Lucknow, when one hears the name, does it ring a bell; do people think it as a worthwhile tourist destination or even a tourist destination? No, most of the time no. Lucknow is the capital of Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest states in India, but when the tourists think about Uttar Pradesh, the first destination which comes in the mind is Agra and the famous Taj Mahal in Agra. The next popular tourist destination is Varanasi (which is also the part of the Buddhist circuit), the Allahabad (famous for Sangam, Kumbh Mela and so on). Lucknow, though in proximity with all these cities isn’t seen as a popular tourist destination unfortunately.
Don’t do the mistake of ignoring Lucknow as a tourist destination. Infrastructure wise Lucknow has everything which a tourist may want – good air, rail and road connectivity with all the major cities in India, hotels for all ranges – from luxury to budget, you name it and the city has it, major international hotel chains like Taj group, Marriottt, Radisson, Hilton etc. are present here, ample transportation options in the city, excellent shopping opportunity, food joints dishing out some mouth-watering local cuisine and yes a rich cultural and historical heritage.
In every part of Lucknow there is a piece of history hidden waiting to be discovered. There is a story in every nook and corner of Lucknow, be it the old city or the outskirts. Lucknow or the erstwhile Awadh or Oudh (the British pronunciation) has always played an important role in India’s freedom fight – be it the being one of the most important centres during the First War of Indian Independence (the Revolt of 1857 or the Sepoy Mutiny as the British like to refer), or be the part of Gandhiji’s Quit India movement, Swadeshi movement. Lucknow had in the past always been the favourite place for the Indian Freedom Fighters.
In the Hidden Gems series we would talk about some lesser known and unknown tourist destinations in Lucknow.
Hidden in a corner, in the green Cantonment Area of Lucknow is a Gem known as Dilkhusha Palace or Dilkhusha Kothi. Adjacent to Dilkhusha Palace is the nicely maintained Dilkshusha Garden which is maintained by the Lucknow Development Authority.
Dilkhusha Palace is currently under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) who handles the restoration and maintenance of the same. There was no entry charge to this monument when we visited.
Dilkhusha Palace or Dilkhusha Kothi does not cover a very large area, it’s more like a big bygone era bungalow which at the time when it was constructed was on the outskirts of the city deep inside a forest area with a waterbody close by.
The palace complex was constructed in European style using traditional Lakhori bricks, plastered with Lime and decorated with plastered mouldings during the reign of Nawab Sadaat Ali Khan (1798-1814). Nawab Saadat Ali Khan was the 5th Nawab Wazir of Awadh/Oudh. His friend Major Gore Ousley a British resident planned, designed and constructed the same. This initially was to be used a hunting lodge for the Nawabs, subsequently used as a summer resort. The corner of the palace was adorned with towers which had circular stairs. The design of the palace bore a resemblance to the style of Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, England.
Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider (1827-1837) made some more additions.
During the revolt of 1857 (first war of Indian Independence/sepoy mutiny) the entire complex was centre of British military activity. The complex suffered major damages. British General Sir Henry Havelock breathed his last in the complex (he didn’t die a glorious death fighting in the war but due to dysentery which was caused by the siege), in November 1857.
Some restoration was done when the revolt was crushed and it became the residence of Commanding Officer of the Oudh Division (British) until it was declared unsafe (ref. Historic Lucknow, Sidney Hay).
Other than the main or the old building, there is another building in the complex which is known as the North East Building. This building was constructed by last king of Awadh, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1847-56) to the north east of Dilkhusha Palace on the east west axis. This building again was built in European style using the traditional kiln baked Lakhori bricks plastered with lime. The ground next to it (the present day Dilkhusha Garden) was cleared and was used for military exercises for his troops during the early years of his reign. The British objected to the same and ordered the same to be stopped.
There are two graves of British residents inside the complex enclosed with a small boundary right next to the old palace building.
This place definitely is worth a visit.
PS – Lakhori bricks were kiln baked, only 19 mm thick and normally about 10 cm x 15 cm. These bricks because of their small size were extensively used for creating finer details on the wall and column surfaces.