Saturday, July 4, 2015

Rumi Darwaza in Lucknow - the grandest gateway in India

- By Deepa Krishnan

What the Charminar is to Hyderabad, the Rumi Darwaza is to Lucknow - an iconic monument that immediately identifies the city. Rumi Darwaza, which translates to "Roman Door", is an arched gateway that was built in the 18th century as the entrance to Lucknow.
Front of the Rumi Darwaza (Photo taken from
Why would a very un-Roman looking gate in Lucknow be called Rumi? Because of the Turkish connection, of course. 

Istanbul in Turkey became the capital of Roman Empire in 355 AD (it was called Constantinople then). The Romans built walls around Constantinople, punctuated with many impressive gates. The Roman Empire in Constantinople ended in 1453 when the Ottoman Turks conquered Istanbul. The Ottomans repaired the gates in Istanbul which were destroyed during the war, and built new gates as well. 

Perhaps the idea of a grand entry gate came to Lucknow because of the many Persianised Turks who settled in Lucknow. No one knows for sure. Locally, the Rumi Darwaza is also called the Turkish gate. So we presume there was definitely some Turkish influence.

The Encyclopedia Brittanica says that Rumi Darwaza has been modeled on a gate in Istanbul called Bab-i-Humayun. Frankly, I fail to see any resemblance between the two. Maybe it was just the idea of having a grand gate, which came from Istanbul. Here's what Bab-i-Humayun in Istanbul looks like. 
Bab-i-Humayun, Istanbul, photo credit: Panoramio

Before the Rumi Darwaza, there were many other Indian cities with entry gates. Delhi's Shahjahanabad had gates. Ahmedabad had gates. But no one had ever built such a magnificent gate as the Rumi Darwaza. Its architecture is a mix of Turkish, Mughal, and stuff that is purely Avadh in origin. 

Here is the other side of the Rumi Darwaza, which you see after you enter inside the city. I was there on a bright summer day, and clicked these beautiful photos:
Rumi Darwaza - after you enter the city
As the city has grown and expanded, Rumi Darwaza is now no longer the entrance to the city. It is instead, the beginning of a grand ceremonial road, flanked by the impressive Bada Imambada on one side. Here is the second photo I clicked:
Rumi Darwaza at the end of the driveway, with Imambara entrance on the left
Gorgeous isn't it?

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