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Maharajas' Express Train Lucknow Tour

It is morning; guests enjoy a breakfast even as the world's top luxury train, the Maharajas Express steams into Utretia Station in Lucknow. The first place guests go to a part of the Lucknow tour by Luxury Train is the Bara Imambara, followed by a visit to the Chota Imambara, Rumi Darwaja and the Residency.

Built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 the Bara Imambara is an architectural marvel, made entirely of stone except for the galleries in the interior. The Chhota Imambara is located west of the Bara Imambara and was built by Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah sometime around 1837, an even more intricately designed architectural marvel with chandeliers, mirror and stuccos adorning the interiors. It is one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture with its golden dome an impressive sight. The Rumi Gate built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah in 1786 is an imposing 60 feet high structure inspired by a similar gate at Constantinople.

The British had a strong presence in Lucknow and the Residency gives a glimpse of the regal style of those times. The Residency figured prominently during the first war of independence in 1857. Guests then leave for a lunch, stopping at a chikankari (typical Lucknow style embroidery) shop to buy some souvenirs.

Guests have the afternoon free and can explore other attractions or relax aboard the world's most elegant train, looking forward to the main event of the Lucknow Tour by Luxury Train. Spellbound by the elegance and gracious hospitality for which the rulers of Lucknow are famous, guests enjoy the treat and return to the train for their onward journey to Delhi, taking along some precious memories.

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History

Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, extends along the banks of the River Gomti. The creator of Lucknow as it is today was Nawab Asaf ud Daula. The city became known as a centre for Urdu poetry and courtly diction, and reached its acme during the reign of Wajid Ali Shah who was a connoisseur of music and poetry.

Lucknow is a city synonymous with the Nawabi Culture. The imperialistic splendour and magnificence of the Nawabi Era has been glorified and eulogized down the ages by writers, poets and historians alike. At the same time its mystical elegance and amorous ethos has caught the fascination of many world famous romantics. Known for its Adab and Tehzeeb (cultural refinement), Lucknow is also associated with its legendary hospitality, leisurely moods of life, fabled edifices steeped in history, world renowned cuisine and exquisite Sham-e-Avadh. Tremors of time have not effaced Lucknow of its cultural heritage and traditions, which once contributed in creating the city incomparable in its times.

As the 18th century seat of the Nawabs of Avadh, Lucknow flourished becoming an important political and cultural centre, rivalling Delhi in its patronage to art and literature. It was during this time that culture and architecture synthesized emerging in a distinct form now so typical to the Lucknow culture. The peace and prosperity under the governance of the nawabs brought about a cultural renaissance in Avadh. Musicians and dancers flocked to Lucknow giving birth to new musical forms and instruments under the patronage of the royalty. Art forms like Kathak, Thumri, Khayal, Dadra, Qawalis, Ghazals and Shero Shairi saw their finest hour. In this era major stress was laid on even minor details like the art of dressing, apparels (libaas) and jewellery all symbolic of a genteel lifestyle. The legacy of the exquisite embroidery still lives on with equal zest in today's modern era. Culinary skills, too, reached heights of excellence as the nawabs were not only gracious hosts but also extremely fond of good nutritious food. Thus emerged the skillful art of slow cooking. The royalty of Avadh was also famous for indulging in extravagant pastimes like elephant and rooster fights and kite flying, a game that still evokes passionate involvement among the flyers and the bystander alike. The field of architecture saw re-interpretation of the existing styles and experimentation in the fusion of the occidental and the oriental style of architecture. The magnificent edifices standing proudly among the architectural skyline of the city are living examples of the nawab's architectural ingenuity.

Modern Lucknow, spread evenly on both sides of river Gomti, is a perfect blend of the ancient with the modern, as many glitzy shopping arcades coexist with the old monuments. The greatest attraction of Lucknow, where the past jostles with the present is its unique ability to achieve harmony amidst disorder and to assimilate the new into the old.

Places
Asafi imambara (bara imambara)

Also known as the Bara Imambara, it was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 and is one of the architectural wonders of that era. Its central hall is said to be the largest vaulted chamber in the world. Except for the galleries in the interior, there is no woodwork in the entire structure. It has large underground passages which have been blocked up. A staircase from outside leads to a series of labyrinths known as Bhool-Bhulaiyan which is a complicated entanglement of zig-zag pass. Visitors are advised to visit only with authorized guides. Within the compound of the Imambara is the grand Asafi Mosque. Shahi Baoli is another attraction here.

Chhota imambara

Though Popularly called as the Chhota Imambara, the Hussainabad Imambara stands to the west of Bara Imambara. Built by Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah (1837-42), it is more ornate in design with exquisite chandeliers, gilt-edged mirrors, silver mimbar and colourful stuccos which adorn the interiors. A golden dome and fine calligraphy on the exterior of the building makes it a truly exceptional monument of Mughal architecture.

Hussainabad picture gallery

Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah built it as a 'Baradari' - literally meaning 'having 12 doorways.' It is now used as a gallery for display of life size portraits of the Nawabs of Avadh (Near the Clock Tower, housed in an imposing building, is a picture gallery which has a fine collection of portraits of the rules of Awadh.

Jama masjid

The construction of Jama Masjid, to the north-west of Hussainabad Imambara, was started in 1832 AD during the reign of Mohammad Ali Shah but was completed after his death by his begum, Nawab Malika Janah. It is entirely free from the pseudo-Italian art then in vogue in Lucknow and reflects the Mughal style of architecture.

Kaiserbagh palace complex

The construction of the Kaiserbagh palace complex was started in 1848 by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and was completed in 1850. The buildings on three sides of the Kaiserbagh quadrangle, once provided quarters for the ladies of Wajid Ali Shah's harem. In the centre stands the white Baradari, a grand white stone edifice which was earlier paved with silver.

Residency

Built for the British Resident during 1780-1800, it was originally a large complex of many buildings. It was the scene of dramatic events during the first war of independence in 1857. The main building overlooks the river Gomti and is surrounded by terraced lawns and gardens. Today, only the scarred ruins bear witness to the turmoil of 1857.

Rumi darwaza

The 60 feet high Rumi Gate was constructed under Nawab Asafl-us-Daula in 1786. It is said to be identical in design to an ancient portal at Constantinople. Its uppermost part consists of an eight faceted chhatri, approachable by a staircase.

Shahnajaf imambara

This white domed mausoleum owes its existence to Ghazi-ud-din Haider, who on the bank of the Gomti near Sikanderbagh reproduced a copy of Hazrat Ali's burial at Najaf in Iraq. Ghazi-ud-din Haider, and later his three wives, were buried here. The silver tomb of Ghazi-ud-din Haider lies in the centre of this building and is flanked by the more imposing silver and gold tomb of Mubarak Mahal on one side.

Vidhan sabha bhawan (the council house)

Its foundation was laid in 1922 by Sir Harcourt Butler and the construction was completed in six years. Its octagonal shaped chamber has a domed roof decorated with peacocks in fully plumed splendor.

Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation Ltd

(A Govt. of India Enterprise)
B-148, 11th Floor, Statesman House, Barakhamba Road, New Delhi, Delhi 110001
Companion-Pays-50

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