The City of Nawabs- Lucknow

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“Lucknow hai Toh Sirf, Gumbad-O-Minar Nahin, Mahaz Ek Sahar Nahi, Koocha-E-Bazaar Nahin; Iske Daamna Mein Mohabbat Ke Phool Khilte Hai, Iski Galion Mein Farishton Ke Pate Milte Hai”- Yogesh Praveen beautifully explained Lucknow in his poetry. And each word he wrote was accurate for the ”City of Nawabs”. Lucknow has classic monuments of the Islamic and British periods, charming bazaars, crowded streets and delicious cuisines. Hence, I decided to travel to the city during the Christmas vacation.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Oil Paint of Lucknow

My friend and I booked the Lucknow Shatabdi Express from Delhi, which takes 6 hrs to reach Lucknow. It was a cold winter morning & the temperature was around 10 degrees. We arrived on time & boarded the train; the Anubhuti coach was spacious with significantly comfortable chairs, charging pods & leg rest. I was Impressed! 

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Lucknow Shatabdi Express

The weather was foggy, and I could only see a few poles & trees passing by.

However, the inside was warm and cosy; I was greeted with a rose.

Greeting with Rose

And hot tea and later followed with soup & breakfast. It was a comfortable journey till Lucknow. 


It was 12.30 pm when I reached, and the weather was warm and pleasant. Finally, I was in the city- Lucknow, whose prominence was in the mid-18th century when it became the capital of the province of Awadh (Oudh) in colonial India. As the Mughal power declined, several Muslim states grew more robust and ruled their territories independently. 

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Lucknow Station

Sadat Khan, a Persian (from Naishapur in Iran) who was earlier in the Mughals’ services, was governor of the province of Awadh (Oudh) in 1732. Soon, he assumed the title of Nawab, and from Sadat Khan onwards, the ”Nawab” titles were hereditary. Although a token tribute was sent to Delhi by them each year, the Nawabs ruled the province of Awadh independently. In 1775, the capital of Awadh was transferred from Faizabad to Lucknow.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Life of Nawab

I hired an auto to reach my AirBnB location on the city’s outskirts. And travelling from the old to the new town, I realised the Nawabs were great patrons of the culinary and other arts, particularly dance & music. They even introduced their language, fashions, etiquette and architecture to the city. But before leaving the station, let me tell you the history of Lucknow Charbagh Railway station. 

Way to Hotel

It was completed in 1914, and the architecture resembles a chess board, with turrets on a single board and pieces such as domes and pillars. Mr Choubey Mukta Prasad, a consulting engineer for Ms Lenbrown and Hewlett, played a significant role in the plans & design of the building. The impressive station has massive red and white structures, bastions, domes and towers. However, the basic structure of the station complex is rectangular with projected porticos. But there are many towers and clusters of circular Awadhi domes. 

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Charbagh Railway station

There are a few interesting facts, like various tunnels under the station used today to transport goods. Also, no sound of a moving train could be heard from any verandah of the station. And most important, In 1916, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru first met at Charbagh railway station. I was impressed!’

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Beautiful architecture

Upon reaching my AirBnB, I checked in and freshened up. Since the location was on the city’s outskirts, it took 45 minutes to get there. Later, I booked an Uber to Tunday Kebabi in Aminabad as my hunger pangs were loud & clear. However, I first shopped in 1905 in the bustling street of Gol Darwaza in the Chowk area of Lucknow. 

Tunday Kebabi

Kebabs have been ruling the streets of Lucknow for ages. And my trip was complete with trying these lip-smacking Tunday kebabs. These kebabs are cooked in a crispy outer layer with a soft filling inside until they are tender enough to dissolve in your mouth. I tried it with Sheermal -sweet tandoori naans of milk, sugar, and Kesar. However, one can try it with Roomali roti or Ulta paratha too. They were lip-smacking!

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Tunday Kebabi

Walking along the street, I saw the city flourish in leaps and bounds during the 18th and 19th centuries. It became the artistic and cultural centre during the Nawab of Awadh. Each corner of the city has some of the most significant architectural marvels. Hence, I decided to visit the British Residency.

