Located in Machchhi Bhavan, Bada Imambara is one of the major attractions of Lucknow that pulls massive crowds from all over the world. The architectural brilliance of Bara Imambara aka Asfi Mosque is a living example of the best gravity-defying structures, not only in India but the entire world.
Bara Imambara was built by the fourth Nawab of Awadh, Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 when science was not studied in classrooms but it’s quite intriguing to discover the genius imagination of the architects who designed this masterpiece. An epitome of inventions by the human race, the architectural finesse is what defines Bara Imambara.
Bara Imambara was designed by Kifayat-Ullah who was the relative of Ustad-Ahmad Lahori, the main architect of The Iconic Taj Mahal. As the meaning of Bara Imambara suggests, ‘Bara’ is big and ‘Imambara’ signifies a shrine, there are a lot of elements to be discovered in this huge monument of Lucknow.
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This enigmatic monument in Lucknow has always been a center of interest for science aficionados. Boasting Arabic and European radiance, the magnificent structure of Bara Imambara challenges the notion of gravity.
One of the mystical facts of this historical site in Lucknow which catches the fancy of visitors is the classic and robust construction of its central hall. This largest vaulted chamber in the world stands on archways and no pivotal support which indeed defies the logic of gravity that pulls everything towards the center of the earth.
Another whimsical discovery that makes Bara Imambara the architectural wonder is to closely view the dexterity in building its interior galleries. The absence of woodwork, metal beams, or support wires in the entire structure of Bara Imambara marks it as the largest un-backed up structure in the world.
Built with lakhauri brick and lime plaster, the unique material used in Bara Imambara gave way to stucco ornamentation and plaster decoration which was way different from the stone and marble monuments during the Mughal era. The intricately crafted floral motifs, false arches, domes painted on walls, columns, and ceilings speak volumes of the brilliant artistry practiced during the 18th century.
One of the biggest tourist attractions of Lucknow is Bhool Bhulaiya of the Bada Imambara. One of the most obfuscating parts of this maze-like monument is that it comprises 1024 doorways to let the visitors in and just 2 to exit. Other amazing elements to marvel in Bhool Bhulaiya are labyrinthine passages, beamless structure, mind-boggling stairways that are identical, serpentine corridors, rooftop balconies, and doorways that can put you in a tizzy. It is advised to take a tour of Bhool Bhulaiya only with an authorized guide because there are fair chances of getting lost between baffling doorways.
Tomb to Nawab Asaf-ud-Daul, Asif Mosque which lies on the western side of Bada Imambara is the epitome of Mughal architecture. In the center of the massive hall lies the grave and the crown of Nawab that evokes his sanctimonious presence. The whispering sounds near the balcony of this hall are quite an enigma for the visitors. As the name suggests, ‘Bara’ means big and the word ‘Imambara’ signifies shrine
The five-storeyed Shahi Baoli (stepwell) on the eastern side of Bara Imambara is believed to be the secret surveillance system of the Nawab and his officials. The officials used to keep an eye from the inner Eastern chamber of the well to keep the trace of visitors as it is designed with such excellence that the reflection of visitors fell on the water of the well as they maneuvered.
Also known as Shahi Hammam, Shahi Baoli is connected to the Gomti river and 3 stories from the below remain perennially immersed in water.