So Lucknow’s Imambaras are actually Hindu Palaces? Recently, I came across a book of the title above, written by a rather controversial person, PN Oak. Oak was a member of Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA; he later became a journalist, and rounded off a rather chequered career by advancing a right-wing theory that most famous monuments of the East and middle-East were of Hindu origin, usurped by Muslim invaders and converted to Masjids, Imambaras and tombs. These include the Taj Mahal.
To come back to Lucknow, Oak, depending on a few books written on Lucknow, including a tourist’s guide and the Gazetteers, repeatedly stresses that Lucknow was a Hindu settlement since hoary times, overrun by Muslim invaders, much before Burhan-ul-Mulk. Since alternate views of history are always interesting reads, I read through his writings, which I found to be mostly balderdash. Excepting the Akbari Darwaza, the Nadan Mahal / Shah Mina structures, Lucknow has very few structures which are more than 3 centuries old. According to Oak, however, all the famous building of Lucknow are Hindu mansions / palaces, dating back to the time of Lakhsman, brother of Rama (who had his kingdom in Ayodhya, which again had been converted to Faizabad by Muslim invaders). Oak states that ancient Lucknow and Ayodhya were connected by an underground tunnel. Thus, according to him, the monuments we see today are not about 300 years old, but thousands of years old. Really interesting. Oak asks for budgets/ maps/ records of Lucknow’s monuments, and finding these missing, he concludes that these are from a hoary past. He further states that even the Constantia and the Lath are of Hindu origin.. such claims make his book hilarious. It is difficult to take him seriously.
He raises some interesting questions, however. It is well known that many of Lucknow’s Nawabi structures are embellished with figures / statues etc., which are forbidden in Islam. He further states that the tombs have numerous rooms / cubicles in their premises, which are un-explained. Why should a tomb have numerous rooms (Similar questions have been raised for the Taj Mahal as well). He (not so incorrectly) states that Asaf-ud-Daulah was a known debauch, who did not even spare his own mother from extortion. So how come this Nawab suddenly became so genteel and religious that he started the immense Imambara complex, and also food-for-work program, spending lakhs, when the British were hot on his heels to extract money from him? Similar was the case of the other Newabs / Kings of Avadh also.
An intriguing read, no doubt. Some interesting, unanswered questions. And lots and lots of hysteria. This is how I would conclude my observations on Oak’s book.