The city of Lucknow teems with character due to its multiculturalism and deep artistic traditions. It has been ruled by the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, the Nawabs of Awadh and later, the British East India Company. Each ruler has painted the city with different colours and disparate forms of architecture. One of the examples of Lucknow’s conflations is the Rumi Darwaza, also known as the Turkish gate due to its strong similarity with traditional Turkey architecture, a 60 feet statue which stands in Old Lucknow City.
The Rumi Darwaza glows with architectural detail and profound mysticism. It is decked with intricately carved flowers and designs and the uppermost part of the structure is topped with a chhatri. Also, legends has it that during a certain period, there used to be a lantern at the top of the structure which would be lit at night, with jets of water flowing from its arch; I can almost imagine standing amidst the starry night and witnessing history through the fluidity of water as well as the luminosity of light.
While the Mughals were extensively using expensive stones during the 1700’s , the state of Awadh, modern day Uttar Pradesh, did not possess the capital required in doing the same. Instead, the workers under Nawab’s administration used red low bricks called lakhauri which were rendered locally with clay. Also, the mortar used by the workers to build the Darwaza was called surkhi, which was prepared by mixing locally available crushed lime with crushed lakhauri and water. Being a boy of the age of seventeen, I am quite awestruck by the inventiveness and the ingenuity of the workers in building the mesmerising structure.
Behind this beguiling architecture, also lies a noble story. In 1748, Awadh (later renamed Uttar Pradesh) was reeling under severe famine and the survivability of the population was at stake. To help people overcome this, Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula decided to build the Bara Imambara along with Rumi Darwaza to employ the masses and help provide them with a steady flow of income.
At a time when history is often ‘toyed’ with by the ruling establishment, who it is believed have suggested the removal of the Taj Mahal as one of Uttar Pradesh’s tourist attractions, we should remember that monuments can also be used to provide benefits to the common man and sometimes also help in times of darkness and crisis.
The Rumi Darwaza truly lives up to its name : it opens the darwaza, the door, for all of us to explore history, architecture, art and the archaic but yet animate city of Lucknow.