Kaisarbagh Heritage Walk: Walking through the Home of Last Nawab of Lucknow

You know, when I hear people proclaiming that they have travelled enough within India or they know ‘this’ region well, I never agree! For the fact that each corner of this country is so abundant in itself, that it is difficult to say if you have really well traveled through this region. Or atleast that’s what I could observe because each time I make a comeback, I get surprised. I have solo travelled through the 21 states and 150 plus cities within India, which also includes corners many would not even know (and I don’t wish to highlight them either). But even then, traveling through India has always surprised me. Something or the other pop up. Each time!

Kaisarbagh Complex

The case with my recent visit to Lucknow is not an exception either. It was supposed to be my fifth visit here and I still had things to catch. This time in the company of Tornos India, who have given me a reason to make a comeback to the city of Nawabs soon, to see it in a new light. I did Kaisarbagh heritage walk with them and it was apparently after a long time that I felt satisfied with a walk

Honestly, I think there is no place as glorious as Kaiserbagh which was mutilated equally bad and was left in ruins. And despite that, I think there is still something fascinating about this part of Lucknow. The construction of Kaisarbagh is accredited to Nawab Wajid Ali Shah- the last Nawab to rule Lucknow.

An entire city built within a city, Nawab Wajid Ali wanted Kaisarbagh to be regarded as the eighth wonder of the world and the sheer brilliance of its architectural work is a proof. Each lane of Kaisarbagh is almost an open-air museum, which unravels splendid structures and stories at every step. You wouldn’t loose your wow moments anywhere. It is this magnificent

Apparently, there were three new palace complexes which were built in Lucknow, during the Nawabi rule, before Kaisarbagh came into picture. Macchi Bhawan, the fortified palace of the Sheikhs, was rented by Nawab Burhan-ul-Mulk. Daulat Khana, which was built by Nawab Asaf-uddaula in 1780. Nawab Saadat Ali Khan made Chattar Manzil palace and finally Nawab Wajid Ali Shah built the Kaiserbagh palace, the most elaborate and grand complex of Nawabi Lucknow.

Uttar Pradesh Press Club- Our Starting Point

So, we started our walk from the famous Uttar Pradesh Press club gate where the guide told us that this gate in Hazratganj used to be the first gate to enter the Kaisarbagh complex, which was later brought down by the Britishers to make their own office (now converted into the Press club). Honestly, I have been to this press club twice but never had the idea that it is this historically linked. This is where the king used to give audience to the public. Turning to the right after entering from the Jilaun Khana, there used to be a China Bazaar

The Tomb of Saadat Ali Khan

The tomb of Saadat Ali Khan was our second stop that we saw on our walk. Honestly, this architectural marvel built for the fifth Nawab of Oudh- Saadat Ali Khan is a perfect reflection of Awadhi architecture, of what Lucknow heritage is known for.

The façade is decorated with lime plaster and the walls are built using bricks while sandstone is used for the floors. Bastions on each of the four corners, crowned by chhatris, contain spiral staircases which provide access to the roof and the basement. The tall and elegant central dome is topped with an inverted lotus and finial.

And most importantly the twin fish motif grabs on the entrance gate, which majorly differentiates Mughal architecture from Awadh. These fish grabs on the entrance gates are considered as an auspicious sign in Awadhi culture and was infact incorporated in the design by Saadat Ali Khan only


History to Twin Fish Grabs on Awadh Monuments

Before moving forward, I think it is important to share the relevance of Twin Face Fish grabs on Awadh architecture, because majorly this is what differentiates the Mughal structure from Awadh

Like I mentioned above, the twin face of Fish is very prominent in Awadhi architecture. The origin of these fish as a motif to be used in Awadhi architecture is definitely attributed to ‘Maahi-Maratib’, which used to be a fierce looking head of a fish mounted on a staff. This was carried in war behind the king or commander. But how it came to be a pair of fish instead of one?

