City of Nawabs and Kebabs

This year I and my parents spent the Diwali vacation with at a relatives place in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. The scenery of rural Uttar Pradesh is beautiful. One can see lush green and yellow fields, mango orchards, wells, cattle, eucalyptus tress and even peacocks roaming freely! But one can also see the lack of electric transmission towers, the darkness at most of the areas, the lack of any traffic rule and the density of population.

I didn’t get a chance to go out much in that town. We made plans of  a one day trip to Lucknow (the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India) to do some sightseeing, shopping and eating – my favorite combination 😀 So here is an account of that one day trip.

Located in what was historically known as the Awadh region, Lucknow has always been a multicultural city. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known amongst Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Lucknow is popularly known as the The City of Nawabs. It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.

We left for Lucknow early morning in a hired car. Because of the Golden Quadrilateral project, the highways of U.P. have become quite good. As we entered Lucknow from the west side, the first place we visited was the Hussainabad Imambara or the Chota Imambara.

The Hussainabad Imambara is a major tourist attraction of Lucknow. The monument was built by Muhammed Ali Shah in the year 1837 under ‘Food for Work’ program initiated by him to bring respite for the city populace when the region was hit by a famine.  The walls of the monument are decorated with Arabic verses that have been carved beautifully by efficient craftsmen. The structure has an imposing white colored dome and many pillars or minarets.  There are small miniatures of the Taj Mahal on either side of the monument.

This is the Chota Imambara


And these are the two Taj Replicas on either side of the Imambara


The tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah and his mother are inside the Imambara. Also a number of tazias ,mirrors with gold frames and beautiful chandeliers are kept in the hall. From there we went to see the Rumi Darwaza.

The Rumi Darwaza of Lucknow is one of the most impressive architectural structures in India. It was constructed in the year 1784 by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula. The Rumi Darwaza goes upto a height of 60 feet. The uppermost part of Rumi Darwaza comprises of an octagonal Chatri (Umbrella) carved beautifully that can be accessed by a staircase. On top of the Rumi Darwaza was kept a huge lantern that would light up the structure at night making it look absolutely fabulous. Little jets of water would rush out of the sides of the arch from beautifully carved flower buds thus making it look like a gateway to Paradise. The beautifully carved flowers and designs speak volumes about the unique architectural style and eye for detail.

This is the back side of Rumi Darwaza


Next to Rumi Darwaza is the Asafi Imambara or the Bada Imambara.

Bada Imambara complex was commissioned by the then Nawab of Awadh, Asaf -ud-Daula in the year 1784. The complex also includes the large Asfi mosque, the Bhul-Bhulayah (the labyrinth) and a summer palace with running water. Bada Imambara was also built under the ‘Food For Work’ program. The Bada Imambara is built at the end of a spectacular courtyard approached through two magnificent triple-arched gateways. The central hall of the Imambara is almost 50 metres long and 16 metres wide. The ceiling of this column-less hall is more than 15 metres high. The hall is one of the largest of its kind in the world without any external support of wood, iron, or stone beams. The roof has been put together with interlocking bricks without using a beam or a girder.

This is one of the gateways


And this is the Bada Imambara and the next image is the central hall.



But the monument is not well maintained. The elaborate chandeliers were dusty. Lighting was tacky. There were cobwebs, paint peeling off walls, names scratched on wall by people and above all the mark of U.P. – red paan stains.  In fact it was the only tourist place  of all the places I have ever visited where I saw a large steel dustbin totally red with paan stains!!Here is a sample of the wall. 😦


Outside in the courtyard, there is a man who sits under an umbrella and sells tiny versions of  shoes worn by the Nawab and some Begum. There is no bargaining. But the shoes were so cute that I bought many of them. Thats what I call entrepreneurship. 🙂


From there we went to Aminabad, a quaint bazaar like Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, is situated in the heart of the city. It is a large shopping centre area that has all kinds of shops for all kinds of customers. Due to Diwali, there was too much congestion. Its better to leave the car in the parking area and shop while walking. First we had lunch in one of the restaurants. The service was slow but the food was tasty and reasonable priced. This is the non veg thali I had ordered.


After lunch we went for shopping. Take care of your purses, mobiles, sunglasses,jewelery and pockets while roaming in Lucknow markets!! A very suspicious looking and shabbily dressed man tried to sell a single Ray Ban goggles to me…evidently a stolen item. Shopping in Lucknow is incomplete without buying Lucknow Chikankari clothes.

