Friday, May 20, 2011


It was a warm cozy winter afternoon. The one with  sparkling blue sky smiling benignly upon us while the bright green  grass nods invitingly. We entered the premises of British Residency in Lucknow after a long time.
Even when we were on the ticket window,  I started noticing the changes. The premises looked cleaner and the buildings..........the ruins more shapely and arranged than they used to be say about  ten years back. Repairs work was going on few of them. I had a mixed feeling. I was happy that steps are being taken to preserve history for posterity but then the sprucing and  brushing up of ruins have some how or other lessened the feel of romance with antiquity. No, it's not that the facade of buildings is being changed .The archeological department is taking full care of maintaining the original form of buildings. Perhaps as they were just after the siege  and attack in1857. There is no other way out. If the time and weather were allowed to take their toll on the ruins without any intervention from we mortals, after some time they might be completely obliterated from the face of earth, but I missed those crumbling almost papery ruins, those withered, blackened walls, may be the romance in me found it easier to conjure up the images of the past while wandering midst those haunted looking ruins.
See, I was to take you to the tour of British Residency in lucknow and here I am rumbling incessantly about my sentiments. let us start from the right point .
During 1775, the capital of Awadh was shifted from Faizabad to Lucknow. The then nawab of Avadh, Asafuddaula started construction of British Residency on a green hill on the banks of Gomti.This was to house the British representative in the court of Awadh Sir Lawrence Henry. Construction of Residency was completed by nawab Sadat Ali Khan, the successor of Nawab Asafuddaula. Gradually many buildings were erected around in addition to the main Residency building and this turned into a beautiful European settlement.
However during sepoy mutiny of 1857 which is also known as first war of independence of India, this beautiful complex sprawling in almost 33 acres was carnaged badly. The walls still bear the scars of the battle and canonball pock marks on those grand walls. The roofless ruins stand silent witness to the war that was fought, the pain that was endured and the valour that was displayed by both the sides.
 By the mid of 18th century British had acquired a very strong hold in India.The last emasculated nawab of India Wazid Ali Shah was packed off to Calcutta.The unrest was gradually brewing up among the Indian sepoys in the army but this turn of the history ignited the fuel. The sepoy mutiny which started in Meerut spread rapidly to lucknow. It is said that almost every European in lucknow at that time took shelter in the Residency. Indian soldiers besieged Residency and the was led by Begum Hazarat Mahal. All the supplies were cut and roads to the Residency were blocked by mutineers.The siege continued for almost five months. In the meantime epidemic spread in the Residency and many of them there including kids and  women lost their lives, many of the soldiers laid down their lives defending the occupants of Residency.
The mutiny was quashed when British General Collin Campbell arrived with his force. After the siege,  the Union Jack atop Residency became the only flag of British empire which was not lowered even at sunset, of course till the independence of india.
Let me take you to a literally picturesque tour of some of the structures of the  Residency................the main building, the banquette hall, Dr.Fayrer's house, besides begum kothi, a mosque and imambara. Few of the them must have been added after the  independence. There is a museum and a cemetery as well a commorative piller erected by the Britishers in memory of the Indian sepoys who defended Residency along with their British counterparts.

The fire place at the first floor level. It still retains a few signs of it's marble finishing 





The fountain at  the entrance hall of the banquet building



An outside view of a side of the banquett hall building

All the above pics are the different views of the banquet hall building. This is the most imposing of all the structures in the area. It was constructed by nawab sadat ali khan. Presently all the structures at residency are open to sky, no ceilings, no roof, but let your imagination take a flight and you can see the the sparkling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the life size mirrors on the wall, the silk and zari embroidered furnishing in the state apartments and spacious saloons



Entrance to Dr.Fayer's house. He was the surgeon at residency  during the period of the siege. This is the building where Sir Henry Lawrance succumbed to his injuries after being mortally wounded during the battle.

The name plate still shines................ 





The mosque and the imambara 

Imambara under repair........... 


Begum kothi........................... 

The museum.......... 
The top of the main building..................... 

The marks of shelling.................. 

The main building which was originally a three storey structure. It was in the basement of this building that the women and children took shelter during siege.
 The tall trees, the manicured lawns, the shady grooves, the wild grass near the boundary wall, the sunlight peeping down stealthily through the canopies of shady trees, the long wavy unpaved pathways leading to far off corners, sitting on a bench under a huge neem tree listening to the drone of bees,  I was transported to the period before the siege. The rhythmically moving wind as if struck the piano keys and I could almost see the swirling gowns in that still stately ball room. Suddenly a screeching crow broke my reverie and made me smile indulgently. Those young couples walking hand in hand, sitting in some cozy corners, on that broken wall, standing under the tree, scattered almost everywhere in that sprawling premises of the Residency, as if to assure .........beyond the histories of blood and war, dreams live on.... 

 (All the pictures are copyrighted by sunder iyer)
© namitasachan., all rights reserved.

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