Lucknow Introduction Walking Tour, Lucknow

Lucknow Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Lucknow

The capital city of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. It owes its popularity largely to the rich architectural, cultural and historic heritage.

In the 14th century, Lucknow was the capital of the Awadh region. Starting from 1350, both the city and some parts of the region were controlled consecutively by the Delhi Sultanate, the Sharqi Sultanate and, later, the Mughal Empire. In 1856, the British East India Company took complete control of the city, along with the rest of Awadh, and, in 1857, placed it under the direct governance of the British Raj.

"Lucknow" is the anglicized spelling of the local pronunciation "Lakhnau". According to legend, the city is named after Lakshmana, a hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, who reportedly had an estate in the area, which by the 11th century came to be known as Lakshmanapuri (Sanskrit: Lakshmana's city), aka Lakhanpur/Lachhmanpur or Lakshmanavati. The latter name eventually transformed to Lakhnau. Another theory suggests that the city's name is linked to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth.

Along with the rest of India, Lucknow became independent from Britain in 1947.

Today, the historical areas of the city reveal a wealth of architectural styles. The vast majority of the iconic buildings, constructed during the British and Mughal eras, are found in the old city. Among the extant monuments of the past here are numerous religious sites, such as Imambaras, Islamic mosques (e.g. Teele Wali Masjid [Alamgiri Mosque], Aasifi Masjid, Jama Masjid) and other shrines, as well as secular buildings and palatial complexes.

The colossal 18th-century Bara Imambara shrine (also known as Asafi/Asfi Imambara), Chhota Imambara and Rumi Darwaza stand in testament to the city's Nawabi mixture of Mughlai and Turkish styles of architecture, embellished with lavish decorations. Otherwise known as the Turkish Gateway, the 18-meter (60-foot) tall Rumi Darwaza, built in 1784, once served as the entrance to the city, and was erroneously thought to be identical to the gateway in Constantinople.

Another notable edifice, representing a maze of narrow tunnels, which affords tremendous views of the city from its upper balconies, is Bhool Bhulaiya. Close by is the grand Victorian Clock Tower, built as a victory column, in 1881.

For a chance to experience and admire Lucknow’s great heritage and to learn more about its history, take this self-guided introductory walk.
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Lucknow Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Lucknow Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: India » Lucknow (See other walking tours in Lucknow)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: Xena
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Lal Pul (Red Bridge)
  • Teele Wali Masjid (Alamgiri Mosque)
  • Naubat Khana (Drum House)
  • Bara Imambara Entrance Gate
  • Bara Imambara Complex
  • Bara Imambara Second Gate
  • Bara Imambara Shahi Baoli (Step Well)
  • Bhool Bhulaiya Labyrinth Building
  • Aasifi Masjid (Asafi Mosque)
  • Rumi Darwaza (Turkish Gate)
  • Husainabad Clock Tower
  • Chhota Imambara
  • Jama Masjid (Jama Mosque)
  • Chowk Market
Lal Pul (Red Bridge)

1) Lal Pul (Red Bridge)

Lal Pul, or Red Bridge of Lucknow city, Uttar Pradesh, is also known as Pakka Pul. The Red Bridge was opened by the British in 1914. It is one of the few bridges that have firmly withstood the floods of the Gomti River. The old stone bridge, the Royal Bridge, was judged too weak to last.

The Royal Bridge, also called the Shahi Bridge, was built by the ruler Asaf-ud-Daula. It was broken up in 1911, and along with that, the foundation of the new bridge was laid. The Red Bridge carries a two-lane road for vehicles and walkways for foot traffic. The span is supported by low ironwork arches anchored to stone piers in the river bed.

Open kiosks hang over the rails at pier points. The bridge road leads directly to the monument Bara Imambara, a spiritual center, and tourist attraction. "Tanu Weds Manu," an Indian Hindi-language romantic comedy, used the bridge as one of its scenic locales.
Teele Wali Masjid (Alamgiri Mosque)

2) Teele Wali Masjid (Alamgiri Mosque)

Teele Wali Masjid, also known as Alamgiri Mosque, is located to the north of the Imambara complex and is believed to be the earliest construction in the area. It is built on a mound specially raised by order of Aurangzeb, governor of Lucknow, to serve as the mosque ground. An interesting fact is that “teele” is translated form the local dialect as “mound”. Teele Wali Masjid is renown for its outstanding architectural symmetry and equilibrium. Its white lace towers rise high and can be seen from the most parts of the city.
Naubat Khana (Drum House)

3) Naubat Khana (Drum House)

Naubat Khana or Naqqar Khana means a drum house or an orchestra pit for ceremonies. This monument is a distinct representation of the Mughal architecture. It was built for drummers who announced the hours of the day, as well as the arrival of the emperor or his distinguished guests. In mid 19th century this structure was in a highly deplorable condition. And after the American Mission refused to take Naubat Khana as a gift, Lucknow authorities took the decision to restore the building. For some time it was used as the police headquarters.
Bara Imambara Entrance Gate

4) Bara Imambara Entrance Gate

Bara Imambara Entrance Gate features rather restrained and moderate architectural elements comparing to the structures that await visitors inside the complex. The smooth lines of the gate represent a definite example of Mughal architecture. Arched windows and doorways were designed to allow free flow of air, which is typical for Indian architecture, as well as the symmetrical “umbrella” towers with small pikes on the tops.

