A Study by:Dr Sanobar Haider::Assistant Professor (History)Government Degree College,Palia Kalan, District Kheri, Uttar Pradesh
Before embarking on a topic pertaining to history or a historical fact, we should, for a better understanding of the topic, try and understand what history actually is? And what is its relevance
in the present times? History is ‘all that has happened’, it includes all the phenomena of
human life, as well as those of the natural world .It includes everything that undergoes change.
E.H.Carr the famous historian opines that history is”an unending dialogue between the past and
present” and therefore must help in the understanding of what has happened in the times gone
As is rightly said“It is from numberless acts of courage that human history is shaped. Each
time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the life of others, or strikes out against
injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and those ripples build a current that can
sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” Robert F. Kennedy (adapted)
For the purpose of understanding the past and understanding of the times gone by, the historians
garner information from two different kinds of sources: primary and secondary. Primary sources
are original materials like an artifact, a document, a recording, or other source of information
Many are actual artifacts around us, like statues, buildings, or tools that were created at the time
1.under study.While studying history of any country or place historians consider all the sources
and help in the writing down of the stories of many dynasties and empires.
Like the history of any other country, Indian history is full of the episodes of the rise and fall of
many kingdoms and empires. Various sources including monuments, built by the kings and the
emperors of every period, throw light on the past history of India. These monuments exhibit the
glory of India and are a part of our cultural heritage, and need to be treated as genuine and living
sources of the past. They have within them legends and tales of the bygone era and need to be
preserved. These monuments take us back to thousands of years and help in exploring the history
of India and offer a great help to study and know more about the ancient civilizations. Thousands
of tourists visit our country to have a glimpse of its important historical places. Almost all States
of India boast of some or the other important historical monuments. Many of these significant
heritage resources are located in fast-deteriorating historic urban areas, and are threatened by
over-use or inappropriate uses, property speculation, poverty of the inhabitants and inadequate
One such place famous all over the world for its culture and heritage is Lucknow. The past
particularly here in Lucknow cannot be separated from the present. Distinguished by the
picturesque title of “The Garden City”, Lucknow is situated in latitude 26° 52′ N., and longitude
81° E. At first sight it appears to be one of the most beautiful and strikingly Oriental cities in
Viewed from afar the gilded domes and graceful minars, rising above its many mosques,
Imambaras, Palaces and Tombs, convey an impression of fantastic splendor in harmony with
preconceived notions of what the capital of an Eastern potentate should be.
William Howard Russel, the London Times correspondent ,visiting Lucknow in 1858-
1859,wrote, “Not Rome, not Athens, not Constantinople not any city I have seen appears to
me striking and beautiful as Lucknow.” The City has to its credit its own legendry history and
several historical monuments and sites that attract the people from various regions of the world.
The magnificent edifices standing proudly among the architectural skyline of the city are living
examples of the Nawabs architectural ingenuity.
to the various monuments in the city of the Nawabs including the Bara Imamabara,Chhota
Imambara,Rumi Gate,Chattar manzil etc however one monument which has not received its due
share is the Mausoleum of King Amjad Ali Shah, the Fourth King of Oudh, popularly known as
Imambara Sibtainabad situated in the far more famous market place of
Hazratganj. ‘If Lucknow was the Baghdad and Cordova of India, and Nishapur
and Bokhara of the east’ as Abdul Halim Sharar wrote ‘the heart of this
enthralling magnificent city undoubtedly lies beating in Hazratganj.’
3. A lot has been written and done with regard
The monument, situated on the eastern side of Hazratganj, was described as the property of
King Amjad Ali Shah. This place came to be known as Hazratganj after the name of Amjad Ali
Shah.The term ‘Hazrat’ being equivalent to Saint. Standing tall in Hazratganj the upmarket place
of Lucknow, the Sibtainabad Imambara looks majestic. But a few
months back, it was a different story. A dilapidated monument whose
beauty had been eclipsed by encroachers.
