Sthan Parivartan: Lucknow

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Sthan in Hindi means ‘Place’ and Parivatan means ‘Change’. Sthan Parivartan– a phrase used generally in astrology but I have decided to use it for my vacations because I keep planning vacations in various destinations, make excellent plans, but they never see the light of the day – locked in my head.

However, post my leaving my last job, I had decided that the next two months I will not join any new organization but focus on the upcoming management exams, give interviews, meet people, watch TV and travel. Now, again travel was last on the list but it still made to the fifth ranking. 🙂

14th March 2016, once I had completed my notice period, the next day – my official birthday, I called my best friend (BFF) in Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh, India). She has been inviting me for the last three years now, but I as mentioned by travel plans are major flops. But this time, I applied bottom-up approach to my to-do list as I have not been to a proper vacation in the last eight years. Yes, eight years when I just kept admiring FB posts and pictures of my friends travelling across the globe, while working at least 10 hours a day, 6 days a week in the corporate circus.

After three conversations, I finalized, booked the tickets for Mom and myself a month in advance, and prayed hard that all should go well as I was to reach Lucknow a day before my BFF’s birthday and celebrate it together after a very long time, about five years back when her family had shifted to Lucknow from Mumbai.

Things went as planned (for a change! I guess prayers helped 🙂 ) and gathered some great memories during this trip. Accept for Air India Domestic flight now to be boarded from International Airport, rest all was ok. We were not aware of this change and landed at domestic airport where it was informed that Air India and Jet Wings are now to be boarded from International Airport. So that was a news.

Situated in Uttar Pradesh, UP (you-pee) as all address in India, there is cynicism in many minds that UP is not safe, especially for girls, religious indifference issues, etc. etc. The list is a long one. I too had my own reservations but I did not know that my perceptions were about to take a 360 degree turn.

From the flight and throughout the entire trip, I met people – so helpful, so kind, so full of humility – that I realized staying in the financial capital of India, being a part of the constant cat-mouse race in the corporate world, I have barely met people who are so courteous with 10 on 10 to the hospitality. There was a lot to learn from Lucknow—I am glad I chose this great city for vacation.

I won’t bore you with all the details but some which I feel will help you planning your trip to the City of Nawabs (and City of Kebabs), Lucknow is stated below in an extremely condensed version. You must visit the city for the elaborate version.

Lucknow, anything and everything here is massive, vast – from houses to gardens to roads – everything is considerably large. I was staying at Gomti Nagar, said to be the largest planned residential colony of India, about 35 minutes from the Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport, Amausi, Lucknow. For the first time in India I saw roads with Cycle track. I mean this is impossible to dream in Mumbai. Places visited in Lucknow were…

Ambedkar Memorial Park, Gomti Nagar–the best time to visit this park is around 4 pm in summer. The park is built near Gomti River, using red sandstone that gives it a majestic yet modern look, and its vastness covers quite a portion of Gomti Nagar. To cover the entire garden will take about 5 to 6 hours. The architecture is strikingly beautiful. You will not get enough of clicks as every angle is a beauty in itself. In evening the lights are very dim – therefore, you may not be able to appreciate, and get good pics and selfies. The sculptures, gates, statues, pillars, fountains, bonsai – all are work of art, truly admirable.Some clicks that we could take in about 2 hours…

Entry Fee: INR 10 per person

Dewa Sharif, Barabanki – It takes about an hour from Gomti Nagar to visit Dewa Sharif – shrine of Haji Waris Ali Shah, a Sufi saint from Dewa (1819-1905), and in respect of the saint and shrine, the town is known as Dewa Sharif. A serene place, full of peace. The sufi songs and light music creates a mystical atmosphere. Religion and gender is no bar, here. All are welcomed to pray to the Almighty here.

Entry Fee: NONE

To Purchase (if desired): Offering Basket – a chaddar (piece of fabric), flowers (flower petals usually), sweets (white sugar balls) and thread (red-yellow thread) for about INR 100 to 150. If the chaddar is an ornate piece of fabric then the price will be higher – maximum INR 500.

Chaddar and Flowers will be offered in the shrine, thread one can tie inside on the metal grill, and few flower petals and sugar balls you carry with you (for consuming, distributing among friends, etc.).

You can donate in the donation boxes and to the musicians. There is no compulsion, it is solely your wish.

Shoes are to be removed and kept before entering the shrine. It is something like INR 2 per pair, but you can pay more I you desire.

Advisable to wear clothing that cover your body (no shorts, sleeveless, etc.), taking head scarf is appropriate.

Pictures are not allowed near the shrine. But you can click outside in the premises.

Lucknow City – Once you cross the Gomti river, you enter the way to the old Lucknow city – one of the most beautiful cities of India. Places to visit here include Bada Imamabada courtyard which contains Shahi Bawli, and Asifi Masjid, Chota Imamabada, Hussainabad Clock Tower, Satkhanda, Hussainabad Picture Gallery, Rumi Darwaza, Lucknow Residency, Hazartganj Lane…some of the many places one must not miss.

Bada Imamabada: I have not witnessed an architectural monument with innate detailing considering convenience for the soldiers’ way back in 1784. There is an idiom – Walls have ears. You must visit this architectural maze – the famous Bhool Bhulaiya (Labyrinth) – to know what this idiom actually means because here Walls Really Have Ears! Whatever you speak near the walls can be heard by a person standing miles away. That is the way soldiers positioned across use to communicate or warn on the upcoming danger. Wow!

