With that call to rush out of The Residency in Lucknow, I reluctantly bundled up into the car to head to our next destination on the Epic Indo Nepal trip – Gorakhpur. With my GPS route set to the destination, I fiddled around to see other places of interest around Ayodhya where we were to stop for a quick lunch. Faizabad popped up on my screen and with my hopeful eyes, I checked with Deepak from ScoutMyTrip on whether it made sense to head there instead of Ayodhya. I think he was in a good mood for he agreed with me when I said – “What is a road trip if there are no unplanned detours” and thus, we changed course to Faizabad.
Faizabad appealed to me for two reasons – for one, I was still in the Nawab hangover and this was the erstwhile capital of the Nawabs. Two, it has the romantic fiction of Umrao Jaan attached to it – for the lady in the story was born here. Deepak warned me that we just had 30 minutes at this destination for we had to reach Gorakhpur by nightfall. Thus, we could visit only one of the three places that Faizabad had to offer. Gulab Bari was a popular pick and absolutely worth our while – as you will now discover for yourselves.
An introduction to Faizabad
If the Nawab who built the famous Bara Imambara and Rumi Darwaza had not fought with his mom, we might have had Faizabad as the capital of Uttar Pradesh. #JustSaying . I mean if you were to go with his grandparents, it was already the capital of Awadh. Skipping my dramatics, let’s understand the facts. Faizabad was essentially the powerhouse of the Nawabs of Awadh. Nawabs as I explained in my earlier post, were the vassals of the Mughals. It was Nawab Saadat Ali Khan who first built the town and later Nawab Shuja-Ud Daula developed it. However, following bitter relations with his mom, his successor Nawab Asaf Ud-Daula moved his capital to Lucknow and thus, changed history. The town was abandoned shortly and later, lost to oblivion.
They say that there was a secret passage from Lucknow to Faizabad via one of the many tunnels of the Bhool Bhulaiya. This served as a secret escape route for the Royals. Hmmm.. now that is something I would want to explore.
History of the Gulab Bari
With at least 2 royal generations in Faizabad, there were bound to be relics of the past still existing. A little search online showed at least 3 major ones of which we picked Gulab Bari. The name literally means “Garden of Roses”. However, what the description showed us was more than just a Garden. It was the resting place of Nawab Shuja Ud Daula. The place was built during the lifetime of the Nawab. It served many religious functions when the Nawab was alive but today, the place is quite abandoned and its importance lost.
Gates of Gulab Bari at Faizabad
With the GPS set to Gulab Bari, we entered the narrow lanes of Faizabad. Passing through the ancient gateways and numerous one-way, we reached the famous Garden of Roses. The place lay quite abandoned and except for a few locals and free-roaming goats, there was no one around a majestic looking gate.
Standing tall in front of the gate was a huge pillar of our national emblem – the Sarnath Lion. The plaque on it read that it was established by Captain Bhagwan Singh in July 1952. There was no other information around here except for another fading board with the history of Gulab Bari on it.
The wooden – irons shielded the view of what was inside with its partial closure and that gave me a little time to absorb the watch balconies and their designs. Most of the etching was faded but the one thing that was evident was the emblem of the Nawabs – the infamous fish.
The Mosque & Imambara in Gulab Bari
From the outside itself, you could well spot an impressive ancient mosque that even had the Shia Imambara attached to it. The tall minarets in some ways reminded me of the Asafi mosque that I saw a day before in Lucknow. My guess is that this might have been the model for that mosque for that was built later.
A small watchtower stood next to the mosque but there were no gates around it. The only way in was through the impressive gates that I was standing outside of.
First Glimpse inside Gulab Bari
Stepping inside the partially closed gates was like a curtain being raised to an impressive Mausoleum. The central tomb stood in all its glory, perfectly constructed to fit into the view of those arched gateways. A typical Persian architectural style lay before me with the Char Bagh styled gardens that one can see at the Taj Mahal and Humayun’s tomb. Lining the pathway were non-functional fountains while around it, the green gardens that seemed better maintained than the monument itself. It was these gardens that had several rose plants, thus lending the monument its present name.
The Maqbara of Gulab Bari in Faizabad
With half of my allotted time left, I quickly walked around the main tomb or the Maqbara. Though fading, the white and red building was quite an impressive one. I could not help but get impressed by its arched passages – that might have been quite something back in those days. A peek through the windows that were barred on the ground floor allowed me to see a central tomb-like structure. This might have been where the Nawabs rested.
Walking around the building, I saw several little corners where the Nawabs of today or the local folks had occupied for that little afternoon snooze. Without disturbing them, I managed to find the very staircase that might have led to the first level of the Maqbara. Sadly, those were barred and I had no way of taking that view from atop.
The rooftop was the most interesting with those little minarets and pavilions that resembled the Rajput ones. I bet the red stone there contrasted beautifully with the white building making this one gorgeous place in those days.
The other buildings at Gulab Bari in Faizabad
All around the peripheral wall of the Gulab Bari were several other smaller buildings. All of these have been closed but from what I understood, they might have been a part of the Royal Bathhouse (Shahi Hamam) and the Imambara. With no tourists flocking this small town, there was no restoration done here. It was hard to recognize what was what and with the locals using it as their Siesta point, slowly all that is there could be lost.
Time allotted by Deepak for this stop-over was up and I left feeling quite incomplete – not coz I did not get to see it all. It was more because what I saw was fading away in history. Unless some serious steps are taken by ASI (Archaelogical Society of India), we might just lose this piece of history forever. The situation is a bit of a chicken and egg one – just because there are few visitors, there is no restoration and vice versa. I hope steps are taken to make this right and better for this gorgeous monument definitely needs a facelift.
- Faizabad is a small town that shares a border with Ayodhya. It is just 130 km from the state capital Lucknow and can make a great day outing from here. It can be reached directly by bus or train from Lucknow.
- Gulab Bari can be reached at this location that you can access on your mobile.
- The entry fees for this monument is just INR 5. It is open from 5 am to 7 pm every day
- Winter is the best time to visit here as it tends to get quite hot in summers.
- While in Faizabad, don’t miss the Moti Mahal and Bahu Begum’s tomb.
- You can even drop into its neighboring town – Ayodhya for some gorgeous Hindu temples
- There are plenty of places to eat and relax when in Faizabad.
- There are no guides at these monuments.