This glorious monument which has withstood the passage of time and
has, despite being a Centrally protected Monument had a history of administrative neglect,
apathy and the sorry state of affairs of the historical monuments of the city. Imambada
Sibtainabad (signifying the names of Hasan and Husain, the grandsons of the Prophet PBUH)
which is a Live Monument now, thanks to the efforts of the Local Management Committee, has
had a chequered history ever since its inception.
The research herein is an effort towards drawing the attention of us all towards the apathy shown not only to the Sibtainabad Imambara but also many such monuments and edifices of history which need to be protected for preserving the history of India.
The construction of this Imambara was commenced by King Amjad Ali Shah of Oudh himself, during his lifetime, and completed by his son Wajid Ali Shah when he ascended the throne in 1847.He spent Rs. Ten Lakhs on its constructionbuilt was earlier the Chhavni(cantonment) of Mendu Khan Risaldar who also had a serai(inn)in its vicinity. A description from the 1850’s places the Sibtainabad Imambara in the centre of the gated area.(Imambara) by the architect Husain Ali Khan. The structure was surrounded on all four sides by .4.The place where the flat roofed structure was 5.
The main architecture of this Imambara was copied from the Asafi Imambara(Bara Imambara)two enclosures with gateways at the middle of the Ghulam Gardish which are arched cloisters meant for attendants. The main building is placed on an eight feet high platform overlooking open land and a tank of water for ablutions. Illustration -5
There are two big halls in the centre of the building, with square rooms on the right and left wings and then the main building on a raised platform where zarih is placed during the period of Moharram.
The Imambada, which was spread over in an area more than 16 Bighas , had two Mahalserai at
the two corners of the mausoleum, Hammam (bathroom) on the east and the kitchen on the west.
The Imambara structure was later referred to as maqbara, for bearing the mortal remains of King
Amjad Ali Shah. The king was buried inside the Main Imambada building which he had himself
Najmun Nissan Begum, a queen of Wajid Ali Shah who was formally addressed as Ashiq Mahal.
Nawab king Wajid Ali Shah made sure that his father’s tomb was completed and maintained.
After asecnding the throne he deposited Rs.7 lakhs in the British Residency’s treasury as a
perpetual loan. The interest @ 5% per annum was to go towards the expenses of his father’s masouleum in Hazratganj, “so that his late Majesty’s soul may always derive the benefit of this permanent charity.”as his son wrote daroga(suprintendent),11 men to read the Quran, watchmen, sweepers, gardeners, masons and
carpenters, chowkidars, muezzins, bhistis (water carriers)muscians, sepoys and many more.Nearly,170 men were to be employed at an annual cost of Rs.16000/-.Along with this there was Rs. 5000/- earmarked for Moharram every year, the same amount to mark the death anniversary of the late King and Rs.500/- to be spent during the month of Ramazan. Wajid Ali Shah was deeply devoted to his ‘revered’ father as he called him, which makes the long term neglect of the Sibtainabad Imambara all the more sad and disrespectful particularly when it was being used as a Government Office and a carpentary workshop for more than 3 decades,terrace of single storey apartments around the Imambara which was later allocated to Anglo Indian families, was originally intended to house the pilgrims and devotees coming to pray at Amjad Ali Shah’s tomb.
6. It also has the grave of one of his grandsons Mirza Javed Ali.
7.Expenses included the employment of a laborer.
8.The structure unfortunately attacked and occupied by the Sikh troops of the British army on
March 13,1858, on their way to the assault on Begum Hazrat Mahal and her loyal freedom fighters at the Qaiserbagh, that finally led to the recapture of Lucknow. The local hooligans could not withstand the attractions of loot. They stripped the Imambara of everything of value.is ironic that evidence of war should have been recently discovered outside the tomb of this man of peace. Renovations in December 2010 uncovered an enormous 25 kg cannon ball embedded in the soil in front of the Imambara
9.The Imambara was briefly used as the English Church until 1860 when Christ Church was completed.to Lucknow attended the Sunday Mass in the open area of the Imambara.