Chikankari is actually a very complex and delicate form of embroidery that primarily uses muslin clothes. This kind of embroidery is only confined to the city of Lucknow. The design motifs in Chikankari are predominantly influenced by Mughal art. There are various stitches used in Chikankari. The most frequently used stitch is the satin stitch. Apart from that there are others like stem stitch and chain stitch etc. Chikan has very light, gossamer like quality that makes it fit for the extreme climate.

Needless to say Chikan material is costly too depending on the quality and quantity of embroidery done on the cloth. These are the two dress materials I bought.How could I resist? 😀


After 3 hours of shopping, we went to eat Tunday’s Kebabs – a must-eat advised by many people on Twitter. Not a place for vegetarians of course. And if there are females in your group then its better to get them parceled and eat outside. The mutton kebabs were as delicious as I had been told. 🙂


After spending such a wonderful day at the city of Nawabs and Kebabs, we headed back home. Hopefully, I will get a chance to go there again someday to visit the rest of the tourist places and to explore the markets and restaurants fully 😀 😀

52 thoughts on “City of Nawabs and Kebabs

  1. very nice post!

    I would love to visit the rural Uttarpradesh, seems like it has all the beauty the nature has to offer !


  2. Aminabad is nice isnt it? Ive ended up having quite a few frnds who hail from Lucknow and have been there at least twice to attend a wedding! That never stopped me from roaming the streets looking for Chikan and Kebabs.

    Did you try the Biryani? Its awesome. And the roadside Chaats.

    Didnt you take any photos of the chandeliers? They were dusty, but awe-inspiring in their number and variety!

  3. Reemapu, its amazing !
    the city of Nawabs are really impressive! 🙂

    I am convinced to believe that their life was so aristocratic seeing the Two Taj replica of Imambara… this structure is beautiful… all the photos in here are showing the rich and great historical signs of those times 🙂

    the world is so strange place! 😦

  4. So u became Nawabi & Kebabi this Diwali 😛

    Lucknow is a beautiful city and has fairly large history of Nawabs. I used to go to Lucknow when i was a kid.

    I am not sure if you tried Basket Chat @ Royal Cafe in Hazratganj its a must have at Lucknow 🙂

  5. neat photo’s… this is another city I have to visit… !! apart from the charm.. I want to visit this town for the Kebab’s ! 😛 😛 😛

    and you sadist you couldnt resist putting that thali in the post eh… 😛 😛 😛

    I m suddenly feeling hungry again..

  6. Lucknow aha!!!

    Been there when I was a kid!!! But my parents have been a regular to the city and that explains my love towards the chikkan suits & my never ending collection of the same 🙂

    Nice pics!

  7. Lovely place .. isn’t it …. I just love Lucknow … 😉

    and that snapshot of ur lunch and mention of “Tunday” got me all hungry … off to eat something now .. 😉

  8. Loved reading those little pieces of history and pictures.

    Those jootis look so good. The same ones with little alterations and a label becomes 5 times the price.

  9. Reema, you are getting to be quite a talented photographer! Loved your photos. I have never been to UP, but perhaps one day I will. Somehow never felt very motivated to visit there. One keeps hearing of Rajasthan, Himachal and the like and well we went to all those places. Now perhaps UP doesn’t seem such a bad idea after all!

  10. Came back again 😀
    to see the beautiful temple of Imambara… 🙂

    the places are beautiful no doubt… and your photography is being better I guess… I have liked the photos during your Kolkata tour… so far I could remember, you posted two posts on that journey to Kolkata…

    Awesome 😎 Reema Apu, pleasure to be with your these experiences even thought it’s only with the writings 😀

  11. Seems like you had a lot of fun in Lucknow! 🙂

    Btw Tunday Kebabi is now a corporate & its franchise outlets are opening in cities all over. 🙂

  12. Loved reading your account of Lucknow! I had been there for a day once. Would love to go again and will keep all that you have mentioned in mind when I go next.

    Lovely pictures! The miniatures of the Nawabs shoes look amazing!

    And the thali makes me drool.

  13. Pingback: Auditing 2009 and Wishes for 2010 « My Random Thoughts

  14. The origins of chikan are shrouded in mystery and legend. Some historians opine, the chikan is a Persian craft, brought to the Mughal Court of the Emperor Jahangir by his beautiful and talented consort Mehrunissa. The queen was a talented embroiderer and she so pleased the king with this ethereal, white floral embroider that it was soon given recognition and royal patronage. Workshops were established wherein this embroider was practiced and perfected.

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