Yes they do if you hear them intently. I could feel it during my visit to Bara Imambara (BI), Bhool-Bhulaiyaa (BB) and the tall Rumi Darwaza (RD) while doing a book on Lucknow. A tourist guide took me around these signature monuments, and believe me, it was sheer delight. He coaxed me to listen to what the monuments hummed and conveyed while standing tall and tanned under the strong summer sun. Indeed, it is a mirror and reflection of the civilization of those times, when the monument was constructed.
BI, BB and RD were all constructed by, the then Ruler and Nawab of Lucknow, Asaf-ud-Daulah (AUD) in 1784 about whom, it is said: ‘Jis ko na de Maulah usko de Asaf-ud-Daulah.’ (AUD grants benevolence, even to those, whom Almighty denies—a catchphrase in the honour of the local ruler). AUD imbibed the ethos and spirit of Awadh, only to convert it into grand edifices, further catapulting it, into iconic monuments around which these civilizations flourished.
He decided to build the BI for Azadari (mourning). To provide relief to his poor subjects who were reeling under severe famine in 1783-84. The construction provided employment to nearly twenty two thousand people at a time. But his concern did not rest there. To encourage men folk of respectable families who felt embarrassed working during the day, fearing they will be recognized as labourers during daylight. The Nawab directed that the construction work be continued even after sunset, and throughout the night, when men would work in darkness without being recognized. Many people who worked in the night were unskilled. Work done by them was therefore sub-standard, which was demolished during the day and re-built by skilled workers next day. Though, this arrangement caused a lot of wastage, AUD put forth some remarkable points relevant to mankind by weaving a fabric of social security system for the society.
Even today, BI conveys the tale of pain, human suffering and so, is dear to all, as forefathers of many may have participated in this project cutting across religion and strata of the society. AUD had shifted his capital from Faizabad-Ayodhya (twin cities) to Lucknow therefore Ram-Raj was not unknown to him.
The main hall of the Imambara is 50 x16 meters. And is 15 meters tall without any central pillars or columns supporting it. This is said to be the world’s largest ‘arched room’ without pillars. As if conveying. It is possible for a society to exist and survive with each other’s support alone. As Hindu-Muslims do in Lucknow like the arched room.
Within the Imambara AUD had also carved the labyrinth … the ‘BB’ which is, three storeyed. It has 489 similar looking galleries without doors, where one can roam endlessly for hours. But by roaming endlessly you don’t reach your destination. To reach your destination you require proper direction, is the lesson it conveys.
The narrow lanes of BB were carved to confuse enemy intruders during invasions. Only the King and a few of his trusted men knew the way out. Just as your Guru or the Almighty knows the way out for you, in troubled times. And keeping the enemy confused is a robust strategy even today.
These constricted lanes can make anyone feel lost, as you sometimes, feel in life. Their passages, some of which have cul-de-sacs, exhort us to keep moving in life, even during hardships, and not fear the dead ends. For hardships will only dissolve in front of your endurance.
Flights of steps go up-and-down like a sinusoidal curve. It is steep, dark and narrow. Where, even the sound of a lighted match stick, amplifies and seems to travel through the length of the corridor. The lit-up effect of which illuminates, right up to the other end of the corridor. Signifying, don’t worry. For, there is always light at the other end of the tunnel.
There are a series of closed narrow passages. In the form of an intricate network, that connects them to a set of staircases. That suddenly change direction, going up or down just to confuse a person. Only, one correct combination of the passage and staircase when negotiated correctly, leads you to the roof top. In a manner hinting, that perfection requires precision. Like a combination lock. Where, only one correct combination of passage and stairs together, can take you to the top.
It reminds, even real life is like a combination lock. Where all combinations need to mesh for fruition. You cannot reach the top of BB without the help of a guide, who is trained to perfection to take you up. Just like the journey of life, where the Almighty holds your hand and takes you through and through. Next,
The grand Rumi Darwaza (RD) standing 60 feet-tall, was also a part of relief operations during the famine. It is devoid of wood and iron and an outright novelty, of its times. When viewed from the West, it looks like a huge Mehraab—a grand gateway. East is even prettier … resembling a Mexican hat. Its three gates in a row absorb the fast, medium and the slow moving traffic, symbolic of the trait of absorption in human life. Born tall, it lives tall and looks prettier from wide angles. The tough, rough and the dainty mix of personality that human beings need to imbibe.
AUD’s character possessed the sponge to absorb the ethos of the masses, and convert it into these everlasting golden scripts of brick and mortar. Try it out, yourself. As and when you go close to these monuments. They shear off your existing nub of thoughts and fill you with some gentle self-introspection. Which only helps you in re-determining your values. They say values of a man rarely changes. Not even during his lifetime.
In the flux and flow of life. If someone, were to ask me to describe the Awadh of 1784. I would simply tell him to go and see a movie produced in that era. Or read a book published around that time. But sad, movies were not invented then and books were not too prevalent. So, my request to him would only be, to go and visit BI, BB and even RD.
I now, never miss an opportunity to visit old monuments, and spend some quality time there. As each monument has something beatific to tell you.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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