Saturday, 25 October 2014

A humane builder of Bada Imambara, Lucknow, India - Nawob Asaf-ud-Daula

Bada Imambara,Lucknow, India. flickr,com

Bada Imambara,Lucknow, India. flickr,com
 Invariably most of the Indian Muslim rulers had a taste for constructing wonderful buildings of beauty and artistic work that stood the time and tide and to day they stand as great historical monuments linking the present with the past. Their wonderful contribution to architecture, a combination of Indian, Persian and Ottoman is praise-worthy.

 Bada Imambara, neither a mosque nor a mausoleum, at Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India was built by Nawob of Awadh, Asaf-ud-Daula. An imambara is a shrine built by  Shia Muslims for the purpose of Azadari. It is one of the  most fascinating buildings in India and is being visited by thousands of people every day.  At 50 by 16 meters and over 15 meters tall, the massive building has no beams supporting  the ceiling and is considered as one of the largest  arched constructions  in the world. There are eight surrounding chambers built to different roof heights, allowing the space above these to be reconstructed as a three-dimensional labyrinth with passages interconnecting with each other through 489 identical doorways. it is possibly the only existing maze in India and came about unintentionally to support the weight of the building which was built on marshy land.The architect was one  Kifayatullah from Delhi. He was buried in the main hall of the Imambara.

The compassion and humane nature of the Nawob was brought out during the construction of Bada Imambara. During the reign of Nawob Asaf-ud-Daula  the whole region was in the grip of famine and hunger. The  people, already reeling under poverty and hunger, needed food to stay alive to survive the bad period. The Nawob decided to build the great  Imambara, on food-for-work basis to mitigate the people's sufferings and  hunger. It was an innovative and  grand project ever undertaken with an express purpose of  providing  employment for people in the region for almost a decade while the famine lasted. He employed roughly 22,000 people to work day and night and build this huge building. An interesting aspect of the construction of Bada Imambara was around one-forth of the work done by ordinary people during the day was demolished at night by noble men against payment. Thus, there was always the scope for continuous  employment for the people. The work of  Inambara  began in 1785 and completed in 1791 It is also said that before distributing muskmelons among the poor, Asaf-ud-Daula, a caring human being as he was, used to get them inserted with jewels. The Nawob of Awadh was a wonderful human being with a big heart which many rulers lacked. They spent more time in the harem, dallying with the damsels than among their subjects. This wonderful historical building is a silent  remainder of India's past ruler's affluence and his generosity towards his subjects - both rich and poor who underwent hell during the famine. What a way to take care of peoples' pangs of hunger in times of distress, a noble act that take the persons near to God.
                 
Imambara,Lucknow, India. www.flickr.com
Total cost of building the  Imambara was between half a million rupees to a million rupees.  Nawob had spent  between four and five hundred thousand rupees on its decoration annually for decoration, etc.

Ref:   
Meenakshi Khanna (2007-07-01). Cultural History Of Medieval India. Berghahn Books. p. 82. ISBN 978-81-87358-30-5.