Lucknow Gup - The Imambara Needs Love
When starved of love even the most awesome wither. Such seems to be the fate of Lucknow's great Imambara, a heritage site that deserves much more care.
The city's marvel of a building is perhaps not loved enough, otherwise it would not suffer such neglect. Last Tuesday, the city woke up to the depressing news that a dome of the Imambara from 1784 had collapsed due to heavy rains.
The stately building is one of the city's main tourist attractions. The complex along with the Imambara includes a mosque, a delightful maze, and a water reservoir. Visitors throng to the sprawling premises all year round, adding a steady income for the care of one of the most imposing buildings in this part of the world.
The latest news from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is that the damage has been assessed and a team is working to restore the building. The question is why was the building allowed to fall apart in the first place?
Designed by architect Kifayatullah from Iran, Bishop Heber who visited Lucknow in 1824 described the tabernacle of chandeliers he saw hanging in the main hall, thus "…hung with immense lustre of silver and gold, prismatic crystals, and coloured glass, and any that were too heavy to be hung rose in radiant piles from the floor. In the midst of them were temples of silver filigree, eight or ten feet high and studded with precious stones. No wood has been used in the main hall of the Imambara that is believed to be the largest vaulted hall in the world.
In 1856 Reverend Henry Polehampton wrote that "the Imambara is a large quadrangle…surrounded by very beautiful buildings. At the farther end is the King's tomb. It is contained in a large hall full of all sorts of curiosities. There are many immense chandeliers from England, remarkable for the size; and a wooden horse, from a saddler's shop in Calcutta, is highly prized." The streets around the Imambara are described as "wide and clean".
Love for Heritage
The woes of heritage lovers does not stop at the state of the city's Great Imambara. There is worry over the ruling party's decision to move the Zoo from the heart of the city to Kukrail. This part of north India enjoys the most lush landscape along the Gangetic Plains.
Lucknow is surrounded by forests that are coveted by developers and encroached upon by builders. Kukrail is in the northeast of Lucknow. The area gets its name from a stream that was once famous for the curative powers of its water.
Then Kukrail was home to a rich variety of wildlife. The Kukrail forest covers an area of about 5,000 acres and received its status as a reserve forest in 1954. The area had included a cluster of eighteen villages that was acquired by the government in 1946.
About 100 hectares of the forest was reserved for recreational purposes with a nature trail and an infrastructure facilitating picnics. In 1975, Kukrail became home of the national project for crocodile farming. In early 1970s the crocodile was counted as an endangered species, its population in the world having reduced to a few hundred.
Today thousands of crocodiles bred in Kukrail have been released in different waters. Although concrete has encroached into the heart of Kukrail, local ornithologists still find it a great place for bird-watching. Here it is possible to spy as many as 75 different species of resident birds besides many migratory birds, particularly towards the end of the winter months.
Environmentalists are concerned that whatever is left of the green cover in Kukrail might be swallowed up by planting the city zoo on the already eroded earth that was once a thick forest.
Acche Din for Keshav Prasad Maurya?
After dreaming of becoming Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh before the Assembly elections in 2017, Keshav Prasad Maurya has been silently performing his job as one of two deputy chief ministers. Five years after the 2017 elections, Maurya lost his Assembly seat in the 2022 polls. Naturally his bargaining power within his party diminished.
However, he remains the most important face of the backward castes within the ruling party. Maurya's organisational skills and his loyalty are considered an asset by his political masters. The clash of his personality with that of the upper caste Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is also well known. But in the interest of the party politics, both Maurya and Adityanath are forced to overlook whatever differences that exist between them.
While the Chief Minister is the Hindutva face of the ruling party, Maurya is expected to woo the large majority of lower caste voters in the 2024 national elections. The rumour that is ripe in the state capital is if Maurya will be rewarded with the position of the prestigious presidentship of the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP)?
La Martiniere Girls College, Lucknow made the city proud when it offered to collect the National Flags from different parts of the city, after the Independence Day celebrations ended on August 15. To the delight of environmentalists the college put out a notice inviting everyone who did not know what to do with the National Flag to deposit it at the College, and to save it from being discarded on the wayside.
The Central government's decision to allow the use of machine-made polyester National Flags had got the environment conscious citizen thinking. Besides being a kick in the pocket of hundreds of employees, mainly women from rural areas engaged in weaving and making khadi national flags, polyester is difficult to dispose of.
According to the revised Flag Code of India, the Indian National Flag or Tricolour can now be made of polyester and by machine. Before the amendment, only hand-woven and hand-spun flags made of cotton, silk, wool or Khadi were used by citizens. According to reports, demand for the Khadi flag decreased drastically because many more polyester flags were used this year.