Architecture and culture reached their zenith during the time of Awadh rule. We can see the fusion of Indian, Iranian, and Turkish or even the European style, or in more compact words, it is the fusion of Orient and Occidental style.
Here, we will be focusing on the various architectural styles of Lucknow. It is the city of Nawabs and has been inspired by Persian architecture.
The Nawabs of Awadh belong to a dynasty of Persian origin from Nishapur, Iran. Nawab Sa’adat Khan established himself in the state of Oudh in 1724.When the Mughal Empire started declining, and at the same time, Awadh started growing stronger and more independent. Earlier, the capital was Faizabad and later shifted to Lucknow. The culture was actually a mixed culture, or Hindu-Muslim customs, also called Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb.
The characteristics of Awadh architecture are the absence of iron and beams; basically it is the European element but with the presence of Lakhauri bricks, vaulted halls, use of umbrellas, Taikhanas, multiple entrances on facades, and parapets on roofs.
The whole city reflects the rich cultural and architectural influence and different customs. The architect and the design show the enhancement and development of the 18th and 19th centuries.
It was the tradition of Lucknow, and also of Delhi, that the outward ostentation and lavish decoration of palaces and government buildings were denied. It was on the grounds of safety measures. It was grand and spacious on the inside, but it appeared ordinary from the outside.
There is a difference between the styles of Indian and Western houses as the necessity of courtyards is not found in the West as women are not confined to the home alone, but in contrast, in the case of India, the courtyards are found so that women can enjoy fresh air. Although courtyards are still found in both Indian and western houses, in India they are in high demand. A house, therefore, consists of a courtyard in the middle and the building surrounding it.
We have even seen the architecture of Shah Jahan in various houses, like the large arches formed of small curves.
The real accomplishment of Indian architecture was to accommodate people in a limited space. This skill was first developed in Delhi, later on spread to other places, and in Lucknow it reached a higher degree of perfection.
A great hall is a shrine used by Shia Muslims in which the festival of Moharram is celebrated. It was constructed without the use of iron. The main Imambara consists of a large vaulted central chamber containing the tomb of Asaf-ud-Daula. There are two halls central hall or Persian hall, China hall and Indian hall is like a watermelon. Imambara is present in many other countries like Bahrain and the U.A.E. called Ma’tam, and in Central Asia – Takyakahana.
The hall is constructed without the use of any external support of wood, pillars, or iron. It is Asia’s largest hall, which is approached by two big triple-arched gateways. It was designed by Kifayatullah from Iran at the age of 101. The structure was vaulted and shaped like a teacup tray, or basically a rectangular shape. 15 by 16 meters and over 15 meters in height. The material used was coarse concrete made of bricks and mud. It all truly defines the blend of Mughal and Persian architecture. The mirror frames from Belgium used as reflectors are also found. The rectangular shape was new for India when it was built in the year 1881, which was inspired by the Persian design.
It is also called Husainabad Imambara and was built by Muhammad Ali Shah in 1837. It was built to serve the purpose of the celebration of Muharram and was built on a raised platform of three storeys.
The panjetan is symbolised by five main doorways. It has got two halls and a Shehnasheen on which the ZARIH is seen. The main hall, or Azakhana, has got the white and green border, is richly decorated with chandeliers from Belgium and England, a golden-edged mirror, and a crystal glass lamp. On the south side of the main hall is the main hall where the number of tazias made of silver, ivory, or sandlewood are kept. The exterior is decorated with Quranic verses. The tombs of Nawab Mohd. Alishah and his mother are seen in the central hall. This building, constructed in the Indo-Islamic and Persian styles, has a charbagh pattern—a single stream running through the centre of the garden. The peak of the lower part of the building is similar to the Tajmahal and looks like a copy of the crown of the king. The use of mirrors for decoration actually seems to be inspired by Iran.
Rumi Darawaza, known as the “Roman door”, was constructed in the year 1784 by Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daula. The most important entrance point to the city, inspired by a similar gateway in Istanbul.
The gateway is a semi-octagonal structure with a domed roof. The two levels of arches inside with three cusped arches are the main opening and the smaller one acts as a window. Cusped arches are basically derived from Christian architecture because of their symbolic significance. There are the three recessive arches, floral motifs crowning the apex of the inner arch. The outer arch contains floral patterns, turrets, and lotus petals. The octagonal bastions are present on both sides.
An example of Mughal architecture can be seen in minarets. The presence of minarets crowned by chhatris and an outer arch crowned by an octagonal domed kiosk
The back of the gate is rectangular in shape. The entrance has got the three arches and the smaller cusped arched windows at the top, and the roof is decorated with parapets and small chhatris.
The twin fishes are drawn on many buildings and have got a spiritual meaning in Zoroastrianism.
It is also known by the name of the Turkish gateway in Istanbul, “BAB-I HUMAYUN”.
It is typically a Hindu architectural design and is famous for its exceptional design. It is a seven-story building, of which four stories are under the water and above the water surface. This Baoli is impressive in the abstract geometry of repeated arches. The most fascinating feature is the secret view of the visitors that it offers, also called the CCTV camera of that time. One can see the colorful shadow of the visitors standing at the entrance of this structure on the water of the well.
The main reason for its construction was that it was used as a water reservoir or the water storage system.
It is technically a labyrinth which consists of 1000 passages and 489 identical doorways.
There are seven galleries within a 15-foot thick wall, with 2.5-foot wide paths. The building was made of chestnut, lime, urad dal, jaggery, fenugreek, bell, shear, flour, oyster,Gum.The building is divided into arches and made up of Lakhauri brick. The terrace of the building is considered the largest terrace in Asia at 330 feet long, 84 feet wide, 16 feet thick and tested by elephants.
It was the means to generate employment for the people during a decade of famine in Awadh. The famine not only disturbed the common people but also affected the elites.