Inspiring Kaiserbagh Palace, Lucknow, India - a legacy of secular Awadhi Nawabs

China bazaar, Kaiserbagh palace, Lucknow.

the kaiser pasand palace

Among the Indian cities, Lucknow is an important destination for the tourists who are interested in the Hindu-Muslim-European fusion architecture. The present city of Lucknow, UP in the 19th century, was under the reign of Nawabs for a long period - roughly 80 years. They are known as great builders and countless well-embellished structures came up during that period. They also built three new palace complexes for their residence and to conduct durbar. The fortified  Macchi Bhawan, palace of the Sheiks was rented by Nawab Burhan-ul-Mulk. Subsequent rulers by 1766 improved and extended the palace complex. Daulat Khana palace complex was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula roughly in 1780 to the north of Macchi Bhawan.  Chattar Manzil Palace, built in 1803 by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, was to the south of the Macchi Bhawan. The most elaborate and impressive palace complex among the palaces of Lucknow was the Kaiserbagh palace (also known as  Qaiserbagh). built by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, a great lover of poetry and music. It was close to the Chatter Manzil palace. No sooner had the Nawab ascended the throne than he began the construction work on the new palace complex to suit his interest and taste. Wajid Ali Shah wanted his palace to be a paradise on earth with a sprawling garden providing an ideal ambiance for patronizing dance, drama and poetry. The palace complex sprawled between the Chattar Manzil to the Tarawali Kothi in the north, and to the Roshan-ud-Daula kothi and Chaulakhi kothi in the south.

The Kaisebagh palace was designed in such a way that it had three essential parts. The public place was meant for melas, the conduct of coronation function and also meeting place of the rulers and the subjects. These areas were open to the public and subjects of the king. Also present were the religious buildings like the Friday mosque and temples. The second important part of the palace complex was the residential quarters of the king along with his officials, library, the treasury, hammams, private mosque etc. And finally, there were the residential quarters of the queens.  The zenana formed a large part of the whole palace complex, and this being due to the fact the Muslim rulers had a large number of queens. Located in the innermost part of the complex, it was well guarded by female attendants and eunuchs. Only the king and selected guests \could access these spaces. A highly restricted part of the complex and the ladies had a perfect privacy free from unwanted male intruders. 
The palace can be accessed from the Hazratganj Street and entered from an open space in front of the Tarawali Kothi (SBI guesthouse). The strange feature is the entrance street was lined on one side by stables. In the 1800s, this gate was the place where there was a Press Club. It is believed the ruler used to give audience to the public from this gate. It was high enough to watch the royal procession on elephants, etc.  The Mermaid gate or the China Bazaar gate at the end of the bazaar is also called Mermaid gate as it had a pediment on top and two green colored mermaids stuccoes above the arched gateway. In the bazaar, many Chinese decorated items were sold. Nawab Wajid Ali’s Prime Minister, Nawab Ali Naqvi Khan, used to stay on top of this gate as revealed by old photographs

Kaiserbagh palace (part)

It was in the garden called Hazrat Bagh or Chowk (approachable through Mermaid gate), the secular ruler Wajid Ali Shah used to sit during ‘Jogia nieta’. Dressing up in saffron clothes, he would enact out musical dance dramas like Krishna Leela, Inder Sabha, and Raas Leela with female attendants. The residential quarters of the king - Badshah Bagh and Huzoor Bagh were to the right of .Chaulakhi Kothi that enclosed the Hazrat Bagh. The Lakhi gate to the main walled garden forms part of what is called Kaiserbagh today. One lakh rupees were spent on the Lakhi gate, hence the name.

Kaisrer Pasand palace, Lucknow

Destroyed  Kaiserbagh and Pasand Palace, Lucknow,

The amazing aspect of this palace is its well-planned design. The palace complex has a series of courtyards both large and small, normally enclosed by walls of different heights. One can see within these walled enclosures, large independent structures integrated either within the courtyards or along the walled enclosures to form an integral unit. With passageways joining other structures, it is tough to find out the end and beginning of them where one structure begins and joins and vice-versa  

Enclosed by walled structures, Kaiserbagh contained large buildings like Kaiser Pasand, Chaulakhi Kothi ( made by the Nawab 's barber), Lanka, and the tombs. During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, the popular Queen and famous freedom fighter Begum Hazrat Mahal resided here. 

During rainy and summer seasons the ruler used to occupy Makan-e-Khas and Falak Sair of the south facing Shahenshan manzil. The adjacent vast beautiful garden provided an ideal place for rest and relaxation. The British demolished all these buildings in 1858. The Huzoor Bagh was the royal garden with the king’s apartments on three sides and a Baradari in the center, probably the Chandiwali Baradari.
The Kaiserbagh quadrangle is accessed and exited through two identical gates. They are out of the palace complex towards the Kaiser Pasand located at the southwest corner of the Kaiserbagh palace. Built  by Roshan-ud-daula  it was confiscated by the ruler and renamed it  Kaiser Pasand. It is believed, it was here his favorite lady Begum Mashuq Mahal used to reside. Interestingly the Lakhi Gate and Kaisar Pasand and Constantia, built in 1800 by Claude Martin with two crossed arches imaging a dome as the pinnacle of the building have the same elevation. The striking Nawabi architectural extravaganza is the perfect fusion of both classical European and Mogul designs. The palace complex could accommodate a large number of people. Because these complexes were not self-sufficient, the outer periphery of the palace became well-populated populated to provide luxuries and necessities to the royal court.

The Kaiserbagh Palace is an interesting destination in Lucknow what you are seeing  is only remnants of the old palace. The merciless destruction of this palace by the British Army under the East India Company  consisting mainly of Europeans during the Sepoy rebellion is a dark chapter in Indian history.