Construction of Bara Imambara began in 1785, a year of severe famine, and one of Asaf-Ud-Dowlah's objectives in starting this epic project was to provide employment for the population in the region. It is said that common people used to labor on the building during the day, while noblemen and other elite worked at night. Construction of the Imambara complex was finished in 1791. This is one of the last masterpieces in Indian architecture that has not included European elements.

Make sure to take a guide from within the complex rather than from the entrance gate.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Bara Imambara Complex

5) Bara Imambara Complex (must see)

The Bara Imambara, which means big shrine, is a meeting or congregation hall used for Shia Muslim memorial services and ceremonies, especially the Mourning of Muharram and the martyrdom of Hossain Ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The Bara Imambara Complex of Lucknow was built in 1794 by Asaf-ud-Daula, the ruler of Awadh, a region in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The central composition of the Imambara is the Afsi mosque, the Labyrinth, and a Stepwell of running water. Two impressive gateways lead to the main hall. The main gateway has three arches, built in the tradition of Mughal design, an Indo-Islamic type of architecture. A dual fish motif is carved in the gateway. This symbol is often found in buildings commissioned by Indian rulers.

After the main gate is a large forecourt and another gateway with three arches. Passing through this gate, one comes to the Bara Imambara courtyard. Directly ahead is the actual Bara Imambara. On the right is the three-domed mosque and on the left is the water stepwell.

The Bara Imambara is among the grandest buildings in Lucknow. Inside are three halls. The Chinese Hall on the east has decorated domed ceilings. The Persian Hall is the largest. The arched roof is not supported by any columns. It is held up by the arched passageways on the three floors of the labyrinth that hold supportive air cushions.

The last hall is the Watermelon Hall. It is claimed to have a ceiling like a watermelon. The Labyrinth is built above the Imambara. It has nearly 1,000 corridors and 489 identical doorways. The acoustics of the Labyrinth is amazing. The Stepwell has seven levels, with cells at every level. A guide is necessary here.

Construction of Bara Imambara was started in 1780, a year of a devastating famine. One of Asaf-ud-Daula's objectives in the project was to employ people in the region for almost a decade while the famine lasted. The story goes that ordinary people built in the day and nobles tore down at night. This way, the project lasted longer. As an economist, the ruler was ahead of this time.
Bara Imambara Second Gate

6) Bara Imambara Second Gate

The second gateway to Bara Imambara creates a splendid view. Its architectural features include some Rajput details, and patterned reliefs on the arches that represent the so-called “fish motifs”, typical for Lucknow architecture, especially on gates. There is a symmetrically laid out garden in front of this gateway, which completes the spectacular scenery.
Bara Imambara Shahi Baoli (Step Well)

7) Bara Imambara Shahi Baoli (Step Well)

Shahi Baoli is a building raised around a large well, initially dug as the water reservoir for the Imambara construction works. The well happened to be a perennial source of water due to its connection to underground river streams. The emperor desired to build unique premises to host his distinguished guests and had chosen this particular spot to place it.

Many of the emperor’s guests described this building as having an exquisite design with the rarest English marble finish, small hot an cold water fountains, oblong niches and graceful pillars in the room corners. Only a small part of the splendor of Shahi Baoli has remained till the present day. It consists of an arched gateway and a five-story structure formed by interconnected archways and galleries. The open staircase leads to the deep well. Visitors are welcome to throw a coin in the depth of the water for good luck.
Bhool Bhulaiya Labyrinth Building

8) Bhool Bhulaiya Labyrinth Building

Bhool Bhulaiya is the main part of the Imambara complex. The central part of it is a big arched hall where the tomb of Asaf-Ud-Dowlah lies. The Iranian architect Kifait-ullah, the author of this project, also lies buried there. There are eight more chambers built to different roof heights. The building is surrounded by 489 identical doorless galleries. Bhool Bhulaiya has no pillars to support the ceiling and it is among the largest vaulted constructions in the world. Above and in between the chambers there are hundreds of narrow lanes and stairway passages, some leading to dead ends, some to overhanging drops, and others to entrance or exit points. It is recommended to always take a guide when exploring Bhool Bhulaiya in order not to get lost.

This three-dimensional labyrinth is possibly the only one existing in India. It was designed to confuse any intruding enemy and to support the weight of the whole structure, which was built on marshy land.

Legends say that the building has several blocked passageways that used to lead to a location near the Gomti river, to Faizabad (the former seat of power of the Nawabs), to Allahabad and even to Delhi. These passages have been sealed because of long disuse and disappearance of adventurers who tried to explore them.

