India // Uttar Pradesh //

Hussainabad Imambara and around

A short distance west of the Rumi Darwaza, the lavish Hussainabad Imambara is also known as the Chhota (small) Imambara, or the Palace of Lights, thanks to its fairy-tale appearance when decorated and illuminated for special occasions. The raised bathing pool in front of it, which is approached via a spacious courtyard, adds to the overall atmosphere. A central gilded dome dominates the whole ensemble, busy with minarets, small domes and arches and even a crude miniature Taj Mahal. Built in 1837 by Muhammad Ali Shah, partly to provide famine relief through employment, the Imambara houses a silver-faced throne, plus the tombs of important Avadhi personalities. The dummy gate opposite the main entrance was used by ceremonial musicians, while the unfinished watchtower is known as the Satkhanda or “Seven Storeys”, even though only four were ever constructed.

Beyond the Hussainabad Tank is the isolated 67-metre-high Hussainabad Clocktower, an ambitious Gothic affair completed in 1887 which carries the largest clock in India. Southwest of the Hussainabad Imambara, and surrounded by ruins, are the two soaring minarets and three domes of the Jama Masjid. Commissioned by Muhammad Ali Shah, who ruled Avadh 1837–42, the mosque was only completed after his death.