Tag Archives: India Tourism

Can Lucknow be Paris?


It was an early winter morning in 1858. A British soldier, engrossed in his thoughts, was taking a third lap of his morning walk at Alambagh (outside the city of Lucknow). “Can Lucknow be Paris?” he thought.  He was Robert Napier, the chief of the staff at Lucknow. He had to draw an outline for Lucknow, which would change the city forever !

Somewhere in his mind, maybe he had an influence of an engineer, who had rebuilt Paris – Baron Haussmann. Paris was not always a beautiful city. It was congested and unhygienic. Haussmann was commissioned by Napoleon III, in 1853 to instigate a program of planning reforms in Paris. Sweeping changes were made and the wide “boulevards” were created.

Haussmann’s work destroyed much of the medieval city of Paris. It is estimated that he transformed 60% of Paris’s buildings At one time, one-third of Paris was torn down. His restructuring of Paris gave the city its present form; its long, straight, wide boulevards with café and shops, which determined a new type of urban scenario and had a profound influence on the lives of its people.

One thing lay common in the project brief to both the engineers: Haussmann (Paris, 1853) and Napier (Lucknow, 1858). Both were instructed to make the city more effective for military policing. Under this intend, the wide thoroughfares were to be constructed to facilitate troop movements and prevent easy blocking of streets with barricades. The straightness allowed artillery to fire on rioting crowds and their barricades.

Robert Napier, apart from being a successful soldier, had a big reputation for developing the Ambala Cantonment. The Ambala Cantonment was established in 1843 after the British abandoned its cantonment at Saphera(Patiala), following the malaria epidemic of 1841–42. Napier had been on the vacation to England in the autumn of 1856, and possibly had heard of the Haussmann’s work in Paris, back in England.

 When he arrived at Calcutta in 1857, every British was talking about the mutiny and more so, about the experiences of Lucknow. Napier was sent to Lucknow along with James Outram, the chief commissioner of Oudh, to command the force for the relief of Lucknow. Napier was successful in the siege of the city and had now been assigned to make a “controllable” Lucknow.

The Nawabi city of Lucknow formed the administrative and cultural core of vast, rich hinterland and the centre of its voluminous grain trade. Workshops of artisans, craftsmen, jewellers, bankers and tradesmen sprang up around the court to supply its needs and Lucknow had become the locus for the largest complex of luxury industries in northern India. This city had then narrow lanes and was very populated (about 1,50,000 population). In terms of economy, it was only next to the three port towns of India.

The Nawab of Lucknow had constructed large palace-garden complexes, the major mosques and gateways, the imambaras, the chowk and major markets to form the core of the royal quarter of the city.

 Engrossed in his thoughts, Robert Napier went straight to the drawing board and laid the city map of Lucknow on his table. Was Paris on his mind? Nevertheless, what he did thereafter was similar to what had been done to Paris, five years ago.

Some of the key actions of Napier, which were to change the social and physical fabric of Lucknow forever, were:-  

  • Important buildings were identified and the area around was ruthlessly cleared and the building demolished.
  • The narrow streets of Lucknow made way for 50 meter wide roads. The diagonal streets in the picture above, were drawn on the city map. These broad roads cut through the dense city, razing all construction that came into the way.
  • The main diagonal axis of Lucknow city, from the imambara to the Karbala, was changed. The Karbala was shifted and so was the entire city orientation .
  • The cantonment which was earlier north of river Gomti (3 miles away) was brought closer to the town, in its South Eastern part .

The limelight of Lucknow was shifted to Kanpur, when the British shifted their regional headquarters. To add upon, the new rail line connecting Delhi and Calcutta purposely ignored Lucknow. When it finally came in 1875, it divided the city into an old town and the new town. The new markets around Hajratgunj, were to become the new city center.

While a lot was added in Paris post Hausmann, to become one of the most popular cities in the world, Lucknow lost its grandeur.

The evenings of Lucknow, were never to be the same again !

Source of the Maps and Data:

1. The Making of Colonial Lucknow, 1856-1877 Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press by Veena Talwar Oldenburg .

2. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Napier,_Robert_Cornelis_(DNB00)  

3. Photo: Lucknow IMAMBARA by maneesh_agni (http://www.trekearth.com/)

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Revival of our heritage: Lets dream cities !


I am very happy today. Saw a beautiful dream last night, that Gaya has been declared as the “UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape”.  This is fantastic and more so, because of the reasons of selection. If I can remember my dream correctly, here are some of the reasons stated.

