Lucknow – Architecture and Town Planning

The Capital city of Uttar Pradesh and often described as the ‘City of Nawab’, Lucknow is one of the most pristine and multicultural tourist destinations of India. The city primarily flourished during the 18th and the 19th centuries as an artistic and cultural center of India under the reign of the Nawabs of Awadh. The city contains various architectural wonders, historical monuments, cuisines and is a cultural hub in itself. Lucknow is known all over the world for the tehjeeb or the courteous behavior of its people. It is a rare city. Few places in the world are endowed with such rich cultural traditions, as is this romantic city of the nawabs. Whether it is history, architecture, music, dance, handicrafts, etiquette, or sports, Lucknow has its own story to tell.  Lucknow’s buildings show different styles of architecture with the many iconic buildings built during the British and Mughal era. More than half of these buildings lie in the old part of the city. Among the extant architecture, there are religious buildings such as Imambaras, mosques, and other Islamic shrines as well as secular structures such as enclosed gardens, baradaris, and palace complexes.

The following are distinct features of Lucknow architecture :

  • Use of Fish as an auspicious and decorative motif especially on Gates
  • The use of Chattar ( umbrella ) as in the Chattar Manzil
  • The Baradari( the twelve doorway pavilions)
  • Rumi Darwaza, the signature structure of Lucknow
  • Enclosed Baghs like Sikandar Bagh
  • Vaulted halls such as the Asafi Imambara
  • The labyrinth Bhulbhulaiyan
  • Taikhanas
  • Use of lakhauri bricks.


  • Latitude:5 degrees to 27 degrees N
  • Longitude:5 degrees to 80 degrees; 31 minutes E
  • Linked by Four National Highways:24,25,28,56.

The history of Lucknow can be traced back to the ancient times of the Suryavanshi  Dynasty. It is said that Lakshmana, who was the brother of Lord Rama, laid the foundation of the ancient city. This was near the Gomti River on an elevated piece of land. It was then called Lakshmanpur. However, the city came into notice only during the 18th Century.
It was during the year 1720 when the great Mughal emperors began to appoint Nawabs in order to ensure smooth administration in the province. In the year 1732, Mohammad Amir Saadat Khan was appointed as the viceroyal of Awadh, in which Lucknow was a major province. It was then that the powerful dynasty of the Nawabs, which changed the history of this unknown place. Under the rule of the Nawabs, Lucknow flourished like never before. After 1755, Lucknow grew by leaps and bounds under the rule of the fourth Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula. Lucknow flourished in each and every aspect, which includes poetry, dance, music and the other finer aspects of the lifestyle of Lucknow.
It was when the British came to India that Lucknow was made into an administrative capital. There were many uprisings during the British rule by Indian radicals and many ghastly incidents left Lucknow with bad memories. However, after independence Lucknow was declared the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh by the Government of India. Since then it has progressed beautifully, merging skillfully the past with the present.

Development of Lucknow during different ruling power

Different ruling powers developed different parts of the city:

  • Nawab’sgave the Bagh’s, Ganj’s and Imambara’s to the western and the southern part of the city.
  • Britishersgave the cantonment and the railway station to the east and south.

As a consequence of different powers the layering process whereby the new power laid another fabric over the preceding one. The initial growth of the city started from the west in an area known as the “Chowk” and gradually spread south and south eastwards. In the early part of the 19th century the city started to grow towards the east with major colonial inputs in terms of the cantonments and the railway station to the south. During the post independence period a large migrant population settled in the southern part of the city along the Kanpur road. The 1980’s saw the development of the south-easterly part of the city.

As one travels through the city from the Chowk to the Gomtinagar through Hazaratganj the visual images change. It is just like travelling in time. One can sharply notice the age old traditions and architectural styles still being maintained in the core of the city- Chowk, these traditions and styles merging with the European styles in Hazaratganj and these styles changing according to modern theories, concept and technologies in Gomtinagar.


Plan of Chowk
  1. Gol Darwaza
  2. Akbari Darwaza
  3. Tehseen Mian Ki Masjid
  4. Darul Shafa
  5. Phool Wali Gali
  6. Firangi Mohalla

Significant Features of Chowk

  • It is the traditional core of the pre-industrial, pre-colonial city lies in the geographical west of the city.
  • Parts of it demolished in the aftermath of 1857 for establishing a public park.
  • Half a mile stretch between two gateways of Gol Darwaza and Akbari Darwaza was an active commercial route to Kanpur, Agra.
  • Strong sense of enclosure is stimulating and is filled with rich aromas and vibrant colour.
  • Has mixed land pattern with it’s main spine being fully commercial while the secondary and tertiary lanes being residential.
  • The road width–height ratio gradually decreases due to  it’s narrowing from primary, secondary, and tertiary but the height remaining the same.
  • Projecting balconies ornamented with carvings remind of the Mughal jharokha.
  • Coloured glasses as the fan light show the gothic influence under the British.


