Words SAMARPAN BHOWMIK
Photographs KRISHNA PRABAKAR T
Reputed the world over for its mouthwatering Awadhi cuisine, the ancient city of Lucknow is also a treasure trove of architecture. As much as the nawabs held sway over the city, the British, who came later, had quite an influence on it too, and it’s evident in the many structures built by and for them that stand to this day.
The revolt in 1857 by the Indian sepoys of the East India Company’s forces left its mark on the city. The damp and dark cellars of The Residency were used as a refuge by around 3,000 Britons in those war-torn times. Months were spent in despair there, as the attacks continued (holes left by cannonballs are visible) and almost 2,000 of them ended up dead. It’s not easy to picture these grim events today, in the serene green gardens amid the ruins. To get more insight into the siege of Lucknow, make a stop at the 1857 Memorial Museum. It’s not all grave here though; there’s Begum’s Kothi, the residence of Begum of Nasir-ud-Din Haidar, and a mosque and imambara (shrine) as well.
The revolt had quite the effect on the city, and you’ll hear of the siege at other spots in the city too. There is La Martiniere College; students of this institution famously helped defend the Residency. The institution’s campus is built around Constantia, a structure built as the residence of Major-General Claude Martin.
There are several legends surrounding Martin, who is known to have been eccentric. Although he didn’t live to see the building finished, he had two conditions for it. First, he wanted his home to be converted into a school for young men, and, second, he wanted to be buried underneath it, which is where he lies to this day. Even the story about his death is a rather odd one. Rumour has it he fancied himself a surgeon and decided to operate on himself to remove kidney stones. Of course, the attempt was a failure and resulted in his demise.
The college campus itself resembles something out of a film set, with green lawns, a stable full of horses, and some monuments and crypts. One particular tomb and memorial, known as “Gori Bibi ka Maqbara”, was constructed in honour of Martin’s close friend Boulone Lise. Do bear in mind that you’ll need to get prior permission to visit the school. Tornos organises a specialised tour Tornos House with pick-up and drop, tea and refreshments at the school canteen and access to special areas.
Head next to Christ Church, the third church built by the British in India, and one that functions as a college today. This was yet another building that was attacked during the revolution, and there are memorials to the fallen.
We’d also recommend gems such as the All Saints Garrison church, where the pews have space to hold guns and Church of the Epiphany with its striking red brick facade, but there are also other churches in the city worth a visit. Lucknow, with its colourful past, presents a wonderful blend of the nawabi and British cultures. It’s a true representation of the melting pot of cultures that is India.