Lucknow: City of Nawabs
I had no idea that Lucknow would be such a beautiful and interesting city to visit. Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh in India is a unique combination of ancient and modern. Known for its Nawabs, the amazing food and interesting art of Chikankari embroidery style, Lucknow houses some ancient as well as modern architecture from the colonial as well as pre-colonial era. Lucknow puts itself above all with its finesse in literature, art, the Awadhi cuisine and the etiquettes or the tehzeeb. It is one of the pristine tourist destination in India. Lucknow city is located on the banks of Gomti river.
Lucknow was actually never on my bucket list but we had heard about this amazing highway to Lucknow from our neighbours who have their native place very close to Lucknow. This highway is an extension to the Yamuna Expressway starting from Agra. Coincidentally, my in-laws were also visiting us and we wanted to plan a trip somewhere. After doing a little more research we thought ‘Why not Lucknow?’ We booked two rooms at the Lebua Lucknow hotel and we were all sent for the trip.
The drive to Lucknow was very smooth. Because it was an expressway from Greater Noida we didn’t get stuck in traffic anywhere till we reached Lucknow. We didn’t have to get into any hustling bustling city.
From Noida Lucknow is about 520 kilometres away and it took us approximately six and a half hours to reach Lucknow. It might take a little longer during winter because of thick fog on the road. Roads on the new side of Lucknow are also pretty good. It is probably very rare that you might get stuck in traffic inside the city for too long.
Lucknow, one of the culturally rich cities with some interesting architectural wonders, was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate. And was the capital of Awadh during the Mughal Rule. Eventually when the British took over Awadh, the British East India Company abolished the Mughal rule. Lucknow has also been a centre for many freedom movements.
Today’s modern Lucknow, spread on both sides of Gomti river is a perfect blend of ancient and modern with its Adab and Tehzeeb still intact, its beautiful monuments well preserved and its unique culinary style is still well maintained from the times of Royal Nawabs. Lucknow has also preserved its art in the form of music through Gazals, Thumri, Dadra, Qawali, Khayal, Shero Shairi, in the form of dance as Kathak and in the form of fabric as the world famous Chikamkari embroidery.
You would have heard this dialogue in many movies or you might have read it at the Lucknow’s Charbaug railway station.
“Agar Aap Tehzeeb aur Nazakat se Ittefaaq Rakhte hain, Beshaq Muskuraiye ki Aap Lucknow me Hain!!”
Which means, ‘if you coincidently come across etiquettes and grace, then just smile undoubtedly, you are in Lucknow'.
And when you read this, it instantaneously brings a wide smile on your face. It also give us a glimpse of Lucknow’s humble, warm and welcoming people.
As we reached the city we went straight to the hotel and checked in into our rooms. Lebua greeted us with a nice chilly welcome drink and the check in process also didn’t take much time. After resting for some time we decided to explore the city.
Places to see:
1. Bara Imambara and Jama Masjid:
Bara Imambara, built by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula in 1784, is an Urdu name where ‘Bara ‘ refers to massive and ‘Imambara’ refers to shrine. This splendid monument is a symbol of the glorious era of the Nawabs in Lucknow. The complex includes the Asfi mosque and the Labyrinth called ‘Bhulbhulaiya’ and a Shahi Baoli or the royal water well. This monument of considered as the largest arched constructions in the world, containing no beams supporting the ceiling and with eight chambers built in the surrounding with different roof heights spread over a large area of around 800 square metres.
2. Hussainabad Imambara or Chota Imambara
Chota Imambara was built by Nawab Muhammad Shah Ali in 1838 as a congregation complex of the Shia Muslim sect. the complex of Chota Imambara has a tomb of Nawab Muhammad Shah Ali and his mother. This monument is decorated with exquisite chandeliers, mirrors, silver plating, and a golden dome on the exterior with fine calligraphy.
3. Rumi Darwaza
Built by Nawab Asif-ud-Daula in 1784, Rumi Darwaza is a very large gateway and one of the greatest examples of the Awadhi style of architecture. It is also known as the Turkish Gate and was designed as per the gateway of Istanbul currently (Constantinople then). The Darwaza or the gateway marks the entrance of the old city of Lucknow. The name Rumi is derived from the modern day Rome. There are 8 faceted chattris in the uppermost part and you may reach there using the staircase. The gate is built in an interesting design, when you see from one sine you many see only one large arch of the gateway. But when seen from the other side, you will actually see three different arches as gates.
4. Jama Masjid
The construction of Jama Masjid was started by Mohammad Ali Shah Bahadur in 1839 AD. Built using the Lakhauri bricks and plastered with line, this masjid is built in the Mughal style of architecture. It has three domes under which theer is a large rectangular prayer hall.
5. Chattar Manzil
Chattar Manzil or the umbrella palace was the residence for the Nawabs of Awadh. It was built by Nawab Ghazi-ud-Din Haider and later was completed by his son Nasir-ud-Din Haider during 1780’s. it has an Indo-European style of architecture built near Hanuman Setu situated on the banks of the river Gomti. There are large underground rooms where water from the Gomti river was pushed in these umderground rooms to keep the palace cool during the hot summer months.
6. Clock Tower
Built in 1871, the Hussainabad Clock tower marked the arrival of Sir George Couper in India, the first Lieutenant Governer of Awadh. The clock Tower is an example of fine British architecture.
Satkhanda is a building right outside the Hussainabad Imambara or the Chota Imambara. Though it was planned to build in 7 storey by Nawab Muhammad Shah Ali, the building now has only 4 stories as the construction of the building was deserted after the death of Nawab Muhammad Shah Ali. This monument wasbuilt between 1837 and 1842 with the purpose of moon watching.
