INDIA  :   Getaways

Heritage sites of Uttar Pradesh

Saturday , 02 January 2016
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Uttar Pradesh’s exquisite heritage monuments are sure to transport travellers back in time. In this article, we cover only a few of the marvels that adorn UP

Uttar Pradesh is bound by Bihar on the east, Haryana to its west, Nepal on the North, Himachal Pradesh on the northwest, Madhya Pradesh on the south and southwest, and Rajasthan on the southwest, besides four other states, including Delhi. Blessed with geographical and cultural diversity, it is considered one of the ancient cradles of Indian culture. This vast state, offers a varied palette for the avid traveller, from the centuries-old monuments that lend it an interesting skyline, or the touch of tradition that finds expression in its art and cuisine.

Lucknow

The state capital is also known as the City of the Nawabs. Lucknow has retained its royal splendour, which is reflected not just in its age-old architectural wonders, but also in its Awadhi cuisine and craftsmanship. From eateries that dish out, ‘galouti kebabs’ and ‘warqi parathas’, to endless rows of shops that stock textiles adorned with ‘chikankari’ embroidery, the city offers many a trip, down heritage lane.

Some of its important monuments include the Asafi Imambara, also known as Bara Imambara, Chhota Imambara, Shah Najaf and the Residency.

Bara Imambara was built in 1784 by Asaf Ud Daula, the fourth Nawab of Awadh. One of the notable features of this monument is the ‘bhulbhulaiya’, or maze, which is best explored with the assistance of a tour guide, lest one loses one’s way. Visitors can also enjoy panoramic views from the top.

Hussainabad Imambara, which is also known as Chhota Imambara, is a stone’s throw away, and lies to the west. It houses the tombs of important Awadhi personalities, besides a silver-faced throne.

The Rumi Darwaza is considered one of the most striking structures of the country. Built in 1784, by Nawab Asaf Ud Daula, it is 60 ft high. Its uppermost part is adorned by an ornately carved octagonal chhatri (umbrella). The word ‘Rumi’ is derived from modern-day Rome that used to be Istanbul, the capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire. The gateway has been inspired by a similar one in Istanbul.

Other attractions in Lucknow include Sikandar Bagh, Lucknow Zoo, The Residency, State Museum, Botanical Garden and Kaiserbagh Palace.

Kannauj

Kannauj is located along the banks of the Ganges. The city is steeped in cultural heritage and is dubbed the perfume capital of India. There are several ruins to be explored by the offbeat traveller, besides archaeological artefacts. In ancient times, the city served as a capital for several Hindu dynasties, including the Maukharis, Gaharwars, Nandas, Guptas, Rashtakutas, Chauhans and Solankis. Despite its place in history, Kannauj remains a nondescript city with monuments that lie in a state of neglect.

The Archaeological Museum in Kannauj is a treasure trove of clay exhibits. There is an extensive collection of idols that are divided into various sections, based on the ancient era they belonged to, namely – the Maurya Age, Gupta Age, post-Gupta Age, Shudag Age, Kushar Age and Harsh Age, among many others.

Kannauj is famed for its perfumes, and lucky visitors can also get to see how their favourite fragrances are being manufactured. And, for those who have always wanted to have, ‘the first smell of rain’ bottled and packaged to be inhaled at whim, there’s – mitti ittar.

Nearby attractions include the Gauri Shankar Temple and the Annapurna Temple, which is a shrine dedicated to the goddess of crops.

Another attraction that lies about 40 km away from Kannauj is the Lakh-Bahosi Bird Sanctuary, one of the largest of its kind, in the country. It is spread across 80 sq km, over two shallow lakes – Lakh and Bahosi – hence the name. The best time to visit is between November and March. The sanctuary aims to protect and conserve the habitat of migratory and local birds. It is also home to the jackal, mongoose, fishing cat, nilgai and monkeys, among many other species.

Getting there: Kanpur is 80 km away, and it is the closest airport. It’s a two-hour drive from there. The city can be reached by train from Lucknow.

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