Bara Imambara, also known as Asfi Mosque, is an Imambara complex in Lucknow, India. It was built by Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Awadh in 1784. Bara means Big.
Building Composition of Bara Imambara
The building includes the large Asfi mosque, the Bhul-bhulaiya(the labyrinth), and Bowli (a step-well with running water). Two imposing gateways lead to the main hall.
It is said that there are 1024 ways to reach the terrace but only two to come back first gate or the last gate. It is an unplanned architecture.
The construction of Bara Imambara was started in 1780. That was the year when a disastrous famine occurred.
One of the objectives of Asaf-ud-Daula’s to start this grand project was to employ people in the region for almost a decade while the famine lasted.
It is said that ordinary people used to work in the day building up the structure, while noblemen and other elite worked at night to break down what was built that day.
In 1794, the construction of the Imambara was completed. The cost of building the Imambara ranges between half a million rupees to a million rupees.
After the completion, the Nawab used to spend between four to five hundred thousand rupees on its decoration annually.
Architecture of Bara Imambara
The architecture of the complex reflects the development of the decorative Mughal design, namely the Badshahi Mosque – is one of the last major projects not involving the use of any European elements or iron. The main Imambara has a large arched central chamber, which houses the tomb of Asaf-ud-Daula.
At 50 by 16 meters and over 15 meters long, it has no beams holding the roof and is one of the largest arched structures in the world. There are eight adjacent chambers built at various ceiling heights, space above which can be built as a three-dimensional network passing through each other through 489 homogeneous gates.
This part of the building, and often the entire complex, can be called a Bhulbhulaiya(maze). Known as a famous attraction, it is probably the only existing maze in India and has unofficially come to support the weight of the building that is built on marshy land. Asaf-ud-Daula also erected the 18 meters (59 ft) high Roomi Darwaza on the outside. Ornamented with lavish decorations, this portal was the west-facing entrance to Imambara.
The design of Imambara was achieved through a competitive process. The winner was Kifayatullah, a Delhi architect who is also buried in the main hall of Imambara. This is another unique aspect of the building that sponsors and architects are buried next to each other. The roof of the Imambara is made of rice husk which makes this Imambara a unique building.
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