The past week had two holidays in a row, from both Hindu and Muslim traditions. This past Wednesday was Rath Yatra, in which the chariot strolls around the city to celebrate Lord Krishna and his brothers; then, on Thursday, Muslims celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the last day of Ramadan. Since school was closed to observe these holidays, I was invited to visit a nearby city of Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh state.
Lucknow is a hidden gem for tourists. Many tourists bypass this historical city because there are just so many places to see in North India, but this city also claims some impressive architectures and important historical sites especially surrounding the first battle for independence against Britain in 1857. I visited the Residency, one of the biggest battlefields of this war, and Bara Imambara, a Muslim holy site commemorating the past local Muslim leader (Nawab) Asaf Ud Daulah.
The Residency was established by Nawab Asaf Ud Daulah in 1780 for British residents occupying Lucknow. Houses, schools, and churches were built on this ground for them — most of which are now ruined because of the aftermath of the war in 1857. The park itself makes me forget that I am still in India because there is a lot of greenery and no traffic at all (and thus, no honking!). There are palm trees slowly swaying in the wind, and the grass is well kept. At the museum inside the Residency, we could read about the battle that took place on that very ground. There are bullets and cannon marks left in the houses where British resided. It is interesting how this history is being recounted in the museum. Although the British ended up winning this battle, the Indian history marks this battleas their major stepping stone for independence instead of their loss. The museum commemorates many Nawabsand other significant leaders from this area that would never be celebrated in British textbooks.
As I teach modern Indian history to 8th grades, I have been reading up on the events leading up to this first war for independence. Local leaders saw their powers taken away by the British using force and cunning lawmaking, and peasants and artists were highly exploited by being forced to cultivate cotton, indigo, and silk for less-than-adequate fee and high taxes. To think that the Indians revolted in this place made me shiver — the injustice they went through is more than I can ever imagine, and many innocent lives were taken as a result of some rich men’s greed and entitlement over foreign land. It’s a sobering place that reminds me of the brutal effects that British rule had on India.
Bara Imambara was such a beautiful site. It exemplified the best of the Islamic architecthre — pointed arch, domes, a stepped well, and a large hall (15 meters high and 50 meters long) built without any pillars. There is also a “labyrinth” surrounding this large hall, consisting of some complicated and narrow steps that lead to secret passages and to the top of the building. The view of the entire city of Lucknow from the top was spectacular, and the sunny weather in the middle of monsoon season definitely helped with the view.
Overall, this was a nice excursion and rejuvenation from the busy days in school. Now that I am down to just over two weeks at this place, I am looking forward to finishing up my research project on educational practices at NIRMAN, takingsome Indian music lessons, teaching English songs for students to perform at the end of the month, and exploring the city a little more. It’s a bummer that the ghats are now entirely under water, though.