bhool bhulaiya

The Bhool Bhulaiya of Lucknow -The Bada Imambara

Everyone has heard this saying that walls also have ears. Is there any truth in this matter? But perhaps you would be surprised to know that there is a building in Lucknow where this proverb is found to be true.
By now you must have known what we are talking about. Yes, you all got it right, we are talking about a maze made in Bada Imambara. The Bhool Bhulaiya was built in 1784 by the Nawab of Awadh Asaf-ud-Daula. The intricate carvings made in this labyrinth make it excellent.

The walls of this labyrinth are made up of water chestnut flour, egg yolk, urad, and gram lentils, red clay sugar, syrup, honey, etc. The hallmark of the maze’s walls is that if we whisper near the corner of the wall, then we can hear it by putting an ear on the other corner of the different wall. The length of the Persian hall of Bada Imambada is about 165 cm if there you burn a matchstick in the corner of the hall then anyone can listen that in another corner. The reason behind the audible sound from one corner to different is the Black-White hollow lines which are made in the hall.

What is an Imambara?

Those who do not know, let me tell them first that the Bada Imambara is not a mosque or dargah. Rather it is all where people gather during Murram. Shia Muslim sects gather here to mourn on the day of Muram. What is Murram and why is it made? This question must have been in your mind as well. In the same way, this question was also in my mind that what is Murram why people gather here? Muharram is made to commemorate the anniversary of Hussein, the grandson of Mohammed-Ab-Abdullah.

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The Bada Imambara

Who were the Nawabs?

If you want to know about Bhool Bhulaiya then the first thing you should know about Nawabs. Nawab was the one who built this Bhool Bhulaiya. The Nawab word is derived from a Persian word Naib that means “deputy”. Nawab word is used for males whereas, for females ‘Begum’ word was used.

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Corridor of Bada Imambara

History of Bhool Bhulaiya

In the late 18th century when Awadh was dealing with drought then the Nawab decided to build the Bada Imambara. So as to provide employment. He used to say –
“Jisko na Maula, usko De Asaf-ud-Daula”

I have read in history in that many times rulers decide to build such monuments to provide employment to their people. Here, you can certainly notice that guide will tell you some real, interesting as well as fictional stories related to Bhool Bhulaiya. Before starting it’s construction, the Nawab conducted a competition for making the map of Bada Imambara. It was won by Hafiz Kifayat Ullah, architect from Delhi. Its work was started in 1784 and took near about 14 years to complete.

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Narrow passages of Bhool Bhulaiya in Bada Imambara

History of Bada Imambara

There was a severe famine in Awadh in the 17th century. Due to prolonged drought, the entire farmland of the people was destroyed. The means of employment also came to an end and gradually the grain also started to run out. Hence the Imambara built to save the public from starvation.
The Nawab of Lucknow started the work of Bada Imambara in 1785. The only motive behind the construction of Bada Imambara was that everyone could get employment. But for the provincial people of the society thought that working in daylight was against their pride.

So, the general public used to build the building of Bada Imambara in daylight and in the night the people of the province used to break it.
You will be surprised to know that for this work the local people as well as the provinces were equally paid. This process of making and breaking the Bada Imambara continued for 10 years. Around 20,000 people were involved in the construction work of Bada Imambara.

Why was Bhool Bhulaiya built?

There was an interesting challenge for the architect to build the ceiling without any support. It took many years to complete the Bada Imambara.The central hall is a very large area and it was built without the support of any pillar. To reduce the weight of the ceiling the architect decided to make it hollow, and the Bhool Bhulaiya arises. The labyrinth is connected through though thousands of passages, doors, windows. If you get inside through one door then you can easily get lost. So, better you go with a guide.

Also read – The Chota Imambara – The Palace of Lights in Lucknow

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Passesways of Bhool Bhulaiya

The Stepwell of Bada Imambara

Earlier I only knew that there is a labyrinth inside Bada Imambara. After coming here, I came to know that there is a stepwell inside it. The stepwell is called Bawdi in the common language. There is also a choor darwaza inside this bawdi from where visitors were observed. The Imambara is made up of Lakhori bricks and plaster is made by using eatables.
Here I will tell you every detail of the stepwell inside the Bada Imababda. So let’s have a virtual tour with me.

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Shahi Baoli of Bada Imambara

There is a narrow way from where you can go inside the stepwell. While going inside light your phone’s flashlight. From inside you can see who is coming and who is going but they can’t see you. You can see all these in the black water. After walking for a while, you will see a water palace well. From the Gomti river, water was taken through pipes that were used for building the walls.

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Levels of Baoli in Imambara

At that time whenever a flood came then 3 buildings were completely drowned inside. When the sun set up down the Baoli changed into a complete dark hall as the sun is the only source of light here. Here, the guide told us that the riches of Nawabs came here too. Then the Nawab was frightened and asked his treasurer Mool Chand Rastogi to stash it in the Imambada. He did the same and threw away the key and map of the treasure inside the well. You can read more information in Sid the Wanderer blog. He is one of the best travel blogger.

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Asafi mosque seen from the roof of Bara Imambara

Interesting facts about Bada Imambara

  • Bada Imambara is made up of edible items. No metal, bricks, cement were used Instead the Lakhori bricks were used to make it.
  • Bada Imambara is one of the largest arched structures. Its ceiling doesn’t have any support system.
  • For supporting the ceilings, walls were made hollow and leads to the formation of Bhool Bhulaiya.

Miscellaneous information

  • Timing – The Bada Imambada opens at 6.00 AM but the Bhool Bhulaiya opens at 9.00 AM. Try to reach as early as possible because you will need a guide for Bhool Bhulaiya and if you arrive late then you might not get a guide.
  • How to reach Bada Imambada? -Bada Imambada is located in Lucknow. Lucknow is well connected via Railway route, airways but road transportation in Lucknow is not so good. If you opt Railway mode then it will be well suitable. As trains are connected to every big cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Jaipur etc.
  • Where to stay? – It totally depends on you that where you want to stay. From a cheap budet hotel to a luxurious hotel, you will find every type of hotel. From single bed to double bed room. You can book your rooms earlier via booking. com ,Goibbo, or Oyo.

Read out my previous blog –

An ignorant tomb in Jhajjar- Bua Wala Talab and Group of Tombs

3 thoughts on “The Bhool Bhulaiya of Lucknow -The Bada Imambara”

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