Make sure you are fit before going inside – not recommended for elders as there are many staircases (some of which are very narrow) and the maze can be quite hectic. However, once you reach the roof, the view of the city is breathtaking.
Note also that on one side of the Bhool Bhulaiya (above the India room) there is a whispering gallery with amazing acoustics.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Aasifi Masjid (Asafi Mosque)

9) Aasifi Masjid (Asafi Mosque)

The image of the mosque Asafi Masjid is often used as the city symbol, highlighting Lucknow tourist attractions lists. It was among the first buildings erected after the capital of the state was permanently transferred to Lucknow in 1775. Asafi Masjid is located inside of the Bara Imambara and it was built near 10 years before the complex itself. It is believed that this three-domed mosque was designed and raised by Iranian architect Kifait-ullah, who later drafted the project of Bara Imambara. The masjid is topped with two imposing minarets, 153 feet high each. The main façade of the building features 11 arched doorways, the central one being larger than the rest. A wide stairway leads to the wide platform placed in front of the mosque. It is an assembly place for followers of Islam.

Beautiful architecture and craftsmanship; the Friday prayer ('juma namaaz') here is definitely worth a visit.
Rumi Darwaza (Turkish Gate)

10) Rumi Darwaza (Turkish Gate)

The Rumi Darwaza, sometimes called the Turkish Gate, is an imposing gateway, built under the patronage of ruler Asaf-Ud-Dowlah in 1784. It is a perfect rendering of Awadhi architecture (the Lucknow School of Architecture). This sixty-foot tall structure was patterned after the Sublime Porte (Bab-iHümayun) in Istanbul. Upon entering Lucknow in 1858 accompanying the victorious British army, Russell, a “The New York Times” reporter, called the area between Rumi Darwaza and Chattar Manzil the most beautiful and spectacular cityscape he had ever seen, better than Rome, Paris, London and Constantinople.

Lit up during nights, it's a wonderful feeling to pass through this gate via rickshaw.
You can also find hawkers around offering elephant/camel rides.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Husainabad Clock Tower

11) Husainabad Clock Tower

The Husainabad Clock Tower of Lucknow is the tallest and the most beautiful tower in India. It represents one of the finest examples of British architecture. The tower was raised in 1887 with the obvious impact of the Victorian-Gothic architectural style. Some of the structure's components were imported straight from London. The tower is 67 meters (230 feet) tall and can be seen from most parts of the area.
Chhota Imambara

12) Chhota Imambara (must see)

Muhammad Ali Shah, the ruler of Awadh, built the Chhota Imambara of Lucknow in 1838. He meant it to serve as a mausoleum for himself and his mother, as well as a congregation hall for Shia Muslims, the second largest branch of Islam after Sunni Islam. The monument is also known as Hussainabad Mubarak. The Imambara has five main doorways in honor of the "Holy Five" Saints of Islam.

There are two halls and a platform holding a replica of the protective grill over the grave of the saint Hossain of Iraq. The large green and white hall is called "The Palace of Lights" by westerners for its chandeliers and lamps. The walls are decorated with Quranic verses and Islamic calligraphy.

The Chhota Imambara has a gilded dome, turrets, spires, and minarets. Inside are the tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah, his daughter, and her husband. Their resting places are replicas of the famous mausoleum Taj Mahal.

Other buildings in the complex are the Treasury, a structure built for symmetrical balance; the Husainabad Mosque; and the Satkhanda or Watchtower, unfinished, built for lunar observation.
Jama Masjid (Jama Mosque)

13) Jama Masjid (Jama Mosque) (must see)

Located in the center of the old city, Jama Masjid is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in India. It was built by Sultan Ahmed Shah. The mosque is designed in a harmonious combination of Hindu and Muslim architectural styles. It’s built out of yellow sandstone and lakhauri (special small size bricks). The uniqueness of the building lies in the fact that its 15 domes stand on 260 pillars. All the mosque decorations have deep cultural and religious meaning. Since the very day of its construction, the Jama Masjid has become a significant place of worship.

Please note, that non-Muslims are not allowed inside of the mosque during prayer hours. And when entering the mosque visitors need to remove their shoes.
Chowk Market

14) Chowk Market (must see)

Loud, crowded, colorful, and spicy are the features of Chowk Market. Chowk, in Hindi, means "market." The Chowk Market is in the oldest site of Lucknow. The streets are narrow and meandering, jammed with people, motor scooters, and merchandise with little space left over. It is accessible through Lohia Park or Albari Gate.

The Market is near Koneshwar Temple and the Medical College. Nearly 5,000 small businesses sell Chikan garments, a traditional embroidery style of Lucknow; gold and silver jewelry; and utensils. Gol Darwaza, the famous gateway, part of Chowk shops, is filled with finely crafted items such as knives, shirt pins, lampshades, Jardoji clothes, Nagra shoes, ivory flowers, birds, and animals.

There is no shortage of food stalls in Chowk. Try Chinese, South and North Indian, Lucknow, Mughlai, vegetarian or non. Dairy products, kebabs, wraps, biryani, and fast foods are everywhere. There are sweet stalls and shops in business for 200 years. Authentic Chikankari costumes and traditional handmade jewelry can also be found at the Chowk Market.

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