It is said that Nawab Saadat ali Khan,  after being appointed the Governor of Awadh, on his way to Lucknow from Farukkhabad, was crossing the river and two fish leaped into his lap. This was considered a good omen. The two fish, symbolizing good luck reached Lucknow along with the Nawab and thus began the golden era of the history of Awadh.
The twin fish gained more prominence in 1819 AD when Court artist Robert Home designed the royal insignia for Nawab Ghaziudddin Haider’s coronation as the first King of Awadh and used the twin fish as one of the chief elements. . Infact, Fish is a universal symbol of good luck and widely used in the decorative arts of Persia, China and Japan, symbolising prosperity, fertility and feminity.

Though, this scenario changed during the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali, who replaced the fish grabs with Mermaids as the signature figure. This has more to do so with his liking in women

Tomb of Kurshid Zaidi

Not much is known about Khurshid Zadi except that she was the most adored wife of Saadat Ali Khan. The building was started during the Nawab’s reign just after his wife’s death, however, it was finally completed when by his son Ghazi-ud-din Haider, who took over this task, after the Nawab’s death

Some experts say that though people are seen getting attracted to Imambara in Lucknow but this tomb has the real art with rare designs, embedded here. Architecturally, the stuff used to built the tomb of both Saadat Ali Khan & Begum Khurshid is rare and that has surpassed others in terms of beauty and grandeur.

The Neil Gate: Formerly known as Sher Darwaza

Located north of the Telegraph Office within the Residency complex, Sher Darwaza or the Neil gate was the gateway to the Kaiserbagh palace. This gateway stood strong during the Indian Rebellion battle of 1857. On 26th September of that year a shot was fired from the top of this gateway mortally wounded General Neill, who was heading the first Relief Column to Lucknow, after which it was renamed to Neil gate. It was called Sher Darwaza primarily because the gate has Lions, which are much smaller in size now.

Apparently, during the time of Wajid Ali, this gate was exclusively permitted to be used by the royal ladies, to follow the road from chattar temple to Kaisarbagh complex. No man was allowed to enter or walk through this gate. This was the third gate to enter Kaisarbagh. The first and second gate got destroyed

Within the Kaiserbagh were two markets, Meena Bazaar and Kaptan Bazaar, exclusively for the use of the royal women.

The Fourth Gate which was used by the Royal Ladies to walk towards KaisarBagh Complex
The ruined architecture just after you will cross the gate. This is here some of the Pari’s used to live. Read below to know about the Pari

PariMahal: Now known as Bhatkande Music Institute

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah used to have three types of women in his Zehrana. Young girls aged between 12 to 15 years were called as Pari, who were allowed to enter this building known as Pari Khana where they were trained in dance & drama, and would perform with the Nawab.

Some of these Pari would get into contextual marriage with Wajid Ali and were called Begum, who would be given all luxuries and used to live a royal life. Once they conceive and have a kid, they were called as Mahal and would stay with the Nawab.

This iconic building now is known as Bhatkande Music Institute

Sanmarmar Bridge behind this Parikhana which is still the same

Safed Baradari

Safed Baradari, apparently called so because of its color (white), was built by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah as a ‘palace of mourning’ and was named Qasr-ul-Aza.

This building was constructed as an Imambara for observing ‘azadaari’ (mourning) for the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his followers at Karbala.

But once the Nawabi rule ended, the Britishers started to hold petition courts here.

Today, this building is essentially used for holding marriages and receptions.

Sometimes, it does sound ironical that once a place of mourning in Lucknow, is used for celebrations today

Lakhi Gate

Apparently, it is called as Lakhi gate because the making of this gate costed one lac. This remained the same and wasn’t destroyed by the British rule

Kotwara House- Our End Point

Finally,our walk ended at Kotwara House, which is the present day abode of the legendary film maker Raja Muzaffar and his wife Meera Ali.

Kotwara House is a part of the erstwhile palace complex of Kaiserbagh and it was mesmerising to see the way the couple did the interiors, recreating everything from the bygone era. Don’t go by words. Let the photographs speak here

So tell me when are you visiting Kaisarbagh next

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