British Residency

British Residency is a historical remnant of the British Era that carries every mark of the mutiny of Sepoy in 1857. Each brick is a silent spectator of the war fought, the bravery shown, and the pain suffered by the soldiers during the great uprise.

Map of Residency

According to history, Nawab Asaf-Ud-Daulah started the construction of the British Residency, the successor of Shuja-Ud-Daulah, to house Sir Henry Lawrence, the then-British Resident General in the court of Awadh. It was built over the period 1780 – 1800. However, Nawab Sadat Ali Khan, the successor of Asaf-Ud-Daulah, completed the construction. Today, the Residency is in a completely dilapidated state. As I entered the Residency, I could only see the ruins of several buildings surrounded by lawns and flowerbeds. Let’s take a tour of  Residency.

 Bailley Guard Gate: I entered the gate to the Residency, Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, constructed in honour of Capt. John Bailley. He became the Resident of Lucknow at the beginning of the 19th century, and since then, it has been known as Bailey Guard Gate.

Bailey Guard Gate

The Treasury House:  I walked further to my right to meet the Treasury house, whose rooms were used for various purposes, such as Treasury, store room and also as the barrack of the 13th Native Infantry & their commander. Also, the long room at the centre of the building was used for making Enfield Cartridges during the revolution of 1857. A memory of the Native Officers & Sepoys: This is in front of the Treasury. It is inscribed in three languages but sadly defaced now

The Treasury House

The inscription reads: “To the Memory of the Native Officers and Sepoys of the 13th Native Infantry, 41st Native Infantry, 488th Native Infantry, 71st Native Infantry, the Oude Irregular Force, Native Pensioners, New Native Levies, Artillery, and Lucknow Magazine who died near this spot nobly performing their duty.”

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow

Banquet Hall: Further ahead were ruins of a large hall on two levels. There was a broken fountain in the main entrance hall, and I saw a stucco fireplace at the first-floor level that still retains a marble-like finish.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Banquet Hall

Dr Fayrer’s House: Opposite the Banquet Hall was the house of Dr Fayrer, a Resident Surgeon during the siege of 1857. Sir Henry Lawrence was shifted to this building after being mortally wounded on 2 July. He succumbed to his injuries on 4 July 1857.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Dr Fayrer’s House

Residency Main Building: Originally, it was a 3-storeyed imposing building meant for British Residents. Towards the eastern side was the principal entrance under a beautiful portico. Along the west, there was a wide & lofty collonaded verandah. Spiral stairs inside two turrets on the north & south sides led to the roof. 

Residency Main building

This building had numerous tall windows, and the top was protected with Italian bars. There were underground rooms in the southern part of the building to provide an effective shield against the hot winds of Lucknow summer.

Dilapidated architecture

During the siege of 1857, European ladies and children had taken shelter in these underground rooms. Miss Susanna Palmer, daughter of Col. Palmer, was killed in the annexe building. Henry Lawrence was mortally wounded when he was sitting in the library. The annexe building, formerly a model room, now houses the “1857 Memorial Museum”. Numerous cannonball marks can be seen on the walls of the Main Building, reflecting the fierce battle fought here during the siege.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
British Residency

1857 Memorial Museum: The Museum is set up in the annexe of the Main Residency Building to highlight the struggle of the people of India and the role played by the people of Lucknow (one of the epicentres of the uprise) during India’s first war of Independence. 


The Archaeological Survey of India currently maintains it. It is spread over the ground floor & the basement area of the building – there are four galleries on the ground floor and 7 in the basement. Its exhibits are systematically & chronologically arranged to offer a lucid account of India’s First War of Independence. 

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow

SIR Henry Lawrence Memorial:  High Cross and Memorial of Resident General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence, who was mortally wounded on 2 July and succumbed to his injuries on 4 July 1857. He was buried at Residency. 

