Nawabs embedded the city like pearls,
Embracing the transition of cultures.
People create spaces that turn into the city to influence the way of living and represent the transitions through its culture, traditions, approaches, and symbolic historical impacts. The Awadh region of Uttar Pradesh is a remarkable landmark to witness the essence of Mughal emperors(Nawabs) and the influence of the East India Company through buildings and its town planning. The architecture of Lucknow is known for its royal Imambaras, palaces, gardens, and residential buildings. The forte of Lucknow Nawabs during the early century was to showcase their power by refashioning the Baroque style in the buildings.
The dawn of Nawabi style in Awadh –
The invasion of Mughal emperors that called themselves Nawabs of the city, not the kings, Awadh marked its existence at the beginning of the 18th century. Earlier in the rule of the first and second nawab, the focus was on satisfying personal interests rather than administration and development of the territory. The leverage they showcased led them to wars with British possessions and levied taxes and revenues. Until the successor Asafuddaula, the fourth nawab of Awadh shifted his capital to Lucknow. The transition towards art and culture and the generosity of the city that architecture involved turned Lucknow into an iconic cultural center around the other regions.
One can be amazed by the many tomb structures that picturise the enthusiasm of Nawabs towards their living identity as royal processors. The ruling nawab built a new palace for themselves and abandoned the previous one as per superstitious beliefs. With the view to creating more astonishing monuments with precision and their enthusiasm towards imams, Lucknow has witnessed the specular composition of religious and secular monuments studded with monuments, colonial houses, marketplaces, tombs, mosques, Imambaras, palaces, and gardens.
The religious architecture – Remembrance of Imam
The monumental buildings such as tombs, Imambaras, and mosques reflect the traditional elements of architecture. The ethnicity of ancient architectural elements used in religious monuments has stayed the same over the years. In this style of architecture, the buildings have intricate details within the domes, tall minarets with cupolas, fish as a decorative element in the entrance gate, a high plinth base, cloisters, arches, arcades, and kiosks.
The architectural confetti of the Mughal empire in Lucknow came from 1775 to 1800 under the Nawabs Asaf Ud Daula and Sadat Ali Khan.
Rumi Darwaza –
It is one of the examples of Awadhi architecture in Lucknow, constructed by Nawab Asaf Ud Daula in 1784. The architectural details of Rumi Darwaza are in such a way as to represent the Mughal’s way of living. The representation of an Inverted V-arched entrance reflects the local style of chikankari clothing. The Darwaza acts like a connection between chota and Bara Imambara that hatched its inspiration from the Turkish gate in Constantinople. The 60 ft high gate had a red stone structure followed by layers of brick used for ornamented arches.
During the rule of Nawab Asaf Ud Daula, the city witnessed varied grandeur of religious architecture that got supplanted by the European style of architecture. Before the possession of British rule over the Awadh, during 1800-1856, one can speculate about the blemish mix of European elements and Mughal monuments. In the second phase of the transition in architecture, the Indo-Mughal or impact of European style took place over tombs and palaces, and nawabs indulged their wealth to construct their empire.
The influences of European style can first get their attention in the palaces of Faizabad, constructed under the supervision of Henery Pelier from Bengal in 1766. He tried basic techniques to compose the local style with a tint of European ornamentations as castellated outer walls.
The above pictorial composition is of Faizabad style of palaces with castellated walls and gardens that influence Indo-Mughal style with a hint of European existence.
As Nawab Sadat Ali Khan was in awe of the western way of life, he employed various European engineers to implement the modern European style of architecture in the residential palaces and gardens. The artistic skills and enthusiasm of Claude Martin play a vital role in the glorified architectural values of Lucknow. In alliance with Nawab Asaf Ud Daula, he constructed various European influence buildings in the city, and most of the fascinating creations of the eighteenth century were – Constantia, Farhad Baksh, Asafi Kothi, Bibiapur, Barowen.
La Martinière College or Constantia –
The complex of Constantia is one of the remarkable buildings of Claude Martin. In 1795, under the development of European monuments, the artist-turned-architect Claude initiated the intricate design for Constantia on the outskirts of the Gomti river.
The concrete structure was entirely a proposal as a residential complex for Claude, but later after his demise turned into a university for boys. Constantia edifice various roman and gothic features that enhance the European style. The symmetrical arrangement of columns, Gothic battlements on the terraces, frontage with stairways and gardens, turrets, and intricately ornamented facade describes the building as a royal sensation of the city. European artists consider it a ‘Bizarre palace’ as they believe Martin tried to arrange as many possible elements in this building as a misinterpretation of European style.
Farhat Baksh –
It is one of the earliest buildings under the influence of Claude Martin, completed as a residential palace in 1781. The town palace where martin breathed for the last time is also known as Chattar Manzil for its artistic architectural design. It locates on the bank of the Gomti river, raised above the lowest level of the river on an octagonal base. The building design composes Indo-Mughal and European elements – Castellated towers, symmetrical facades, domes over octagonal towers resembling umbrellas, and decorative arches.
The design is unique, as it follows the directions from the river bank. The two levels below the ground are visible only at low water levels. Now in the present time, the building is set to be converted into a museum under the supervision of Government authorities.
The influence of British style in Nawabi architecture –
The origin of bungalows and gardens introduced by Nawabs before the end of the dynasty was an influence of the British style. In harmony with their longings, the nawab crafted drawings for their bungalows. Ironically, it was impossible to cut out the personal connection of Indian styles from their designs. The phase of transformation into the British style lies from 1857 to 1947. The style interpretation of Awadh architecture remained the same during this period.
Lucknow is often referred to as the city of Gardens because of its resemblance to a royal enclosure of nature. The formal gardens usually follow the concept of Chaar Bagh, influenced by the Mughal style. Pleasure gardens scattered across the royal mansions influenced the Persian style and delights in gardens through kiosks, small temples, and labyrinths.
External References –
Admin (no date) Constantia – La Martiniere, Save Our Heritage. Available at: https://saveourheritage.in/constantia-la-martiniere/ (Accessed: March 11, 2023).
Lucknow Nawabs: Architecture and identity – jstor.org (no date). Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4412572?read-now=1 (Accessed: March 11, 2023).
Architecture of Lucknow (2022) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Lucknow#cite_note-13 (Accessed: March 11, 2023).
Lucknow: An architectural deep dive and travelogue – researchgate.net (no date). Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/361528836_LUCKNOW_AN_ARCHITECTURAL_DEEP_DIVE_AND_TRAVELOGUE (Accessed: March 11, 2023).
Home (no date) Official Website for Ministry of Tourism India. Available at: https://www.incredibleindia.org/content/incredible-india-v2/en/destinations/lucknow/rumi-darwaza.html#:~:text=Identical%20in%20design%20to%20an,structure%20in%20its% (Accessed: March 11, 2023).