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

Inside the hall of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan's tomb
Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan’s tomb is a three storeyed structure which may be said to representative of late Mughal architecture. As is typical of many of the heritage structures of Lucknow from this period, the fa├žade is decorated with lime plaster and stucco and the walls are built using bricks while sandstone is used for the floors. Bastions on each of the four corners, crowned by chhatris, contain spiral staircases which provide access to the roof and the basement. The tall and elegant central dome is topped with an inverted lotus and finial. The ground floor contains a large octagonal chamber, with tri-arched entrance gateways and porticos on all four sides. The floor of the central chamber has black and white marble tiles laid out in a chess board pattern. On the corridor in the rear are the graves of three of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan’s wives, while the eastern portico contains the graves of three of his daughters. In the centre of the hall, the floor contains an elegant rectangular design, which serves to mark the position of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan’s grave, which is located in the basement. A metal grate prevents people from stepping on the precise spot.

The graves in the basement
In the basement may be found three graves. The central grave is that of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan, while one of the other two is that of his brother. The fact that access to the basement is possible is not immediately apparent, and if you happen to be there, ask the guide, who will accompany you, and show you the graves. The same spiral staircase that led you down, will also lead you up, on to the roof of the tomb or “Maqbara”. While not advised for those with vertigo, if you think you can keep your fear in control, do go up. You will find yourself inside one of the chhatris, with a breath-taking view of not only Lucknow, but also the tomb of Khursheed Zadi (or Mursheed Zadi) which is located to the East, in the same compound.

Inside the dome of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan's tomb
Khursheed Zadi (or Mursheed Zadi) was Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan’s favourite wife, who died during his lifetime. The construction of the tomb was started during Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan’s lifetime, but could not be completed. Both tombs were completed by his son, Abul-Muzaffar Ghazi-ud-din Haydar Khan (known simply as Ghazi-ud-din Haydar). Qaisar Bagh was originally known as Khas Bazar, and the spot where the tombs stand today was once the residence of Nawaab Ghazi-ud-din Haydar, which was demolished to erect the tombs. During the mutiny of 1857, St. Mary’s Church, the first Anglican Church in North India, was destroyed by shelling. Until Christ Church was built in 1860, prayer services and even Christmas Mass was held in the tomb of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan.

Tomb of Khursheed Zadi (or Mursheed Zadi)

The tomb of Khursheed Zadi (or Mursheed Zadi) is located to the East of Nawaab Saadat Ali Khan’s tomb, and is in a similar architectural style. This is a four levelled structure with graves of Khursheed Zadi and her daughter at the lowest level. The second level contains the cenotaph while the third level has a spacious terrace. The dome contains octagonal chhatris at the corners. The main dome is fluted and contains the commonly seen inverted lotus finial. In his book Glories of Uttar Pradesh, author Nand Lai Chatterji observes that although much smaller than the more famous Bada Imambara of Lucknow, these twin tombs contain much more artistry, and I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Entry to the tombs is free, and although at the time I visited the tomb, entry into Khursheed Zadi's tomb was not possible since it was undergoing repairs, under normal circumstances there is no restriction on photography. Although it is not mandatory or expected, do give the guide a generous tip if he does a good job of showing you around.

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’s flickr pagehere.


Monuments of Lucknow – R.S. Fonia

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