Friday, March 04, 2011

Clock towers of Awadh: Lucknow's Ghanta Ghar and a father who built clock tower in son's memory

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Clock towers are fascinating structures, remnants of the bygone era.

Over the years, some of them have almost come to symbolise the cultural heritage of the respective towns.

Most of these clock towers date back to the pre-independence era when the princely rulers, British officials or the rich Indians built them.

Husainabad Clock Tower

Lucknow's famous Husainabad Clock Tower, also commonly known as, Ghanta Ghar, which was built in 1887, is said to be the tallest such structure in the country.

It is located midway between the Chhota Imambada and the Bada Imambada and is quite close to Rumi Darwaza. This majestic tower is around 67 meters [220] feet high.

Lucknow's Lesser-Known Irshad Clock Tower

But first I will talk about a little-known clock tower in a Lucknow lane. I had accidentally discovered it during one of my causal walks in the by-lanes of Old Lucknow.

The 'Irshad Clock Tower' is located near the City railway station [not Lucknow main station]. There is an emotional story behind its construction.

Khan Bahadur Nawab Syed Hamid Husain Khan had built this tower in memory of his son, Nawab Syed Irshad Husain Khan, who died at a young age.

This beautiful structure that immortalizes a father's affection for his son was constructed almost ninety years ago.

The other aim behind the construction of this clock tower was that citizens should be able to know correct time and the Namazis could also offer prayers on time.

In the photograph, one can clearly read the words 'Irshad Clock Tower' and 'Hamid Park' written in bold letters just below the dial.

Clock in Hazratganj
The tower is located in the midst of the park, which is not visible from this angle in the photograph. It was an imported clock brought from London. Hamid Husain Khan was a talluqadar and chairman of Lucknow municipal board during British era.

Even today the family members residing in Saltanat Manzil including Professor Nawab Syed Ali Hamid [grandson of Khan Bahadur], Begam Nazima Raza [great granddaughter] and Nawabzada Syed Masoom Raza spend a particular sum annually for maintenance.

When the clock stopped for the first time in 1980, the repairers from Bareilly were called a large amount was paid to restore it. Parts of the clock machinery aren't available any longer. Still, a person has been given the job of basic upkeep.

Ghanta Ghar: Clock House, Barabanki
Though the family has been undertaking maintenance of the clock tower and has called repairers from outside in the past, the building needs conservation and authorities' attention.

However, there is no effort on part of government or civic authorities regarding the restoration. But that's the story of most of the clock towers.

As far as Husainabad Clock Tower is concerned, the local authorities including Shia Waqf Board and municipal corporation seem to be taking some initiatives.

Clock House in Barabanki

Lucknow's neighbouring town, Barabanki, also has a historic Clock. Not a tower in the sense but it is also termed Ghanta Ghar, the Clock House, which is located in the midst of the densely populated market place.

Now a days, it is rare to hear of any new clock tower getting erected in the country. It is all the more a reason to keep these structures in shape and ensure the clocks function. Of course, there are practical difficulties. As major clock repairing companies have shut shop, it has become difficult to get the disfunctional clocks work again.

There are many more such 'Ghanta Ghars' in different towns of Awadh, rest of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and also other parts of the country, that are worth mentioning but they can be subject of future posts.

Read the earlier post on Blogging from Lucknow at this LINK.