hazarat ganj
Map of Hazaratganj, Lucknow

Significant Features of Hazaratganj

  • It is a predominatly a commercial centre
  • Many corporate and governement institutions cinema theaters like Sahu and Capital are there. It is a Eating joints and hang out places.
  • Residences of elite at a distance in civil lines.
  • Institutions like town hall building civil hospitals and the Vidhan Sabha,General post office have been built over a period of time.
  • It’s spacious feel, automobile traffic and the somewhat western ambiance.
  • The street width between 25 to 30 mts. the vertical to the horizontal ratio is 1:3.
  • Attracts people who come to enjoy it’s vibrant urban feel. Ganjing or promenading is an activity itself.
  • Contains a public realm with a centralized network of institutions and facilities  where growth occurs.
  • Public spaces here are open and accessible to all.
  • The basic idea for the development of this area was it’s close proximity to the cantonment being developed by the British for their own existence.
  • Also it’s was close to the previous city center being the Chowk.


Gomtinagar, Lucknow

Significant Features of Gomtinagar

  • Initially the development was only happening to the south of the city, but as time progressed it started spreading towards the north eastern side as well when settlements like Gomtinagar came into existence.
  • It is the latest development pertaining to the expansion of the city.
  • Lies in the south eastern part of the city on the left of the river Gomti.
  • On it’s north lies the locality of Indrangar National Highway 28 (Faizabad Road) divides the areas of Indranagar and Gomtinagar.
  • It is quite well linked with the rest of the city. Gomti Bairaj linking the settlement to the main city. Bridge spanning the river connects it to Nishatganj.

Important Buildings of Lucknow

Pakka Pul – Lal Pul, also known as Pakka Pul and Navabi Pul, is a bridge across the Gomti River. This bridge is among the oldest in the area and it has survived many floods. It is the tourist’s favourite passageway to the mounumental building named Bara Imambara.

Pakka Pul, Lucknow

Bara Imambara – The name refers to a shrine built by the Nawab Asaf-ud-daula in 1784, and is one of the largest buildings in Lucknow. The name ‘Bara Imambara’ is an urdu word, wherein the word ‘Bara‘ means big and ‘Imambara‘ means the shrine complex. The complex includes the Asfi mosque and the Bhool Bhulaiya or the Labyrinth. The Asfi mosque contains the tomb of Asaf-ud-daula and the labyrinth is the only maze in India and supports the massive structure of the whole complex from the underground.

Bhool Bhulaiya/ Labyrinth – Bhool Bhulaiya is the main part of the Imambara complex. The central part of it is a big arched hall where the tomb of Asaf-ud-Daula lies. The Iranian architect Kifait-Ullah, the architect of this project, also buried here. There are eight more chambers built to different roof heights. The building is surrounded with 489 identical doorless galleries. Bhool Bhulaiya has no pillars to support the ceiling and it is among the largest vaulted constructions in the world.

Shahi Baoli – The Shahi Baoli was constructed in order to be used as a water reservoir. Myths like water of this well being connected to the river flowing nearby or a secret treasure map and the key to the treasure being thrown into this well have been quite popularity widespread. Baoli is extensively popular for it’s exceptional architectural design. Nawab Asif-ud-Daula built it during the years 1784-1794 and got the design of this baoli drafted by Kifayat-ullah, who was one of the most skilful architect of those times. The exquisite Indo-Islamic architectural design of this structure makes it an impeccably unique edifice. The Shahi Baoli was built along with the other units of the Bada Imambara in order to provide food and work to the famine-stricken natives of Awadh. To the east of the main courtyard of Bada Imambara lies the Shahi Baoli. Entrance to the Shahi Baoli id through a double arched gateway. On moving further, an open flight of stairs lead down to the step-well. Encompassing this well stands a multi-storeyed structure which comprises many open arched windows and inter-connected galleries. The most fascinating feature of this baoli is the secret view of the visitors that it offers. Because of the alignment of one of the windows of the building and it’s entrance pathway, one can see the colourfull shadow of the visitors standing at the entrance of this structure, on the water of the well. Many of the royal guests have described this building in their travelogue as a five-storeyed palace or the Panch Mahal, consisting of halls and several resting rooms for the guests. Moreover , a water supplt of hot as well as cold water was available to them for bathing. The entry to this palace was from the east whereas exit to it was from the west. Three storeys of this palace are now submerged into waters.