01. Gaya, an ancient town in Bihar, is a city “frozen” in time. There is an age old ritual at Gaya, of offering “Pind Daan” has been practiced since thousands of years. This ritual in its core connects the current generation with its old generation or its ancestors.

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 02. The “Andar Gaya” (the old city core) was a medieval town, made in 1663. It was fortified, with moats around and had four entrance gates. As the folklore goes, all the pandas (the Gayawal priest community) came together to stay in this fortified area. Unlike to the contemporary medieval towns like Shahjhanabad, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Jaipur etc, Gaya is a Hindu and non- trade based town.

 

03. Most importantly, all the houses in Andar Gaya have a unique housing typology. They all have three floors. The ground floor for ‘Jajman’, the first floor for ‘Mehman’, the second floor for ‘Pakwan’ and the top floor had a toilet (it could have been a later addition). Interestingly, more than 70% percent of the Built fabric and the structures still remain. Every courtyard, every pillar is the same, in this ancient town.

04. Moreover, it may be it is the earliest example of neighborhood planning (in 1663). Entire Andar Gaya has 14 mohallas (neighbourhoods) and 14 baithaks. These baitaks have a rich legacy of Art & Culture. This is a great example of the sociological heritage of the Gayawal panda Community.

05. The ritual is performed on the Vedies, which could be river, trees, streams, rocks etc. Ancient documentation shows there were more than 300 vedies where pind daan was performed. Today only about 15 are known.

Possibly, some day Gaya is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape. Till then, Lets keep dreaming.

May the dream come true, Amen!

Is Indian Tourism about being emotional ?


Hello everybody,

As I choose to write my first-ever post, I select a place named Gaya in the state of Bihar. Gaya is a wonderful place, and is a city “frozen” in time. It is wide known that the Indians take pride in their family values; how they have taken care of their parents and also the vice versa. But I have often wondered, how such family values would have developed in a civilisation?

One of the answers, I found was in an age old ritual at Gaya, of offering “Gaya Sraddha”. This ritual in its core, connects the current generation with its old generation or its ancestors. A person would come to Gaya, may be first or the only time in his life, for his ancestors. He does not belong to this place, yet performs this ritual (it might take from 1 day to 30 days) in a constant dialogue with himself. Imagining his state of mind, wherein he is constantly in the memories of his lost father, grandfather and many more (who he may not have even seen).

One can only imagine the experience one might have, performing this ritual? One is expected to lead a pious life during this period, and be devoid of any worldly pleasure, even cook yourself. While remembering the relationships with your father, you might make many confessions to him, silently! You might break down, cry in a corner … might make certain resolutions for the future. But sure, you would be relieved and recharged, after you established this connect.  All this ’emotional’ and very ‘personal’ exchanges happen, in this unknown place. What a strange city! A city, that can make you cry! I often think, the importance of this experience and the moral upliftment, this city contributes?

In the displayed picture, a son is performing this ritual “Pind daan” for his father at Gaya. He is accompanied by his wife and his son. Irrespective of the varied regions in India, its languages and sub- cultures, this son pays homage to his parents at Gaya. What kind of an example the ritual presents to the society? What should his children learn from this experience? Would it not motivate them to continue with these core Indian values, of having a connect with our old parents? I often remember my father telling my mother, that she should treat my grandmother the way she expected her to be treated as she gets old.

I was bewildered to learn one written account from the Cambridge University Library. A person named as Veeraswamy, came to Gaya from Madras in 1830. There were no Airport then, nor were any trains or even the vehicles on roads. He travelled often by foot, and it took him 15 months to perform this ritual or pilgrimage and return back.  He also writes that it was not only him, but more than 1,00,000 people came to Gaya in 1811, to perform this ritual. I wonder, what would have been the “emotion” to travel this far?  What do we say about this Hindu belief that “a son, is a son only when he perform this ritual at Gaya”, for his ancestors? Has this contributed to the Indian Values? If it has, what should Indian Tourism do today, to make more people visit Gaya, and inherit these values?

There are many examples, which indicate the people have always travelled in India, often have been guided by such emotions. We all know that religious tourism is the biggest factor for domestic tourism in India. Do you also feel the essence of Indian Tourism is “in being emotional”?

I feel that this is how, India can be experienced best! In its core values, Indian Tourism has a lot to offer to this world.