Tehzeeb personified; that is how I can best describe the city I call my home. Amongst the smell of kababs and the beautiful visions of Chikankari, the stunning infrastructural heritage of this city should not be missed.
Lucknow is home to one of the most incredible historic buildings. These imposing yet delicate buildings are living memories from the era of extravagant Nawabs. Hence, no description or tour of this gorgeous city is complete without including its impressive architecture.
One such gorgeous piece of architecture is the- Charbagh railway station, commonly known as Lucknow railway station. Today, let’s put it in the spotlight and walk through its history and relevance to the beautiful city of Lucknow.
The architecture of bygone eras may fade in its beauty. Still, the old-world allure it carries with it is definitely undeniable. Lucknow’s Charbagh railway station, one of the largest in North India, is one such significant architectural and historical landmark. Charbagh is more than just a stop on modern India’s railway network; it plays a vital role in the city’s history and is the glittering part of its identity.
Did you know that Charbagh was not always a railway station or an elaborate palace? ‘Char Bagh,’ which translates to ‘four gardens,’ was established by the fourth Nawab of Awadh, Asaf-ud-Daula, to be one of the most beautiful and elegant gardens, just like the Aishbagh (meaning: pleasure garden).
In the Mughal style of architecture, four gardens are positioned at the four corners of four quadrants in a char bagh. Similarly, there are four sections to an Islamic garden too that are known as a “Charbagh” or “Chahar Bagh” in Persian. The holy Quran is the source of this quadrilateral garden design concept. After death, according to the Quran, the deceased will be ushered into an ethereal garden where they would spend eternity. Surah (verse 55) of the Quran mentions that Heaven is a garden with trees, springs, fruits, and carpets.
Charbagh can also mean ‘A Garden of Paradise,’ and it frankly justifies the beauty of this historic building too. Under architectural design, quadrilateral gardens are separated into four sections by walkways or flowing water. One of Charbagh’s most distinctive features is its four-part garden plan with axial roads intersecting at its center, where the main building is constructed.
As beautiful as the Charbagh railway station, it is not the only one in the world. Western Asia and South Asia are home to many Charbagh styled gardens, including Iran. Pasargadae in Iran is home to the world’s oldest known garden of its type. The Mughals brought the concept of a paradise garden to India. All of India’s famed Mughal gardens may be traced back to the practice of Char Bagh.
Immediately following the revolt of 1857 and 1858, the British government shifted its focus from military campaigns to administrative competency. As a result, a large number of public utility projects, including roads, bridges, railway stations, industries, post offices, and parks, were built during this period. This British ambition paved the way for the Charbagh railway station as we know it today.
A vast railway station was envisioned at that time in Lucknow, as the city was one of the administrative centers of the region. The British government chose the plot of land between Mohammed Bagh and Aish Bagh for this project. The citizens of Maulviganj and a few members of the Nawabi royal family were given land and dwellings in the Purani Imli region of Maulviganj as compensation for the land that was taken for the construction of this railway station. The British eventually named this magnificent architecture the Charbagh Railway Station, and the name has stuck ever since.
Charbagh Railway Station eventually replaced the Aishbagh Railway Station as the primary rail route between Lucknow and many other major cities.
Charbagh is regarded as one of India’s most aesthetically pleasing train stations. It is more than just a train station, as it turns out. It’s a symbol of Lucknow’s exquisite past that has been here for over a century; it is a must-see with a stunning architectural style. It is the city of Nawabs’ principal train station. Its architectural design is sure to enthuse anybody who sees it.
On March 21, 1914, Bishop George Herbert lay the cornerstone for Charbagh, and the railway station was rebuilt in 1923. The construction of this railway station, which cost roughly 7 million rupees, was a significant undertaking for the Britishers. The East Indian Railways’ C.L. Colvin completed the turret inside the same structure on August 1, 1925, and it now houses a casket with a coin and a newspaper from that day as a memento.
J.H. Horniman, the architect who created the building of Charbagh Railway Station, combined Indo-British elements into its design. Outside of, the main edifice, which is red and white, resembles a huge palace because of its striking appearance.
The Charbagh train station looks like a chessboard from above, with its turrets and domes resembling the pieces on a chessboard. The water reservoirs in the building, which are cleverly concealed within the station’s curving façade, are one of the station’s most distinctive architectural features. The acoustics of the Charbagh train station is another remarkable aspect of the building’s design. Despite the station being one of the busiest in the country, with several trains passing through and stopping, the area around it stays quiet and peaceful.
This old railway station has witnessed many historical moments over the year. Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi met for the first time at the Charbagh railway station in December 1916. This is where Gandhi put out his proposal to end the transportation of Indian labor overseas during the first session of the Congress Legislature, which convened right inside Charbagh.
Mahatma Gandhi returned to Charbagh Railway Station for a second time in 1936 to attend a session of the Congress Legislature held in the city during the months of March and April.
Another interesting fact about Charbagh train station is that Khamman Peer Baba Mazar, a well-known Sufi shrine, is also located here. Muslim Saint Shah Syed Qayamuddin is honored at this 950-year-old shrine. The Mazar’s architecture is stunning, and the complex is also home to a mosque. Devotees have been sending and personally offering colorful, golden-edged Chadars as a token of respect and gratitude to the Peer Saheb for ages. On Thursdays, thousands of devotees from all walks of life come to the shrine to pray for the ‘peer’s’ blessings.
Charbagh is the primary railway station of a city that runs on Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb. There cannot be a better place to exhibit this tehzeeb but the station itself. Maybe the Hanuman temple right next to the Khamman Peer Baba Mazar is the perfect depiction of Lucknow’s culture.
This temple attracts many devotees, especially on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
So next time you are at Charbagh, there are two crucial things you should remember-
- Just take a moment to realize the history and story of this magnificent part of Lucknavi heritage,
- Secondly, but most importantly, SMILE! because-
Muskaraiye Aap Lucknow Mein Hain!