Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Rumi Darwaza, Lucknow

Standing on the old Hardoi Road, the Rumi Darwaza (also spelt Roomi Darwaza) is one of the most well-known icons of the city of Lucknow. Like the Howrah Bridge and Victoria Memorial for Calcutta (Kolkata), the Rumi Darwaza serves as the logo for Lucknow in posters and other visual communication. It is another architectural gem that was built under the patronage of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula by his favourite architect, Kifayatullah. Kifayatullah, as you may know was the man behind Lucknow’s Bada Imambara.

Rumi Darwaza - Western Face

The Rumi Darwaza has several levels and the plan of the structure changes on every level, and on the Eastern and Western sides. From one side, it looks like a large “mihrab” (a semicircular niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca) while from the other it looks like a half-crescent shaped building. There are three arched gateways in the centre, through which traffic passes even today. Walls extend on both sides of the gate, with multiple arched gates on each side, culminating in octagonal bastions. The brick and stucco structure is adorned with beautiful calligraphy, lotus petals and other engravings. Along the edge of the arch on the Western side, are a series of flamboyant “guldastas” which project outwards. They remind me of the aluminium loudspeakers cones known in Calcutta as “chonga”.

Rumi Darwaza - Eastern face
 A pentagonal structure on the roof of the gateway holds a platform which looks somewhat like the top of a Mexican hat. Architecturally, the Rumi Darwaza may be said to be a fusion of the Rajput and Mughal styles, with the Mughal element present in the form of minarets topped by octagonal “chhatris”. Access to the top of the structure is probably possible, and there are caretakers who stay on the premises, but for some reason, I didn’t attempt to climb up. For those who do, the view is spectacular, and if you’re a photography enthusiast, it is a sight you will probably not want to miss.

Rumi Darwaza as seen from Bada Imambara
Located in the Hussainabad area of Lucknow, the spectacular Rumi Darwaza was happily spared damage during the mutiny of 1857, and thanks to the efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India, is in good shape today. It is not a ticketed monument and entry, if possible at all, is free, although you may need to tip the caretaker.

-          by Deepanjan Ghosh


Explore more photographs from my Lucknow trip. Check out my Flickr album


I am grateful to my friend, Devankan Chakraborty for being my guide around Lucknow, to Kalpajeet Bhattacharya for his hospitality, and to my father Debashish Ghosh, and sister Deepshikha Ghosh for accompanying me, and providing valuable inputs while shooting the monuments. Check out my father’sflickr page here.


Monuments of Lucknow – R.S. Fonia

Friday, 16 January 2015

Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan's Tomb, Lucknow

The ornate tombs of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan II and his wife Khursheed Zadi (or Mursheed Zadi) are two of the principal attractions of the Qaisar Bagh area of the city of Lucknow. Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan II was the 6th king in the Nishapuri line that ruled the province of Oudh or Awadh, and ascended the throne 21st January 1798. He is responsible for many of the heritage buildings still to be found between the Qaisar Bagh and Dilkusha areas of Lucknow.

Tomb of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan II

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Nizam Palace and the Legend of J.C. Galstaun

Before it was acquired by the Nizam of Hyderabad, the building known today as Nizam Palace was the home of one man, Calcutta’s Armenian millionaire, Johannes Carapiet “J.C.” Galstaun. It was an art deco palace, designed for his beloved wife Rose Catherine. The man, his immense wealth, and his “many acts of kindness” are the stuff of legends. In this first guest post on the blog, Max Galstaun writes about his illustrious ancestor.

Nizam Palace today

The legend of J.C. Galstaun, businessman, sportsman, Calcutta's biggest real estate developer of all time, philanthropist and social worker - is a legend that stands unequalled in Calcutta history. Like most legends, the story has a humble beginning, with a young, 13 or 14 year old, Armenian lad from Julpha, Iran, learning to ride a piebald pony on the Maidan. His determination impressed the Fort William Cavalry officers and they gave JC early lessons in horse-riding, which grew into the most formidable talent not ever seen again, on the racecourses in Calcutta and England. The pony rider struck fear into bookmakers and horse owners of Royal Indian and British blood.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Chetla Chhoto Rashbari, 93 Tollygunge Road

Chetla Chhoto Rashbari - interior

Hiding behind the busy market on Tollygunge Road, at number 93 is the elaborate temple complex known to locals as the Chhoto Rashbari or minor house for the Rash festival. What was once the Govindpore Creek, became Surman’s Nullah after John Surman of the East India Company started living there. It would then come to be known as Tolly’s Nullah after Major William Tolly conducted dredging and excavating operations there between 1774 and 1777, making it navigable upto Garia. Indeed the entire area of Tollygunge gets its name from him. But for locals, this is the Adi Ganga or the original Ganges, since it was through here that the Ganges or Hooghly flowed before it changed its course. The Ganges being a holy river, all along the two roads on its East and West, Tollygunge Road and Chetla Road, ghats and temples may still be found. Like many other heritage structures in the Chetla area of South Calcutta, the Chhoto Rashbari is also neglected, overgrown, and other than local residents, few are aware of its existence.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Jagannath Temple of Mahesh, Serampore

