Dr Sanobar Haider is Assistant Professor, Department of History, MBP Government PG College, Lucknow
A peep into Khairabad’s Imambada
Khairabad is a historic town located in the state of Uttar Pradesh known as ‘Khairabad Awadh’. It was a seat of learning and culture during the Mughal period. Maulana Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi , the famous freedom fighter belonged to this town. The town has been the abode of many Urdu poets and writers like Mayel Khairabadi. Maharaja Chita Pasi in the early 11th century is believed to be the founder of this town. In later years, many rent-free grants of land were made to people under the Mughal Emperors Babur and Akbar, but these grants were all resumed by the Nawabs of Awadh in the early 1800s. During the rule of the East India Company the handloom cloth manufactured in Khairabad and Dariyabagh was exported.
This small town is home to many monuments primarily of the Nawabi era the most outstanding being the Imambada Khairabad popularly known as the Imambada of Makka Darzi (tailor). This monument is one of the finest pieces of architecture which belongs to the nawabi style of architecture and was built by the Darzi of Nawab Nasir-ud-din Haider in the 1830s. The Nawabs of Awadh were great patrons of fine arts which included the architectural masterpieces and the Imambada of Makka Darzi, a beautiful monument, combining and symbolizing the Nawabi-Mughal-Gothic architectural styles is no exception. The beautiful inlay work on the roofs, the heavy stucco work and the beautiful façade of Imambara building, composed of five multi-foliated archways flanked with octagonal minaretsis a delight to look at. It is believed that Makka Darzi, the builder of the majestic Imambara, the Qadam Rasul and the adjoining Mosque in Khairabad town of Sitapur district, was a close confidante of King Nasir-ud-din Haider (1803-1837) of Awadh, and is believed to be the only one in the entire Kingdom to fulfill Nasir-ud-din’s fancy and passion for European dresses. Makka is believed to have learnt from the five favorite European friends of the King, the intricacies of English dress – making and excelled so much that he could demand any amount for designing and stitching an exclusive garment in conformity with the expectations of Nasir Uddin Haider. His proximity with the King made him seek the royal indulgence of a huge amount of money for the construction of a complex which not only comprised of his Imambada , but also a beautiful Mosque and a Qadam Rasul.
The Qadam Rasool structure is composed of three storeys. The first storey consists of a central square room having portico on all four cardinal sides. The porch is having three arched openings on the outer side while side wing of the portico contains a single arched opening. Each portico covered a rectangular space. The cornice of the portico has been conceived as projected leaves where the central portion is forming inverted arch shape. Each portion towards outside is surmounted with a pyramidal design which in turn is surmounted by a small domed kiosks. Surmounting pyramidal design has been perforated in the shape of arches where the central arch is bigger and multi-cusped. The second storey of the building has been built by elevating the central chamber of the lower storey. The corners of the second storey have been conceived as square pier with flutings. The third storey of Qadam Rasool has been built as a circular structure where the four circles has been divided into eight parts, each containing four arched openings and is projected outwards. Each arched opening is surmounted by small fluted dome. Once the third storey of Qadam Rasool was surmounted by dome which has been destroyed in the course of the time leaving its drum intact.
Makka Jamandar Ka Imambara consists of central courtyard and the structure of Imambara on the eastern side was existed whereas on the western side a monumental gateway has been built. Northern and southern wings of Imambara have been conceived in the form of cloisters with arched openings. The main structure of Imambara exists on a platform. Inside the Imambara the stage has been organized into three rectangular halls connected with five arches. Innermost hall has raised flooring whereas all the three halls have been surmounted with a vaulted roof. Before this platform is situated the grave of Makka Jamadar. Interior of the hall has been decorated with different design with different colors on stucco plasters. Blind niches and chevron pattern on the piers are made. The façade of Imambara building is composed of five multi-foliated archways flanked with octagonal minarets, which are further flanked with double storey cloisters opened towards inside in the form of five arches supported on pillars. Flanking minarets of the façade of Imambara above the roof become circular surmounted by crowning elements. The Northern and Southern wings of Imambara were conceived in the form of cloisters supported on piers. All decoration in the wings is found on stucco plasters. Northernand southern cloisters have façades composed of three functional archways. The corner blind archway is bigger than the other one. The northern and southern wings are symmetrical to each other in design as well as in space organization. Western wing of the complex has been built with a defense element. It is double stored with a monumental gateway in the centre, whereas both curves of the wing have been built in the form of octagonal double storey bastion. These bastions are meant for keeping guards and all the entrances open towards outside. Both storeys of the wing were built on depressed arches whereas the lower storey arches are closed from outside. Upper storey arches are fixed with windows. Central gateway is elevated covering both storey and rise above the roof level of second storey. Central gateway was built in the form of gatehouse divided into central have that is arched passage flanked by double storey cloisters which opened in the central passage. The western façade of the central gateway has a projection towards outside and accommodated, a multifoliated double recessed arch. Flanking portion of the façade was conceived in a blind double stored enclave. Crowning element of this façade has been borrowed from the Gothic Architecture. The eastern façade of the gateway has been surmounted with bent cornice and masonry railing. Central portion of the façade has multi-foliated double recessed arch whereas flanking part of the façade is a single multi foliated arch accommodating double storey arched openings. Both facades of the gateway have been decorated with floral designs built on stucco plaster.
A visit to this interesting structure however, proved to be a dismay. The Imambada which definitely is an architectural marvel is in a shambles, heavily encroached by locals and almost on the verge of decay and destruction. Many of the walls and ceiling have been done up in white choona by the residents who have converted the Imambada into some kind of temporary residence. One part of the compound was inhabited by dari weavers while there were clothes line running across the precincts of the main compound. The plaster on the walls lay peeled off exposing the lakhauri bricks in many parts of the building. The decadant monument displayed a sorry picture of what would have been a resplendent monument once upon a time. The beautiful stucco work, the artistic beautification all appearing to be on the verge of being lost into the pages of history. Though, efforts for getting the monument restored have already begun…