Rumi Darwaza – Built by Nawab Asif-ud Daula during the years 1784-1786, Rumi Darwaza is no less than an ornament on the streets of Lucknow. Adjacent to the Bada Imambara stands a 62 feet grand gateway built in Indo-Roman architectural style. This entranceway is so immence that it seems to be multi-storeyed from a distance. Rumi Darwaza is said to be a replica of an archway in Constantinople and is therefore, referred to as Turkish gateway. This gate further has three arched-ways on one side and a huge single arched-way on the other. A huge cupola or chhatri crowns the structure. Two slender towers are present on either sides of the gateway. The architectural feature that amazes its visitors is that no wood or iron was used in its construction. Moreover, this structure gives different looks when viewed from different directions. The design of this magnificient gateway was so biasing that many of the structures of those times like Jama Masjid (Lucknow), Hussainabad Imambara, Nadwat-ul-ulama and Salar Masood Ghazi’s Tomb havee the same design reproduced in the form of their entranceways. It was Nawab Asif-ud-Daula who had got the complex of Bada Imambara (which also comprises Rumi Darwaza) built during the years 1784-1794.

Chota Imamabara – Another congregation complex of the Shia Muslim sect, the Chota Imambara was built in 1838 by Nawab Muhammad Shah Ali. The complex also serves as the tomb for the Nawab who is buried there alongside his mother.


Husainabad Clock Tower – Ghanta Ghar, Hussainabad is the tallest clock tower in India. It is 221 feet (67 meters) high free-standing clock tower situated in the core of the old city of Lucknow. The wheel of the clock is said to be larger than that of London’s Big Ben. Between Bara Imambara and Chota Imambara, this impressive clock tower stands amidst a green field with all its elegance. It was designed by Roskell Payne. The architectural style of this edifice has influence of Victorian-Gothic Design. This square tower is made up of red bricks and has four clock faces. Each clock face has a 12 petalled flower shaped dial, where these petals signify the hours. The spare parts of these clocks are made up of gun metal and were imported from Ludgate Hill, London. The gigantic clock’s design, concept and creation was done by James William Benson, the famous clock maker of England. At the zenith of the tower,can be seen a wind-vane, in the form of birdlike structure which is mounted over a small shiny dome. The edifice is a fine example of British architectural skills. The majestic Ghanta Ghar was erected in the late 19th century (1882-1887), by Hussainabad Endowmwnt in honor of the first Lieutenant Governor of the United Province of Awadh  and the North Western Province, Sir George Couper, during whose administration and under whose endorsement did the management reform and improve. The total cost of construction came to Rs. 1.75 lakhs approximately, which was quite a luxurious amount in those days. The gongs of the clock give a different musical theme chime for every time it rings.

Clock Tower

The Residency – British Residency is regarded as a National Monument and is one of the major sites of the Revolt of 1857 and the historic battle known as Seige of Lucknow. The site was the residence of the British Resident General which was stormed during the battle. The structure though in ruins after the battle has still been preserved till date with the bullet grazed walls and is surrounded by gardens which attract a great number of tourist crowd.

La Martiniere College – The site formerly known as the Constantia House is now housed by the La Martiniere College. The building is located on a terraced location which was a lake at some point. The architecture is mixed style that combines various techniques of Italian architecture. The college is one of the only educational institutions to receive a battle honor due to its role during the Seige of Lucknow.

La Martinier

Ambedkar Memorial – Spread across an area of 107 acres of land, the modern architectural monument is dedicated to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The entire monument is built in red sandstone which was brought from the areas of Rajasthan. The park is located in Gomti Nagar which is one of the most posh localities of Lucknow. The well maintained lawns, various coloumns and a canal that surrounds the vivinity make it a well frequented tourist attraction.

University of Lucknow – The University of Lucknow shows a huge inspiration from the European style.

University of Lucknow

Vidhan Sabha – Indo-Saracenic Revival Architecture is promptly present in the building.

Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha

Charbagh Railway Station  – Indo-Saracenic Revival Architecture is promptly present in the building.

charbagh railway station

Dilkusha Kothi – It is the remains of a palace constructed by the British resident Major Gore Ouseley around 1800 and showcases an example of English Baroque architecture. It serve as a hunting lodge for the Nawab of Awadhs and as a summer resort.

Chattar Manzil – This served as the palace for the rulers of Awadh and their wives is topped by an umbrella-like dome and so named on account of Chattar being the Hindi word for ‘Umbrella’. Opposite Chattar Mnazil stands the ‘Lal Baradari’ built by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan between 1789 and 1814. It functioned as a throne room at coronations for the royal courts. The building is now as a museum and contains delicately executed portraits of men who played major roles in the administration of the kingdom of Oudh.

New Highcourt

Highcourt Lucknow 1

Written by buildmarvel

Hi... I am an Architect from Lucknow,India and I have only one dream to build a landmark building will recognised by my name......

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