What do you get when you blend architectural beauty with spiritual magic and an intriguing past? Something like Bara Imambara. Constructed in the 18th century, Bara Imambara is a grand religious monument in the City of Nawabs – Lucknow. It was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula of Awadh and is popularly known as Asafi Imambara. The monument boasts impressive Mughal style architecture and is one of the most stunning historical places to visit in Lucknow.
Bara Imambara is a significant site of worship and religious gatherings, especially in the month of Muharram when Shia Muslims gather here in huge numbers to mourn the death of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. However, the brilliant architecture and the many interesting tales associated with the monument make it a popular tourist attraction as well.
Bara Imambara, Lucknow Information
Husainabad Trust Road, Machchhi Bhavan, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
6:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Entry Fee (per person)
Adults: INR 50
Children: INR 25
Foreigners: INR 500
Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula of Awadh
Year of Establishment
Year of Completion
Best Time to Visit
October to March
Lakhori bricks, rice husk
Two arched gateways
Bara Imambara: History
In 1784, the province of Awadh was hit by a severe famine, plunging common men as well as nobles into poverty and hunger. It was during this time that Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula decided to build Bara Imambara as a part of famine relief.
It is believed that over 20,000 men were employed to construct the monument. While the common men worked all day to build the structure, the noblemen and elite class would visit the site at night and demolish whatever was built during the day. This was done to extend the duration of the construction work and keep the common men and nobles employed during the ongoing famine. The famine lasted for 11 years and so did the construction of the beautiful monument, Bara Imambara.
Bara Imambara: Today
Located on a busy road in the old part of Lucknow city, Bara Imambara is an important place of worship for Shia Muslims. The monument is frequented by tourists and Muslim devotees all around the year. The enormous hall in the Imambara has the graves of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula and his Begum Shamsunnisa. Many Shia Muslim devotees visit the monument to perform sacred rituals during the month of Muharram. The Imambara has three well-maintained gardens as well.
Bara Imambara: Architecture
Designed by a renowned architect of that time, Hafiz Kifayatullah, Bara Imambara is nothing less than an engineering marvel. It showcases a blend of Mughal and Rajput styles of architecture with Gothic influences and is one of the most beautiful monuments in Lucknow. The most interesting thing about the monument is that no metal or wood was used in its construction.
The Imambara has two large gates. At one end of the gate, you can see the Asafi Mosque, while the other end has the large baoli. The main gateway of the monument has three arches and a dual fish motif, which was the symbol of the Nawabs. It has nine halls in total, out of which the central chamber is the largest.
Measuring 164 feet in length and 52 feet in width, the central chamber houses the tomb of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. While the entire chamber boasts amazing architecture, the vaulted roof or ceiling of this chamber deserves a special mention. This 50-feet high arched ceiling is not supported by any iron rods, columns or beams as the hall was to be used for prayers and religious ceremonies. The blocks of the roof were cleverly assembled with an interlocking system of bricks and this has helped it stand strong for decades without any supporting beams or pillars.
The remaining eight smaller chambers surrounding the main hall have roofs of different heights. The space above these chambers was used cleverly to create a three-dimensional maze-like network of interconnecting balconies and passages that could be accessed through 489 identical doorways. This part of the Imambara is known as Bhul Bhulaiya. The network of passages starts from the central hall and ends at the rooftop. The grand Asafi Mosque and Shahi Baoli are also major attractions at Bara Imambara.
Things to See at Bara Imambara
- Central Hall: This huge hall with its brilliant architecture is one of the main attractions of Bara Imambara. As mentioned before, the ceiling of this hall is built in a unique way with no beams or pillars to support it.
- Bhul Bhulaiya: True to its name, Bhul Bhulaiya is a labyrinthine network of over 1000 passages and 489 identical doors. Although it is one of the most amazing parts of the Imambara, you must not go there without a guide. This complicated maze of interwoven corridors can be impossible to navigate on your own.
- Asafi Mosque: The mosque lies on the western side of the Imambara and boasts brilliant Mughal architecture.
- Shahi Baoli: This five-storeyed stepwell on the eastern side of the monument showcases exceptional architectural design. It reportedly was the secret place from where the officials of the Nawab would keep an eye on the visitors. The well is designed in such a way that the reflection of the visitors standing at the entrance would fall on its water.
How to Reach Bara Imambara
Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, enjoys good air, rail and road connectivity. Chaudhury Charan Singh International Airport in Lucknow is about 15 km from Bara Imambara. If you are taking the train, you can reach Lucknow Railway Station (6 km away) and then hire a taxi or auto-rickshaw from there.
Cabs, auto-rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, buses and metro trains are common modes of transport within the city. Shakti Bus Stand is 2 km from Bara Imambara, while the nearest metro station at Durgapuri is 3 km away.
Lesser-Known Facts about Bara Imambara
- The central arched chamber reportedly is the largest arched hall in the world with no beams or pillars supporting the ceiling.
- The Bhul Bhulaiya or labyrinth in the Imambara was not constructed intentionally. It was more like a maze that was created to hold the weight of this massive monument as it is built on marshy land.
- Many passages of the Bhul Bhulaiya have been closed for the general public as some people who went inside without a guide went missing.
- The architect of Bara Imambara, Kifayatullah, is also buried in the monument.
After visiting Bara Imambara, you can also explore the following attractions nearby:
- Rumi Darwaza (3 m)
- Gautam Buddha Park (750 m)
- Chota Imambara (1 km)
- Indira Gandhi Planetarium (2 km)
- The Residency (4 km)
- Regional Science City (5 km)
- Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Zoological Garden (5 km)
- Sikandar Bagh (6 km)
- Lucknow Museum (6 km)
- Ambedkar Memorial Park (9 km)
- Lohia Park (9 km)
If you are planning a long vacation, there are many things to do in Lucknow. The city is famous for its lip-smacking street food, traditional puri and khasta kachori, biryani and more. You must also try some restaurants in Lucknow and relish local delicacies. And if you are a shopaholic, street shopping in Lucknow promises another level of fun altogether. Handicrafts, fine jewellery, Chikankari attire, Zardosi fabrics – there are so many amazing things you can buy here.
To cut a long story short, Bara Imambara is a must-visit for architecture lovers and history buffs. The charm of the monument and its fascinating past will leave you mesmerised. Hence, whenever you plan a trip to Lucknow, make sure your itinerary includes Bara Imambara. Also, book flight or train tickets and hotel rooms well in advance to avoid trouble at the last moment. Since there are many kinds of hotels in Lucknow, you can easily check the options online and zero in on a suitable one.