Sadat Ali & Begum Tombs

(Detailed Write-up)

Sadat Ali Tomb, Lucknow

Not far from Kaiserbagh, built in a green grassland, is a pair of grandiose Maqbaras. Passersby cannot fail to admire the architectural grandeur of these edifices. The larger amongst these is the Maqbara of Sadat Ali Khan whereas the other one was made for his Begum Khurshidzadi. The Nawab was his father’s favourite son. His Baba Hazrat was proud of his ornamental handwriting. During his childhood Saadat Ali Khan and Asaf-ud-Daula were playmates. Sadat Ali Khan was a frequent visitor to the palace.

Mirza Saadat Ali Khan had migrated from Banaras (Varanasi) to Lucknow with savings amounting to only rupees forty lakhs; but during sixteen years of his rule he had contributed rupees fourteen crores to the treasury of Avadh and an additional rupees seventeen crore worth gold and silver to the palace. He has been considered the most efficient ruler of Avadh during the Nawabi era,

The story goes that once Lord Wellesley had come to pay a visit to Sadat Ali Khan, The expanse of Lucknow was then about five ‘Kos’. It had fifty-two settlements with a suffix of ‘Ganj’ and famous places like ‘Hoor Bazar’ where innumerable attractive and stunningly beautiful ‘Tawaifs’ practised their trade. These courtesans, who were adept in etiquette and experts in dance and music, were specially brought from various parts of the country and abroad. By a royal decree they were permitted to participate in ‘Mehfils and Mujras’ beyond the limits of the city. For this purpose they were constantly kept under surveillance. Although the Nawab was fond of listening to music, he was not a debauch. Sadat Ali Khan had enacted laws under which severe punishment was prescribed to persons indulging in intemperance. On the occasion of Moharram and Holi, sale of alcohol was prohibited within the radius of five ‘Kos’ of the city. Private consumption of liquor was, however, permitted. Nawab Sadat Ali Khan was especially fond of keeping pedigree horses. His stable ‘Chaupad’ had thousands of Iranian, Turkish, Arabian and native horses. Lakhs of rupees were spent on cultivation of ‘Ramnas’ (grazing lands), where grass imported from Britain was grown to feed these horses. The horses had become so addicted to the costly imported grass that they hardly ate native fodder. The young ones of horses were fed cow’s milk and fodder soaked in milk. The royal stable was located adjacent to the present Hazratganj. The area now is a residential complex known as the Lawrence Terrace.

When Sadat Ali Khan died, his remains were buried by his son Ghazi-ud-Din Haider in his residence in the main market. Later a magnificent Maqbara was built at this very place. In order to reciprocate the inheritance of throne and palace from the late king, he had decided to bury him in his own house Then the site of the present Maqbara was marked by a lonely palace surrounded by fence, For his parents, Ghazi-ud-Din Haider built magnificent Maqbaras in mixed architectural styles. The large Maqbara is built with a very large dome capped by a ‘Sunahri Kalangi’. This impressive monument is built on a stone foundation and its ‘mehrabs’ too are built on a stone-base. The checkered floor of the inner chamber shows white and black marble slabs and ‘Sangmoosa’. The stones show some scroll work as well. The remaining part of the monument is built with the characteristic lakhori bricks and red lime of Lucknow. Turrets on the four corners of the edifices are provided with staircases. All around there are verandahs with five doorways each. The inner chamber shows floral embellishment made in relief with lime. The floor overlying the octagonal chamber has ‘masnui’ mazars whereas in the cellar beneath lies the tomb of Saadat Ali Khan. Adjacent to it are the tombs of his beloved mother and daughter. The cellar is provided with sixteen ventilations. The southern verandah of this Maqbara has three tombs of members of Saadat Ali Khan’s family members.

The other Maqbara was built for Ghazi-ud-Din Haider’s mother Khurshedzadi Begum. The dome of this Maqbara, though somewhat different from the other one, is also elegant in architecture. The structural embellishments and Mehrabs of this building too are unique. The entrance to the cellar of this Maqbara opens directly out in the open. The cellar shows tombs of Begum and her son.

These Maqbaras exemplify the architecture of Sadat Ali Khan’s period. During the rebellion of 1857, the patriots of Avadh had taken cannon on top of these monuments and used them as vantage points for shelling the British forces. On 16th March, 1858, sixteen soldiers of Sir Henry Havelock, proceeding to the Residency fell to the shells and were buried in the land between the two Maqbaras. A marble epitaph commemorates this event.