The Bara Imambara is one of the grandest buildings found in Lucknow, India. Although not as famous or popular as the other ancient Indian landmarks, it does hold its own as one of the more unique building complexes in the country, not only through its history but also by how it was designed. “Bara” means “big” and “imambara” is the term for a shrine usually built by Shia Muslims. Therefore, this grand building is also commonly known as the Great Imambara.
Bara Imambara History
The Great Imambara is just one of the buildings that form part of the complex that was built by Asaf-ud-daula, Nawab of Lucknow in 1784. It was built at a time of great famine that stretched for over a decade, according to historical reports. But because of the grandiose dream of Asaf-ud-daula to build such a complex in Lucknow, construction still continued despite this time of difficulty.
Historical chronicles during the period states that ordinary people worked on the construction of the building complex by day, while the noblemen and the elite, who have fallen under hard times, worked during the night, destroying what was built during the day as they were incapable of doing anything else. The purpose was believed to be providing people with a means of employment during the period of famine. True enough, this arrangement went on up until the famine period was over.
Bara Imambara Design
The Great Imambara forms part of a grand complex that also includes a mosque, gateways, courtyards, and a bawali or step well made as part of a famine relief project. The architectural style of the building and the whole complex was based on Nawabi architecture. The complex was an attempt to build a Mughal complex including security features such as high-arcaded battlements even when security was not that much of a concern in the area.
The Bara Imambara and the complex itself is one of the last ancient major projects that were built without the incorporation of European influences or the use of iron. The Bara Imambara was built almost entirely out of brick. The main structure of the Imambara consists of the large vaulted central chamber that contained the tomb of Asaf-ud-daula. It stands 15 meters tall and occupies a 50 by 16 meter area. Its unique significance is that the ceiling of the said structure contains no beams to support it. The Bara Imambara is considered as a building with one of the largest of such arched constructions in the world.