10.Author Yogesh Praveen writes in his Lucknownama that Lord Canning on his visit.
12.The Monument is surrounded by illegal constructions from all sides, adversely affecting its archaeological status and grandeur. The Imambara which is loved and revered had been surely on its way of becoming a lost monument.Only two of the gateways, one on the front, opposite the Halwasiya market and the other at the entrance of the Imambara are extant today, and are facing the threat of decay and destruction by the encroachers. Archaeological Survey of India(A.S.I.) has, though done a yeoman’s job in restoring part of the main Imambara structure in its control, in the form of a hall with decorated archways and indication of graves within it (which actually lie below), in the basement, still, lots need to be done by the District Administration, the Municipal Corporation and the Lucknow Development Authority, to rehabilitate the residents of the Imambada Campus, in order to enable the Archaeological Survey of India, to plan and restore the entire monument.Declared a protected monument in 1919, Imambada Sibtainabad went into the hands of Lucknow Improvement Trust (later Lucknow Development Authority) under a deed of Sale of October 1921, executed by one Sultan Bahadur , claiming himself to be a descendant of the Late King
Amjad Ali Shah. The Lucknow Improvement Trust allotted various portions of the Mahal Sarai and Sehanchees to the Anglo Indians for residential purposes. After independence the Directorate of Agriculture and the census office procured possession of the two main halls (before being forced to leave for their own buildings, after a large scale protest and efforts of the Local Shia Community, sometimes in the year 2005). There is an array of laws available in the country for the protection of such monuments but we need to gear up to make use of the said laws and apply them for the preservation of our legacy.
All the laws, be they Central or State, draw attainability and validity from the Constitution of India. The legal system has several provisions for the protection and preservation of monuments
and heritage. The Constitution of India under Article 51A(f) makes it a fundamental duty of every Indian “(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.Constitution further adds, about the Protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance.—It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interest , declared by or under law made by Parliament to be of national
12. Article 49 of the importance, from spoliation, disfigurement ,destruction ,removal, disposal or export ,as the case may be.
13.The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 defines an ‘ Ancient Monument ’ in the following terms :-Ancient Monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years and includes— Remains of an ancient monument, Site of an ancient monument,Such portion of land adjoining the site of an ancient monument as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving such monument, The means of access to, and convenient inspection of, an ancient monument.
14.As the monuments were being encroached and destroyed with impunity, the Archaeological Survey of India, in discussions with the Ministry of Culture , came up with a Gazette notification on 16.06.1992 that prohibited new constructions within a 100 metres radius of any Centrally Protected monument in the country. The act, however, allowed for controlled development within the regulated area of the monument, which was fixed at 200 metres, subject to a prior permission from the concerned Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India.In 2010 , the Act of 1958 was further amended to ensure that the ambience of the protected monuments was not spoiled because of modem constructions, especially within the prohibited and regulated areas. The Act specifies that there will be a protected monument surrounded by a protected area beyond which lies the prohibited area for 100 m, followed by a regulated area of 200 m. The legislation also provided for identification of all unauthorised structures that may
have come up in the regulated and prohibited areas after 1992 and action would be initiated.
The quantum of punishment for violating the law has been spelled out and made stringent —
two years’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1 Lakh. This legislation was introduced in the wake of the Judgment of the Delhi High Court passed in the case of EMCA Construction Co. v. Archaeological Survey of India and others.
15.The Restoration of Mausoleum of King Amjad Ali Shah: ASI , Lucknow Circle has started the restoration work of the Imambada building effective june 2009 . Regarding the conservation work , the official claim that when they were scratching out the white wash on the wall of the outer and inner halls of the Imambada , they found delicate carvings made in the time it was built. While looking to the delicate carvings it was found that those were painted with vegetable colour, which last for a long time. Meanwhile, ‘Mahal Sarai’ (A place where pilgrims to Imambara used to stay) which was built adjacent to it, was also in dilapidated condition but now after repair it is returning to its original state.
