Located in the eastern region of Uttar Pradesh in India is this maze-like palace complex, a blend of European and Arabic architecture and the brainchild of 18th-century ruler Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula.
This huge tomb is a sight worth seeing in its own right. Bara Imambara’s magnificent central arched hall-which stretches 50 meters long and about three stories high-is held up, amazingly, without any pillars, girders or beams, but with interlocking brickwork. Bara means big, and an imambara is a shrine built by Shia Muslims for the purpose of Azadari. The Bara Imambara is among the grandest buildings of Lucknow. The complex can be accessed through the two enormous gates which lead into a huge courtyard. Explore the mosque on one side and the large bawri (stepped-well). A large hall can be seen at the far end of the courtyard which is one of the world’s largest vaulted galleries.
Go beyond the small, innocuous-looking entrance to the left of the large central hall and you will reach Bhulbhulaiya, a dense labyrinth of more than 1,000 narrow stairway passages that wind their way inside the upper floors of the tomb’s structure, eventually leading out of the balconies, is meant to intimidate intruders. Visitors tend to get lost inside. Some stairways lead to abrupt drops, others have dead ends. Roam around the secret maze, preferably with an approved guide, and explore the adjacent mosque and manicured gardens.
Next to the Bara Imambara is the Rumi Darwaza, which is said to be a copy of an entrance gate in Istanbul.
Over ahead is the gorgeous Aurangzeb’s mosque, where the exterior is more impressive than the interiors.
Address: Hussainabad Trust Road, Lucknow, India
Prices: Indian Rs. 20, Foreigner Rs. 300. Rs. 75 for a guide
Hours: dawn to dusk