The giant chariot or "Rath" of Jagannath at Mahesh
One of the earliest mentions of the village of Mahesh (pronounced Maa-hesh), now part of the town of Serampore in the Hooghly district of West Bengal, occurs in the works of 15th century poet Bipradas Pipilai. Bipradas is known as one of the contributors to the “Manasamangal” genre, and for having written many of the stories of “Chand Saudagar”. His descriptions of Mahesh are probably from around 1495. But the cult of Jagannath in Mahesh is much older than that. The area was probably under the rule of Oriya Kings, and as Lord Jagannath (Anglicized to Juggernaut) was the royal family’s deity of choice, it found acceptance among subjects here. Mahesh today, remains a centre of Jagannath worship, and is home to the second oldest “Rath Yatra” or car festival in India, after Puri. The story goes that Dhrubananda Brahmachari, a devout man of Mahesh had travelled to Puri to worship Lord Jagannath. It was his desire to give the deity “bhog” with his own hands, but this was prevented by the temple authorities. But right after this debacle, Lord Jagannath himself appeared to the heartbroken Dhrubananda in his dreams, commanding him to return to Mahesh, where he would appear to his devotee. Dhrubananda followed the instruction, returned to Mahesh, and by one account found an idol of Lord Jagannath trapped in the sands of the Ganges’ bank. An alternative version says Lord Jagannath had promised to provide to Dhrubananda, a Daru-Bramha, or the trunk of a Neem tree, out of which Dhrubananda had the idols carved out. These idols were that of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balarama, and sister, Subhadra. They were installed in the original Mahesh temple which dates back to 1397. But this temple is no longer in existence.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Mysore Palace

Let me begin with something basic that many Indians are unaware of. When I say Mysore, do you immediately think of Tipu Sultan? In that case, you should know that Tipu and his father Hyder Ali are just one small island in the ocean of the Wadiyar reign. The Wadiyars (sometimes spelt Wodeyar) were the Hindu kings of the Kingdom of Mysore. Starting with Yaduraya Wadiyar in 1399, they ruled Mysore almost uninterrupted right up to Independence. Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan usurped power through military might and ruled Mysore from 1761 to 1799. Their colluding with the French thoroughly alarmed the East India Company, which ultimately defeated Tipu and restored the Wadiyars to the throne, albeit with a serious caveat. Large parts of the Kingdom had to be ceded to the English, and what remained became in effects a British dependency, with a Chief Commissioner, a.k.a. “resident” dictating much of the King’s decisions.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Residency, Lucknow

“If we succeed in sweeping them all away, or absorbing them, we shall be at the mercy of our native army, and they will see it; and accidents may possibly occur to unite them, or a great portion of them, in some desperate act…the best provision against it seems to me to be the maintenance of native rulers, whose confidence and affection can be engaged, and administrations improved under judicious management” - Major-general Sir William Henry Sleeman to Lord Dalhousie from Jhansi, 24th September, 1848

Sleeman’s eerie prediction was to come true less than a decade later when dissatisfaction exploded into open rebellion. While Governor General Dalhousie’s Doctrine of Lapse had been used by the company to gobble up states where the king lacked a biological son, such as Satara in 1848, Jhansi in 1853 and Nagpur in 1854, “Awadh was an acquisition on a far different scale”, writes William Dalrymple, “and was practiced on a ‘faithful and unresisting ally’ without even the nominal justification of the absence of a recognized heir”. The annexation of Awadh or Oudh happened purely because the King, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, had run into vast debts with the Company, and seemed unable to, or disinterested in paying them. With this annexation, centuries of established tradition, when it came to land, revenue collection, and even governance, was trampled under the Englishman’s boot. It is no coincidence that the largest number of recruits in the Bengal Army, which rebelled against its masters in 1857, was from the Awadh area. The igniting spark for the mutiny was supplied by the infamous Enfield rifle and its greased cartridges, which Hindu and Muslim sepoys feared contained the fat of cows and pigs. While in Meerut and Cawnpore (Kanpur), the massacre of Europeans was near total, Lucknow, the capital of Awadh, presents a different picture. Here, thanks to the foresight and preparation of Sir Henry Lawrence, 1700 Europeans were able to hold out for 87 days, against overwhelming odds. The place where they chose to make their stand was a compound of roughly 33 acres, containing a number of buildings inhabited by Company servants, European traders, and their families. Chief among the buildings was that of the British “Resident”, Chief Commissioner Sir Henry Lawrence, and the compound thus came to be known as “The Residency”.