing
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Hanuman Temple at Hazratganj
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NR Hqs

While taking a stroll down the Hazratganj it was quite noticeable that with the fencing of walkways, the strolling along the footpaths (popularly referred to as “ganjing” in code book of students in old times) is no longer the pleasant experience it used to be, and popular hotspots such as lover’s lane have also vanished.Off course the addition of hotspots like Cafe Coffee Day and Aryan near Raj Bhawan has blended a new upmarket dimension to the ambience and compensated for the loss.

The Hazarat Ganj Market
It was a pleasant surprise to rediscover  the tantalising taste of tikki and pani ke batashe at MotiMahal Sweets and the malai paan at Ramasrey Halwai and to realise that skills of these masters of culinary delight have remained unchanged over the years.
Tomb of Begum Hazarat Mahal

As Hazratganj stretches towards river Gomti, historical buildings pop up from every corner.A turn to left takes us to Bara(large) Imambara and Chhota (small)Imambara.

Bara Imambara constructed in 18th Century by Nawab Asifuddaulah is also known as Asifi Immabara.There are tombs, mosques and other structures which are connected with royal activities. Chhota Imambara has a lighting Hall decorated with imported lamps.A local guide on visit to the place opens up loads of stories about royal behaviour, secret passages underneath and insight about architectural highlights.

Panormic View At Bara Imambara



There are anecdotes about royal treasures and underground tunnels which were to provide escape routes in ancient times.Close to Imambara is the clock tower with ancient picture gallery which has paintings depicting Royalty in full glory.Interesting insight into Royal charities is offered in the Wasikadar office located in the clock tower.The descendants of Royal family and other beneficiaries of Royal patronage are known as Wasikadars. The office maintains volumes of records for ensuring regular payments which may be as low as a handful of rupees.But being  a Wasikadar means being a part of royalty , something to be proud of to no extent.
History has left behind it’s footprints in shape of another land mark which are the ruins of British Fortress known as Residency- the place where families of British Resident and other Britishers stationed in Lucknow were staying when the city was besieged by soldiers of British Army under Mutiny in year 1857.
 
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The Ruins of Residency
89c38-thumb_img_4692_1024 The Museum At Residency









Residency with lush green lawns and preserved structures bears mute testimony to historic events of the era.A museum in the basement has rare collection of pictures and writings connected to uprising which was labelled as “Sepoy Mutiny” by the British.

As population increased Lucknow continued to grow beyond Gomti river as colonies of Niralanagar and Mahanagar came up.  Further stretching of city limits has added up Janaki Puram , Gomti Nagar and Indira Nagar taking the city upto outpost of Chinhat .As Metro Rail Construction Boards dominate the skyline even Wajid Ali Shah would find it difficult to locate his Lucknow.

The city of Nawabs in ancient times was famous for Nazakat and Nafasat two Urdu words meaning delicacy of style and tastes. Nazakat and Nafasat epitomised the character of Lucknowite in middle ages.The traditions have been meticulously preserved in Chickan Art works (very finely embroidered garments for both sexes) and semi solid Galouti kababs of famous Tunday Kababi in Aminabad in old city. 
 
Luckhnawi Tehzib in times of Nawabs was summed up as”Pahle Aap” culture, meaning “..Please Sir…you first”.There is a famous joke referring to two Nawabs who could not board a train as they kept on requesting each other to board the train first…”Pehle AAP..Pehle AAP”….and the train whistled and left the station.

Now as Metro Train network is coming up in the city Lucknowites shall definitely need to give up at least this one part of traditional culture  while boarding and de boarding the Metros or the slide gates would be locked !!.

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