The 60 feet high, Rumi Darwaza which is one of the foremost symbols of the Awadh not only in India but abroad has been a rallying point for many in Lucknow. Activists, mediapersons, and the who’s who of Lucknow have repeatedly raised their voice regarding the poor state of the architectural wonder, but in vain. With it having lost its sheen, lots needs to be done. This is not an attempt to bring out how more than a decade and a half have goneby without actually doing much.
This is also not an attempt to take to ransom those who have dilly dallied and have done very little to save the Rumi Darwaza which can easily be called the crowning glory of Lucknow and Awadh as a whole. This is just an attempt to see how this 228 year old masterpiece has been an integral part of Lucknow and how even though it may not be at the heart of the city, it has been something that cannot be segregated from Lucknow and its various developments over the years.
Articles, write-ups, features have been common place not only in the past but even today on Rumi Darwaza, this is just to realize that this monument which was made by Asafudaulah under the food for work Programme, has seen both Pre Independent Lucknow and Post Independent Lucknow . Any catalogue, any mention of the Awadh culture or for that matter even a heritage walk, which has seen the light of the day in the recent past is incomplete without talking or feeling the grandness of this three arched monument.
I am Rumi Darwaza, my foundations were laid during the rule of Nawab Asaf-ud -Daula Mirza Mohammed Yahiya Khan. The Nawab ruled the Awadh from 1775 to 1797. Work on giving me shape started in the year of 1784 and I was ready by the year 1791. I was created along with the Bada Imambara thanks to the genius of Kifayatullah, the chief architect of the Avadh then. I am a monument that has been created out of lakhauri bricks, chalk and plaster.
I have been witness to the creation of several monuments in the Awadh such as the Bada Imambara, the Asafi Masjid, the Shahi Baowli, Naubat Khana and Bhool Bhulaiya. I was one of the biggest symbols of Awadhi architecture, I was often addressed as the Turkish Gateway. My look and the artwork embossed on my walls have a unique Awadhi touch, while taking its inspiration from the gate of an ancient fortress in Constantinople(now Istanbul). In Hindi I was often referred to as Cunstuntuniya during the 19th Century by the locals.
In those times I was made out of the best means possible. The Nawab deployed both Hindus and Muslims to beautify my walls and give me a shape, that later went on to be a lucky mascot not only for the Awadh but also one that was considered a masterpiece by one and all on the global stage. I can proudly boast of some really fine arches and floral designs that are an inextricable part of me.
The Machhi Bhawan Fort was not only seen by me in its heydays, but I saw it being demolished in front of my eyes, though the grave in the premises still exists. There were times when things were way cheaper, then I used to be the place where fruit and vegetable sellers used to flourish. Those were days when the grandeur of Nawab Asaf – ud – Daula could be gauged from the fact that when Hindus opened their shops in the day, they used to first praise the Nawab.
I recall those days when the East India Company conquered Alambagh and hanged several freedom fighters on the Royal Gate. The East India Company after conquering Alambagh traversed a long route via Alamnagar, the bridge of Dhaniya Mehri and Musabagh to pass by me to move towards Shahnajaf Imambara where freedom fighters were upping the ante against the British.
The Britishers passed through me at this point to move to the Shahnajaf Imambara where there were more freedom fighters giving the clarion call, for a one on one with the Britishers. I have seen pre independence struggles in Sikandar Bagh, Channo ka Haat(now (Chinhat) and also Shahnajaf Imambara.
From 1857 to 1887, I was under the British rulers who had virtually taken over the Awadh. Things changed for me after Partition and India’s getting Independence on 15th August 1947. I was happy for India getting her Independence, but at the sametime I was sad that Partition was now a painful reality. I was not aware that my glory was eventually destined to fade.
The Hussainabad Allied Trust from hereon was to handle my matters .The Archaeological Survey Of India was given the responsibility to take care of me, but I was left completely neglected. On paper lot was being done for me, but my reality is today I have no one caring for me. Since 1998 when the first cracks appeared on my walls till now a lot has changed.
Severe vibrations are felt everyday, my cracks deepen but there is no action despite there being petitions filed. Nearly two decades have passed since 1998, today I gradually inch towards my sunset.
As years passed and rapid urbanization took place Lucknow saw the creation of new places. Lucknow saw the coming up of Yahiyaganj, Wazirganj, Raqabganj, Maulviganj, Tikait ganj, Aliganj, Hussainganj, Hasanganj, Munshiganj, Lahoreganj, Bhawaniganj, Aishbag and others. With all this people somehow forgot that I too existed.
I have seen drug addicts and alcoholics roam around where I stand on solid ground. There have been lights put up, which were later stolen. The Tourism Department spent 60 lakhs on my upkeep, but the cracks on my walls have deepened. I bleed for help but not much is being done. The city of Lucknow has taken shape and developed in front of me, but probably I am too old for someone to help me now.