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Bara Imambara is an imambara complex that happens to be in the ‘city of Nawabs’ Lucknow, which lies in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This majestic monument was constructed by Asaf-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Lucknow, who is also known as the Nawab of Awadh, in the year 1784 and it was named as Asfi Imambara after the name of very builder. This monument is also recognized by a name Asafi Imambara. The name of this monument aptly suits to it as Bara means big, and an imambara is a shrine built by Shia Muslims with the intention of Azadari. The Bara Imambara is among the greatest and the grandest buildings of Lucknow.
The edifice is also known for the fact that it is the worlds largest arched room without any pillars and the Nawabs held their public hearings in this very place. In the culture of Islam, the Imambada are considered as the imitations of tombs dedicated to the Holy Prophet and his family members. Bada Imambara also acts as the venue for the Muslims who visit the place annually to commemorate the holy festival of Muharram.
The Bara Imambara houses a mosque, courtyards, gateways and a bawali or step-well used as a summer palace. The office in Imambara complex has a large vaulted central compartment which holds the tomb of Asaf-ud-Daula. The hall is about 170 ft long with having its breadth of 55 ft and stands at an elevation of about 50 ft over the ground. It is interesting to note that it has no roof beams to support the ceiling, which is at a height of 50 ft.
The edifice consists of a web of corridors that are hidden in its walls which are about 20 feet thick. This network of doors creating confusion between the doors and walls has rendered the place with a name called as “Bhool Bhulaiya”.
This complex is a network of more than 1000 convoluted passages, some of which leads to dead-ends, some end at steep points while others direct towards the way in or way out points. It is advised that in order to explore this confusion based network of doors, hire an approved guide.
Another fascinating edifice at the Imambara is the five-storied baoli (step well), as mentioned above belongs to the pre-Nawabi era. Popularly known as the Shahi-Hammam (royal bath), this baoli is connected with the river Gomti. The first two stories of this structure are higher than the water level, the rest being permanently under the water. The monument is opened on all the days, since morning 6am to evening 5pm.