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow

Begum Kothi: The ladies’ quarters are a large, imposing building with a lofty gateway. It consisted of two ranges of buildings, the inner buildings. The surrounding outer buildings form a square within a square. Begum Kothi’s upper room served as the store room. There is also one adjacent house that is today labelled as the Kitchen. It was the house of Mr Quieros, which along with its adjoining stables, was utilised as a canteen cum liquor storeroom. The house was connected to the Begum Kothi by a passageway.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Begum Kothi

Many are still left, like the Imambara, the Sheep House, the Slaughter House, the Bungalow, the Mosque & Imambara and the Cemetery. However, I covered the maximum before heading to Chattar Manzil. But before that, I drooped to La Martiniere College, besides the Residency.

La Martiniere College

The college dates back to 1845 and still functions as an educational institute for both sexes. It has imposing architecture and was founded by the Frenchman Claude Martin. Right next to the grand main building (Constance Hall) is a tall pillar, the Laatbeyond which the Gomti flows. 

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
La Martiniere College

The college had played a significant role in the 1857 events because Britain called on schoolboys to assist in the military conflict – namely, the defence of the Lucknow Residency. The names of eight staff members, sixty-seven boys and one ensign (old boy) are inscribed on the ‘Roll of Honour, defence of the Residency 1857’ at La Martinière Lucknow. 

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Roll of Honour

Apart from actual fighting, the boys performed several tasks within the Residency compound – some ran messages to the hospital, watched over the sick and wounded, ground corn and manned the telegraph connecting the Residency to Alam Bagh; others were seconded to domestic duties in place of native servants who had absconded. Truly inspirational!

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
The Entrance

Later, I took an auto & rode to the place, utterly disappointed by the dilapidated condition.

Chattar Manzil

Chattar Manzil was the former residential Palace of the Nawabs. Also known as the Umbrella Palace, it is a magnificent example of the city of Lucknow’s beauty, grandeur, and engineering construction of the Yore Mughal reign.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Chattar Manzil

It was built by Nawab Ghazi-dd-din Haider but was completed only after his death by his son, Nawab Nasir-dd-din Haider. The Palace was the Nawabi residence until Nawab Wajid Ali Shah shifted bases to Qaiserbagh. The Palace was named after Chatter Kunwar, the mother of Nawab Saadat Ali Khan. The architecture has an amalgamation of Indo-European and Nawabi constructions.

Old Illustration of Chattar Manzil

The site was under renovation; hence, I could not enter. But I was utterly surprised by the condition of the Palace. Farhat Baksh Kothi was beside Chattar Manzil, originally called the ‘Martin Villa.

Farhat Baksh Kothi: 

It was built in 1781 by the founder of La Martiniere, Major General Claude Martin. A classic Indo-French two-storey architecture was known to have some 4,000 books in its large hall upstairs. Since Frenchman Claude Martin was fond of reading, & river Gomti provided cool air that comforted him. He gradually built this Kothi and stayed until the end of his life.

The City of Nawabs- Lucknow
Farhat Baksh Kothi

Later, for a brief period during serious illness, Nawab Saadat Ali Khan took refuge here. Legend said that Nawab was so at peace here, healing quickly, that he changed the place’s name to Farhat Baksh Kothi (translating to a site that provides good fortune and luck). Wajid Ali Shah also occupied it, and it became his residence sometime. Moreover, during the 1857 revolt, this Kothi served as a fort for Indian revolutionaries.

Old Illustration of Farhat Baksh Kothi

I checked my watch & it was already 7.30 pm, and I was exhausted. Hence, I decided to call it a day; I took an auto to Irdis Biryani, a 45-year-old shop in Chowk run by Abu Bakr, the third generation of his family, to carry on the legacy of serving delectable Biryani. I got my Biryani packed & headed back to my Airbnb.

How to Reach

By Air

The city has the nearest Lucknow Airport, 14km from the city centre. One can hire a cab to reach the desired destination. 

By Rail 

The city railhead is well connected with all major cities of India. The Lucknow railway station at Charbagh is the central railway station. One can hire a cab, auto or bus to reach the desired destination. 

By Road

The city of Lucknow is well connected with major highways like NH25, NH28 and NH56. State and private buses are available from Varanasi, Allahabad, Kanpur, Agra, Jhansi, Delhi and other nearby cities. These buses ply at regular intervals. One can also book a cab or self-drive to Lucknow.


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