Lucknow & Western Design Aesthetics: Academic Tourism of Incredible Indiawith Dr. Navina Jafa – Follow : @navinajafa

It is challenging to break the stereotype tourism associated with Lucknow a city whose heritage presentation and tourism experience are framed by two dominating themes – the first comprises of the Exotica of the Persian Nawabs (Maharajas) a narrative on the opulent decadent lifestyles of Oriental rulers, their cuisine, mannerisms, language, poetry, and creative expressions. The second touristy story is the preoccupation with the Revolt of 1857 (called by the British the Indian Mutiny). This essay traces the manner a space of regional power while evolving its specific identity over the course of time incorporated intriguing elements of European designs and architectural features that testifies not only the course the inherent heritage identity of a city changed or is changing but  the essay attempts to illustrate that the process is continuous and lends itself to multiple layers.

The weakening of the Mughal Empire in the 18thc propelled regional powers like Awadh to assert themselves, and regional specific identities in architecture were part of that assertion. The Nawabs (the title of the rulers of Lucknow),  Persian in origins had also inherited an imagination of the Mughal splendor of lifestyles and architecture.  Similar to the Late Baroque courts of Western Europe, the city of the Nawabs comprised of horizontal collection of palaces, residential buildings, interspersed with squares, gardens, markets reflecting a certain organizational cadence that reminded one of the Late Baroque Courts of Western of 18thc which aspired to bring in contrast, an exuberance, grandeur that defied the austerity of the Protestant movement in Europe. For example, see below:


On the Left is the Entry of the Chota Imambara, & Rt: Church of Gesu Italy, 1st Baroque facade


Apart from the Nawabi Buildings of Imambaras, gardens and ornamental gates in stucco ornamentation called gajkari, it was clear that European influences crept into the creation of the regional identity to affirm the transition of the Nawabs from being warriors to refined courtiers. In 1775, the 4th ruler Nawab Asafu-ud-Daula shifted his capital from Faizabad to Lucknow. Situated along River Gomti, a major tributary of the Ganga, the location on the river not only provided the Nawabs a hold over a large territory of alluvial land but also the riverine trade. The wealth of the Nawabs attracted several Europeans. The Nawabi city became a mesh of designs and embodiment of architectural styles Baroque, Renaissance and Neo-Classical architectural features were amalgamated in a variety of buildings in Lucknow. While the Baroque featured twisted columns and dramatic effects of space and light were evident in palaces like Farhat Bakh, and Hunting lodge like the Dilkusha Kothi and Gardens. Belgian mirrors and Chandeliers graced their Imambaras.



The Neoclassical buildings were defined a grand scales and symmetry of geometric flows and columns especially Doric Pillars.

Neoclassical building facade -19thc -Lucknow

Recalling Renaissance in 19th c Lucknow





The engagement with some Europeans k

An intriguing commentary is that related to Western Designs in Architecture and its decorative embellishment sometimes intertwined with interesting layering of political dynamics.

Baroque Frames in Lucknow:

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