I was in town to meet the Chief Minister. Despite my personal feelings for the political class of the state, the morning air felt good. I had around four hours to kill in the early part of the morning. I had gone to the Ambedkar Memorial Park, found it closed, walked around and be done with it in less than two hours.
Bada Imambara is on the other part of the city but all other cities look smaller to dilliwallahs. If you can go from one end of a city to another in fifteen bucks without having to ride a bus, the city is small. But the Bada, literally meaning large, is that, large. There is no wordplay here. It’s massive and majestic. If Wikipedia has it right, then it has one of the biggest unsupported ceilings in the world.
The history of the structure is rich and an interesting read. The roof is made of rice husk. It is the only structure where the sponsor and architect are both buried. It was built in the time of famine. So the masses built it up in the day. The noblemen brought it down at night, so that more employment could be generated. There are a thousand more stories…go read them elsewhere. The internet is full of them and I never had the patience to write history lessons.
We have a horrible way of undermining our own history. Either we don’t know it. Or, don’t care for it. Or, don’t give it the due it deserves. After our walks with Sohail Hashmi, I learnt the importance of a good guide. I have been with many guides before. Most of them will tell us gigantic cock and bull stories, blow everything out of proportion and narrate legends than actual history.
The Bara Imambara is no different. Though managed by ASI, the caretakers seemed to be the hardest salesmen. May be, they are from some religious board as Bara Imambara continues to be a place of prayer, not just a heritage structure, same as the Puri temple. The pandas there and the idiots here actively keep you from having a superlative experience.
The structures are all majestic and one could spend an hour just looking around. I made the mistake of hiring a guide. The moron could not decide whether to speak in Hindi or English and ended up making both the languages incomprehensible. Apart from the entry and exit of the bhool bhulaiyaa, which takes five minutes to learn, the imbecile knew nothing else or knew it all wrong. It’s worth one look, especially the view from the rooftop. I don’t know why they have made it compulsory for couples!!
It’s important to know that the labyrinth was not created by design but was the fall out of the supportive structures. Adam Khan’s tomb in Delhi has the similar labyrinths but they are closed for the public. Not because they are unsafe to climb etc, but because ASI does not have the staff to keep off the lovers who used to get lost there willingly.
I didn’t have enough time to take the horse carriage to Chota Imambara etc. The offers were ridiculously cheap and it would seem suspicious how one could hire a man and an animal for fifty rupees. I walked to the Rumi Darwaja close by. Unfortunately, some repair work was on and I could not go up but the gate is very interesting even to see from outside.
I checked online and people have highly recommended the clock tower and chota Imambara ride on the horse cart. But I didn’t have enough time to take the tour. Definitely, next time.