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Bhool Bhulaiya, Lucknow- A marvel of Indian Architecture

Lucknow is regarded as the city of “Nawabs”, who by common perception were assumed fat, heavily drunk, lethargic and sycophantic to the British. Asaf-ud-daulah also started off as a fat, drunk Nawab who generously gifted territories of his kingdom to British. He was amateur, submissive and would drink with his servants disregarding all consciousness of class, caste and creed.  Asaf-ud-daulah beautified Lucknow with monuments having domes and minarets, a common sight in Mughal architecture. “Bada Imambara” is one of those monuments and an architectural marvel too. It consists of the famed Bhool Bhulaiya, a labyrinth built inside, that still proves to be confusing for the visitors.

The building is managed by ASI, which mandates all tourists to visit this grandiose architecture with an official guide.
Here is a collection of 5 interesting facts about Bhool Bhulaiya at Lucknow :The first official MNREGA sort of project. Construction of Bara Imambara was started in 1785, a year of a devastating famine, and one of Asaf-ud-Daula’s objectives in embarking on this grandiose project was to provide employment for people in the region for almost a decade while the famine lasted. It is said that ordinary people used to work in the day building up the edifice. The noblemen and elite class worked at night as they didn’t want to be seen doing hard work to earn their daily bread.
The progress done during night was decimated the next day due to irregularities and imbalance of construction. More than 22,000 people were employed during the construction.It is one of largest arched construction without any beam support
The main hall of the Imambara is 162 ft. in length and 53 ft. 6 in. wide. The arched roof of this vaulted hall is acclaimed as an architectural wonder, because no beams or intervening supports appear to hold the 16 ft. thick slab which is estimated to be 2,00,000 tons in weight. The ceiling of the hall is 50 ft. high above the floor.

Central hall of Bara Imambara, Lucknow

 In this central hall rests the grave of the Nawab along with his crown. People also believe that the principal architect of the building “Kifayatullah” is also buried in the central hall.Magnificent labyrinth with 489 identical doorways and more than 1000 passages

The confusing maze (Bhool Bhulaiya) in Bara Imambara

Bhool Bhulaiya at Bada Imambara

The “Bhool Bhulaiya” inside the Bada Imambara is one of the largest existing in the world as of date. It comprises a network of more than 1,000 passages, 489 identical doorways and a number of staircases that goes up or down.Only one of these staircases, when negotiated correctly, leads to the roof on the top, from where it is convenient to come down by a normal straight staircase. Visitors often lose their way in the Bhool Bhulaiya. The grooved walls of the building allow visitors to hear voices clearly even from far off distances.

The structure is believed to house several secret tunnels rumored to lead to Faizabad, Allahabad and even Delhi. But, they have been sealed due to disuse and fear over the disappearance of people or couples who knowingly or unknowingly went missing, while exploring.A structure built without the use of wood, Iron or cement standing strong for over 200 years

We in India always read about collapse of concrete buildings killing innocent people nearby. Sometimes, even brand new buildings have fallen as a result of faulty construction or substandard building material used. In such times, a structure built without the use of Wood, Iron or cement is still standing strong. This is nothing short of a miracle of modern times.

The Bhool bhulaiya at Imambara is one of the last few structures, which didn’t follow European architecture or building materials. Small lakhnavi bricks along with mixture of Rice husk, Pulses etc. were used in place of cement. Most of the walls are hollow in order to restrict the weight of the building.Shahi Bawli (Royal well) with inbuilt mechanism to show people approaching the well

The Bada Imambara complex also houses a royal well and Asafi Masjid which is in use still today. The royal well was used to fulfill the requirement of clean and cold water. The blue water could still be seen on the surface of the well. The water on eastern side can show a person approaching the well. The grooved structure here too helps in listening to slightest sound made on the road. This was used to take any required preemptive action in case of enemy attack. The bathrooms are housed on first and second floor of the well.

Shahi Bawli or Royal well at Bara Imambara



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