8. British Residency
British Residency is considered as one of the important complexes for the revolts during the first was of independence and is regarded as a National Monument. It is one of the important sites of the Revolt of 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. This site was the residential complex for British Resident General who was one of the British representatives in the court of Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, the Nawab of Awadh. This complex is overlooking the Gomati river and surrounded by lawns and gardens. The structures, though just ruins now are well preserved and protected bullet grazed walls by the Archaeological Survey of India. The complex has graves of over 2000 British soldiers who lost their lives in the Revolt of 1857. During the revolt, the residency complex served as a refuge for over 3000 Britishers during the continuous attacks that lasted for almost a month.
Now just the ruins, there is a small museum with the pictures and photographs and walls with bullet marks. One can only imagine the turmoil of 1857 revolt from these ruins.
Other interesting places to visit in Lucknow would be:
Charbaug Railway Station
Lucknow Zoo (Banarasi Bagh)
River front development
Tilae wali masjid
Tomb of Saadat Ali Khan and Khurshid Zadi
Kaiserbagh Palace Complex
La Martiniere (College or Constantia House)
Begum Hazrat Mahal Park
Dr. Ambedkar Park
Where to stay
There are many budget as well as luxurious hotels to stay in Lucknow. There are homestays as well as Airbnb also available in Lucknow.
Where to eat
There are a few suggestions for all foodies who can explore the Awadhi and cuisine.
· Sky Bar
Following is a list suggested by one of my friends form Lucknow of a few places and dishes you should try when you are in Lucknow:
· Sanatkada food option
· Makhan Mala
· Thandai, chowk ( hari wali)
· Ram aasrey , ban wali gali - malai paan
· Mehrotra Pan
· Parampara - Tuesdays
· Sharma Samosa and Chai
· Shri Lassi
· Sardar ji children bhatur
· Tunday Kebab - chowk , aminabad
· Ritz ladoo
· GPO wale dahi bade
· Royal cafe
· Rewadi and Gajak
· Prakah kulfi
· Sewak - Jalabei, puri Sabz
· Naushejaan - mutton pasanda
· Mutton kofta from Rashida Aapa
· Pani ke Batashe, Jain chaat and other places also
· Chana Jor Garam - Janpath.
· Arora Aachaar
· Saunf and Gota in Aminabad.
· Biryani - Lallana in chaupatiya
· Biryani - Naushejaan, Wahid , Idris , satte
· Rattilal khasta
What to wear
Most monuments you visit you need to cover your head. So always keep a scarf or a dupatta in your bag is you are not wear cloths to match them. You can carry a light soft scarf during summer and a thick shawl during winters, large enough to cover your head. Summers are pretty hot. So prefer wearing light cotton cloths or linen garments. Winters are quite chilly. So carry some thick and warm clothes to keep you warm and cozy. If you are visiting Lucknow during early winter or towards the end of the winter season, a light sweater or a jacket would be good enough. Try wearing decent cloths and that may cover you body. You may not want to attract some unwanted attention.
Where to shop
There are three there most famous places to shop in Lucknow as given below:
1. Hazratganj Market
Names after Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Ganj is a market place with several lanes that have the shops that sell traditional Lucknowi artefacts, cloths, jewellery as well as modern day branded shops. It is now a more of a modern at market place and has some exquisite yet expensive stuff that the other market in Lucknow. Shops in Hazratganj sell items like handloom garments, handicraft, jewellery, electronics, automobiles an have various restaurants, shopping malls, movie theatre etc.
2. Aminabad Market
Aminabad Market is another local market in old Lucknow. It is a large market place that has a large number of shops selling Chikan embroidery garments. It is one of the oldest and largest markets in Lucknow as well.
Also, if you want to taste the authentic Tundey Kabab, the most popular Kabab from Lucknow, you have to visit the original Tundey Kabab restaurant in Aminabad.
Located in the heart of the city, Chowk is also one of the oldest markets in Lucknow. Over more than 5000 shops, Chowk has a variety of things to offer to its visitors. You may find Chikankari and Zardozi Garments, traditional jewellery, perfumes, handmade handicraft etc. It you are lucky, you may ask the shopkeepers and visit the Chikankari and Zardozi workshops to witness the making of beautiful creation by yourself. It is a bit difficult art, so you might not get a chance to experience it. But visiting these workshops is an experience in itself.
How to reach
Lucknow being the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, it is well connected by air, railways and roads. And well connected to the major cities. It is easily accessible from all over the country as well as abroad.
Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport is about 14 km away from Lucknow city. It is well connected by all major cities in the country.
Charbagh Railway station is the mail railway station in Lucknow and it is well connect from all the major cities of the country. The other railway stations in Lucknow are Alamnagar, Gomti Nagar, Aishbagh junction and if you want you can book tickets that stop on any of these stations.
There is a wide network of roads that pass through Lucknow and Lucknow is connected by road as well to all major cities and different states in India. There are private and public buses available to reach Lucknow from cities like Delhi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Agra, Jhansi etc. from Delhi, you may plan visiting Madhura, Vrindavan, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra and then reach lucknow.
Best time to visit
Lucknow is such a place that you can visit anytime round the year. But the best time to visit Lucknow for an easy and comfortable stay is between November and February. The temperatures are low and the weather is pleasant to explore the city and its charming monuments.
Lucknow did not disappoint us at all. We have a great time and enjoyed the trip, the place, its culture, the hospitality, the cuisine very well and came back some with some great memories.