The iconic Structure of the Bara Imambara – Lucknow’s famous Bhool Bholaiya
Bara Imambara or Asafi Imambara is a large tomb complex in Lucknow. Bara means big and Imambara is a sacred hall for conducting Muslim rituals especially for Shia Muslims around Muharram. It was built in 1784 by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, the then Nawab of Awadh. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lucknow. What makes it special is that it is a labyrinth of a thousand inter-connected passages.
Asifi Mosque on the right side of Bara Imambara
Table of Contents
- 1 Architecture of Bara Imambara
- 2 History
- 3 Timings and Entry Fee
- 4 How to Reach Lucknow
- 5 Lucknow Weather
- 6 Where to Stay in Lucknow
- 7 Book your stay
Architecture of Bara Imambara
It was built in 1784 by Asaf-ud-Daula, the then Nawab of Awadh. The construction of this entire structure is unique. It was built with Lucknowi brick and lime plaster without any use of wood or metal. This structure consists of three parts – Asifi Mosque, Bouli (or a step well) and a Labyrinth (Bhool Bhulaiya). A Labyrinth is a maze that consist of a path that leads into multiple paths which in turn lead to more paths.
Bhool Bhulaiya or Labyrinth
This labyrinth or bhool bhoolaiya is three-dimensional and was constructed to support the weight of the structure as it’s built on marshy land. This is said to be the only existing labyrinth in India.
All set to experience the bhool bhoolaiya
From the entrance of the bhool bhulaiya, there are all-in-all 84 steps however, the bhool bhulaiya entrance is after 45 steps only. Since the steps were huge in height, I had to carry my kiddo all the way up. That was enough to digest the mouth-watering tunde kababs & lassi!
The Decorations in the Main Chamber of Bara Imambara
The main building consists of a large chamber, over 15 meters in height (built without any columns or beams) that houses the tomb of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. Then, there are 8 surrounding chambers with different roof heights with the labyrinth located above them. Since there are no columns the architects decided to make the ceiling hollow to reduce its weight so that the structure could withstand it. It is arguably the largest structure in the world without any pillar.
Finally reached the terrace, which is equally beautiful
The labyrinth consists of 489 identical doorways and inter-connected passages. There are around 1020 ways to reach the terrace but only one leads you down. This labyrinth has baffled not only my kiddo but also architects for over 200 years.
The unique thing about this architecture is that it was one of the last projects of the Mughal era that did not use any European element or iron in its structure.
A little apprehensive at first and then the excitement took over
The bhool bhoolaiya is very exciting to experience every time. My kiddo was a little apprehensive to enter it for the fear of getting trapped inside but this place is thronged with tourists and guides so you never really get a chance to get lost or be alone for that matter.
Legend has it that the now sealed underground tunnels “supposedly” connect all the way to the main City
According to our guide, “supposedly” there are underground mile-long tunnels that connect all to way to near the Gomti River as well as in other parts of the city. But to prevent their misuse it’s been sealed. This remains a mystery still however the legend remains.
Pro Tip: Its better to hire a guide to find an easy way out of the bhool bhoolaiya. Moreover, the tidbits and anecdotes they share are really intriguing.
One side of the Bara Imambara houses the step well or the Bouli. There are multiple that lead to the water level. The construction of the well is such that the reflection of the main gate is seen in the water that could alarm the watch keeping guards. This worked like our present-day security cameras.
Tomb of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in the main chamber – View from one dead end of the bhool bhulaiya
This large tomb complex was constructed as a noble cause. In 1785, Awadh was hit with a devastating famine and to generate employment for the people in his empire Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula decided to build this magnificent structure. The construction was completed in 1791. What started as a famine relief measure turned out to be an iconic landmark for Lucknow.
The Nawab then invited bids from all over the kingdom and an architect Kifayatulla from Shahjahanabad won the bid and the construction began. Interestingly the tombs of both Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula and Kifayatulla are located in the central hall of the Bara Imambara.
Timings and Entry Fee
Bara Imambara is open from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. It’s closed-on Mondays.
Pro Tip: This splendid structure against the backdrop of the rising or setting sun gives Instagram worthy pictures so all photography enthusiast plan your trip accordingly.
Entry Fee for Indians INR 50 and for Children (age 5 yrs to 12 yrs) is INR 25.
Entry Fee for Foreigners INR 500.
Pro Tip: You need to deposit your bag at the entrance or else you can carry it with you for a small fee of INR 5 only.
No Visit is complete without a photo session
How to Reach Lucknow
Lucknow Airport is connected to all the major cities by air. Maximum flights are via Delhi with a small stopover.
The train network is even better to reach Lucknow. All major trains especially the north and east stop at Lucknow.
Lucknow can be reached easily if you are driving down from Delhi via the Yamuna Expressway or else the roads are not that great, so its advisable to consider the other two alternatives.
Pro Tip: Bara Imambara is located near the Chowk area of old Lucknow and can be easily reached from any part of Lucknow. Ola or Uber are easily available and convenient mode of transport in Lucknow. Between the two, we found Uber drivers more professional.
Lucknow experiences a humid sub tropical climate with rains in the months of July to September. In the winter months of late November to early February the temperature ranges from 3 degree C to 25 degree C, with fog decreasing visibility. Occasionally the temperatures dip closer to the freezing point too. The summers are very hot with temperatures rising up to 40 – 45 degree C.
Where to Stay in Lucknow
Like any other major city in India, Lucknow is filled with options. Depending on your budget you can choose your place of stay here. Some of the places we likes are:
This is a new property in the new part of Lucknow, Gomti Nagar. It lives up to the Novotel standards. The best part is that it is 30 minutes from the airport and very close to other attractions.
It offers all the amenities of the Marriott Luxury and Lifestyle Hotel Group. If you want to recharge your energy levels then the rooftop infinity pool is just the right place for it.
This place has the best Location. Situated on the banks of Gomti, it’s a mere 4 kms from Lucknow railway station and 15 km from Lucknow airport. The main shopping area of Hazratganj is just a km away. A rooftop restaurant Falaknuma is known for its Awadhi cuisine.
Book your stay
Hope you find this post on Bara Imambara Lucknow of use to you. Do let us know about your experience at Bara Imambara Lucknow or if we are missing something, please contact us or comment below and I will update this blog soon. Your comments and/or feedback are welcome.
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