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 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.
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.
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.