Chota Imambara, also known as Imambara Hussainabad Mubarak, is a monument located in the city of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is an Imambara or a gathering hall for Shia Muslims built by Muhammad Ali Shah, the Nawab of Awadh in 1838. It was built to serve as a mausoleum for himself and his mother, who is buried beside him.
The building is known as the Palace of Lights because of decorations during special festivals, like Muharram. The chandeliers used were brought from Belgium. The crown of Muhammad Ali Shah and ceremonial Tazias also housed within the building.
Thousands of laborers worked on the project to gain famine relief.
It has a gilded dome and several turrets and minarets. The tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah and other members of his family are inside the Imambara.
This involves two replicas of the Taj Mahal, built as the tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah’s daughter and her husband. The walls are decorated with Arabic calligraphy.
Architecture of Chota Imambara
The importance of Panjetan, the Holy five namely Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Fatima, Hazrat Hassan, and Hazrat Hussain, is emphasized with the five main doorways. The doorways are also detailed in verses from the Holy Quran which are written in calligraphic Arabic script.
This Imambara consists of two halls and a Shehnasheen (a platform where the Zarih of Imam Husain is kept). Zarih is the model of that protective grill or structure that is kept on the grave of Imam Husain at Karbala, Iraq.
The large green and white-bordered hall of Azakhana is lavishly decorated with chandeliers and a good number of crystal glass lamp-stands. It was for this excessive decoration that the Imambara was referred to by European visitors and writers as The Palace of Lights. The exterior is very beautifully decorated with Quranic verses in Islamic calligraphy.
Water supply for the fountains and the water bodies inside the imambara came directly from the Gomti River.
Outside the imambara is the watchtower called Satkhanda or tower of seven stories. Though it is called Satkhanda, it has only four stories, as the construction of the tower was abandoned when Ali Shah died.
Satkhanda was built between 1837–1842 in the time of Muhammad Ali Shah. He wanted to make it the same as Qutub Minar of Delhi and the leaning tower of Pisa. Its main goal is lunar observation.
Improper restoration of Chota Imambara
The building has been restored; however, the process has been criticized. In 2016 The Economist wrote that
“[this building] was recently “repaired” with modern cement, wrecking its subtle plasterwork”.