As the history goes, it is said that the Imam Bada was built with a moral cause – to generate employment in the famine hit Awadh in the 18th century by Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh. Two set of workers were hired – one built the monument in the morning, one broke it at night – sounds crazy but was done by the Nawab so that his people do not turn into the lazy-kinds and are paid for their days’ hard work till the wrath of famine disappears.

For the generous Nawab, People said, “Jisko na de Moula, usko de Asaf-ud-Doula.”

(To those whom God doesn’t Bless, Are Blessed By Asaf-ud-Doula.)

To which the humble, strong faith, religious Nawab replied, “Jisko de Moula, usko kya de Asaf-ud-Doula.”

(To whom God blesses, who is Asaf-ud-Daula to bless.)

As you enter the hall you will see the Tazia and the grave of Asaf-ud-Daula. The ceiling so high, is buit with no pillars, no iron, with excellent acoustic properties. Thought the guide described, I still could not understand how. The bricks then were tiled using a paste made of food ingredients – Black Gram (Urad Dal), Rice (Chawl), Jaggery (Gur), Acacia Gum (Goond), Wheat (Ghehun), Limestone (Choona), and Brick Dust (Surkhi). Absolutely stunning!

The narrow stairs and path takes you to the roof from where you can see the Teeliwali Masjid. Ventilation, light, visibility of the main gate from every window – everything is mesmerizing – which made me wonder how much of thinking had gone in designing and building this marvellous structure.

The courtyard has Asifi Masjid and way to the hidden Bawli, besides beautiful garden. It also has stalls that sell water, souvenir, etc. Water is a must especially in summer. The heat is killing. Your feet will burn if you do not walk on the carpets. It took us over 2 hours – will take more time for the photo frenzies. Daylight visit is advisable as you can capture the beauty of the place.

Entry Fee: INR 20 for Bada Imamabada which contains Shahi Bawli, and Asifi Masjid, Chota Imamabada, Hussainabad Clock Tower, Satkhanda and Hussainabad Picture Gallery

INR 5 for camera

INR 2 per shoe pair

INR 120 on wards for guides each at Bada Imambada, Chota Imam Bada and Hussainabad Picture Gallery

Please carry a scarf and sunglasses without fail.

Beware: Please hire a government recognized guide. You will find them near the fee counter. Avoid interacting with the so called Tanga Wala Guide (horse ride + guides) who share some common talks and take you to expensive Lucknowi Cloth Shops with whom they have commission settlements per purchase you make.

 

Chota Imambada – Another Imambada smaller but with beautiful monument and tazias.

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Hussainabad Clock Tower, Satkhanda, Hussainabad Picture Gallery – all of these monuments are situated adjacent to each other. Hussainabad Clock Tower and Satkhanda are currently under restoration work. Hussainabad Picture Gallery is one must visit place. Please hire the guide. No pictures inside are allowed. And the paintings inside made from flower colours, fruit extracts, jewels and precious stone dust have this 3D effect – you can actually see the portraits looking at you from any angle in the Picture Hall. Once again I am wowed.

 

Rumi Darwaza – it is like the entrance gate to the city. I like all the Darwazas and Gates all over India!

Lucknow Residency – Also known as British Residence Museum is again located on massive grounds with many smaller and larger monuments inside. In the museum inside, you will have to keep your cameras and cell phones etc. in the locker. No pictures allowed inside the museum. The museum has a replica of the old city preserved in a glass covered table, many old portraits, pictures, the cannon explosion mark, etc. entire history is captured in these artifacts.

Hazartganj Lane – It is the old look city lane displaying the modern fashion brands. It has its own charm. You must taste Chaat at Royal Café here. In Lucknow and not having chat means you have missed something. We visited Sahara Ganj Mall Food Court which has Royal Café counter (basket chaat is worthit), Lucknowi Kebab Corner (I think that is the name. Check the mini meal here.), the lassi (I cannot recollect the name of the outlet), and all fast food outlets.

Aminabad Market – Ok now I thought Mumbai Market was the biggest. Again I was wrong. Aminabad I guess is one of the oldest and biggest (trust me it is HUGE) textile bazaar in India. Lucknowi Chikan fabrics (stitched – unstitched) are a must purchase here. Bedsheets, pillow covers, cushion covers, stitched sari blouses, zardosi Indian wear, embroidered sari…all in varieties and colours. You will get tired, but the shops and the market continues. You cannot cover the market in one day – one week is what you need. Prakash Kufi, Mohan Market and there is a bakery I do not remember the name – are two must visit places. You will love the kulfi!

Pratrakar Puram, Gomti Nagar – If you do not have time to vist Aminabad, then Patrakar Market is a like an assorted version of Aminabad. It is expensive than Aminabad but extremely economical in comparison to Mumbai.

For touring the city, it is advisable to book a car. For Aminabad you will have to rely on rickshaws and cycle rickshaws. While packing for the trip you must have three things – Sunglasses, Flat/Sports Shoes and Scarf/Cap/Hat. Ensure you are wearing minimal gold jewellery. Chain and bangle snatching is not uncommon. Advisable to wear artificial jewellery. Credit cards are accepted in big stores at Aminabad and Patrakar Market. So carry cash only as much as you require.

Sans Aminabad, it will take at least four days if you really want to connect with the city. Impeccable Hindi and Urdu is music to ears as in Mumbai you speak either Mumbaiyya Hindi or Hindlish.

There are many more parks in Lucknow, which we could not visit due to time constraint. But our trip was fun as Lucknow was followed by Kanpur, Agra, Sikandra and Fatehpur Sikri…to be continued 🙂

Hope the article helps. All the tariff mentioned in the article are for Indian citizens. For Foreign Tourists, the tariff differs.

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…Ashu Bolar

 

 

 

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