Unfortunately, the monument which, although a centrally protected monument, and an important constituent of our history had been long neglected and was reduced to a nothing inspite of the various provisions of the Constitution the encroachments continued almost in an unabated manner . The sad story continued for ages until some dynamic and inspired youth of the city took up the task of the monument’s restoration. The most effective tool being the RTI or the Right to Information Act, the use of which not only got the conservationists, the copies of the relevant documents from the Lucknow Development Authority and other public bodies, but also ensured transparency and accountability of various government department including the Archaeological Survey of India, which, in turn, has resulted in the restoration of the two Majestic halls of the monument, while the restoration of the other parts is also in a headway .
The same methodical, concerted and dedicated approach, if adopted for the other “lost monuments” across the country would ensure not only their rehabilitation and repair, but also contribute towards performance of our fundamental duties, and ensure that we dedicate these monuments for our coming generations, which is not only our bounden duty, but also the need of the hour.
The story of Imambara Sibtainabad is like a fairy tale though a true one when a monument caught in neglect and apathy and subject to gross indifference is not only rescued but also made to acquire its lost glory ,charm and grandeur. It undoubtedly is a turn around story and needs to be replicated in other parts of our country. It is for us to stand to the cause of history ,culture and heritage so that the country’s past is immortalized for our posterity to cherish.
1. Robert F. Kennedy, University of Cape Town, South Africa, N.U.S.A.S. “Day of Affirmation” Speech,
June 6, 1966
2. Lieut-Colonel H. A. Newell, Luknow (the Capital of Oudh). (www.archive.org/details cu31924023977360), pg.9
3. Satish Chandra and Roshan Taqui, Conservation of Lucknow Heritage Preservation Methodology and
International Dimensions: pg XI,(Tech. book International publishers.)
4. G.D.Bhatnagar, Awadh under Wajid Ali Shah,pg 84,(Varanasi:Bhartiya Vidya Prakashan)1968 \
5 A.C. Bose,Hazrat Wajid Ali Shah King of Oudh, pg 42-43 (Belgachia,1962)
6 Abdul Halim Sharar,Lucknow the last phase of Oriental Culture, pg.61.(Oxford University Press),
7 Edited by Rosie Llewellyn Jones, Hazratganj a Journey Through The Times. pg 16.
(Bennet,Coleman&Co.Ltd, Lucknow .)
8 Ibid, pg16
9 Sidney Hay, Historic Lucknow , Page 65 (Rupa & Co) Delhi.
10 The Times of India, 3
11 Sidney Hay,Historic Lucknow,pg 65,(Rupa& co.) Delhi.
12 Yogesh Praveen, Lucknownama, pg.219.(Bharat Book Centre) Lucknow .
13 Constitution of India,twenty third edition, pg.30(Eastern book Co.), Lucknow
15 The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958
16 Order of the Delhi High Court Dated 30.10.2009 passed in LPA No.417 of 2009.
1. Illustration 1: A Recent Picture of Imambada Sibtainabad , after its repairs and renovation.
2. Illustration 2: Portrait of King Amjad Ali Shah, the Fourth King of Oudh
3. Illustration 3: An Old Picture of Imambada Sibtainabad .
4. Illustration 4: A Photograph of Imambada Sibtainabad taken in the year 2007 , evidencing neglect,
apathy and lack of upkeep of this monument.
5. Illustration 5: Photograph evidencing encroachments in the Inner Gate of the Imambada Sibtainabad,
6. Illustration 7 : Preservation and Renovation of the Outer Hall of the Monument, depicting intricate stucco work.
7. Illustration 8: Preservation of the Ceiling of the Outer Hall of the Monument.A Monument’s Tryst with Destiny : Mausoleum of King Amjad Ali Shah, Lucknow