The city of Lucknow is home to monuments and architectural wonders that maintain their magnificence while telling tails of the glorious history of the city. One such historically rich monument is the Chota Imambara or the Imambara of Hussainabad Mubarak is purely an architectural marvel. Also called the palace of lights, because of the exquisite chandeliers it is decorated with, that are illuminated on special occasions, give a spectacular view of the complex. In 1775 Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, shifted the capital of Oudh (Awadh) from Faizabad to Lucknow, which marked a series of social, cultural, and historical developments in the city. Mohammad Ali Shah, who was the third Nawab of Awadh built the Chota Imambara in 1839, which was the second year of his reign. It is said, that the Nawab built this monument as an allegiance to his faith. The Imambara complex, also later served as a mausoleum for the Nawab and his family.
Asifullah Khan, who was the superintendent of the king’s ordinance and building department supervised the construction of this Imambara. The architecture of the building is a blend of Persian, Islamic and Indian design. The Chota Imambara complex comprises of a main hall, a mosque, a Naubata Khana, a Hamam Khana, and a stable for horses. A beautiful water channel with fountains, with a bridge in the middle and two structures on both sides of the water channel, is set to replicate the Taj Mahal in a smaller setting. One of the two structures serves as a mausoleum for Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah’s family. A similar structure was built just opposite the mausoleum for symmetry.
Steps along the Chabootra lead to the Aza Khana which is the main hall where the Majlis (Morning session) for Imam Hussain takes place. There are 5 main doors which signify the Prophet Muhammad’s family. It represents the Ahl-al Kisa also referred to as ‘People of the Cloak’, which includes his daughter Fatima, his cousin and son in law, his two grandsons Hassan and Husayn, and lastly himself. They are also called the Aal al- Aba in Arabic and Panjetan in Persian. The Aza Khana’s large green and white-bordered hall is richly decorated with Belgian chandeliers, gilded mirrors, crystal glass lamps, and also contains the royal throne and crown of Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah.
Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah and his mother are buried in the basement of the Aza Khana hall. There are large calligraphy panels on the outer walls of the hall and adjacent buildings. Its simplicity and white designs against a contrasting dark background enhances the grandeur of the verses of the Quran that are beautifully engraved in it. The compound also has a Hammam called as ‘Shahi Hammam’, as a part of the Abdar Khana, which served as a water storage and cooling system.
The Hussainabad Endowment Trust looks after the Chota Imambara, and from the 7th to the 9th day of Muharram, it arranged the illumination of the Chota Imambara and its gateway.
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