I came to this town for two reasons:
- To visit the neighbouring town of Ayodhya. I have already done that this morning.
- To visit the various Islamic monuments in Faizabad.
This town used to be the capital of the Nawabs of Oudh. I have no idea what these monuments are and I guess I will discover them as I go along.
As I return from Ayodhya I take note of a signboard pointing the way towards the tomb of Haji Iqbal. I follow the sign. The path crosses an old railway track which appears to have been abandoned. I see some rooms built into an wall that appears to enclose the tomb on the inside along with a mosque on the western end. There is an entrance at the eastern end. I remove my shoes and enter the courtyard.
I can hear children reading at the mosque at the western end of the complex. The complex is surrounded by a pillared corridor on the other three sides. At its center is the mausoleum. I have no idea who Haji Iqbal is or from which period he comes. All I can see is that the mausoleum is unique in its architecture and I love it.
It has a central dome which is ribbed and is topped with an inverted lotus finial. What is interesting is that this dome is surrounded by eight smaller domes that crown eight entrance porches that lead into the inner space under the main dome. The smaller domes have either fish scale moulding or chevron moulding. The base of each dome has a running moulding of little arches. This is true of the main dome as well for which the arches are all blind. What gives character and interest to this monument are the smaller domes and their entrance porches.
I am given permission to click a few snaps. I take a few pictures and go outside to take a walk around the walls. My attention locks on a structure that looks as pretty as it is perfect. It is not perfect in the sense of being well preserved or beautifully decorated. It is a perfect ruin. It shows no signs of restoration. It stands as it has fallen on a mound of earth. About this grass pickled mound are fragments of the structure that have fallen over the years. Pieces of walls, pillars, arches or the roof lie around in abandon. Palm trees growing on the mound hug the walls with overhanging fronds. A single arch stands alone and springs out of the main structure. It appears to be the only survivor of a corridor that must have once gone around the structure.
The main structure has a central dome which reveals patches of lime plastering and underlying brickwork. Parts of its have darkened with age. The dome is supported in a square structure which has three bays on each of the four sides. The central bay is open with cusped arching while the other two are blind. The western entrance has decayed to an extent that the design is not obvious. It does seem like all the three bays were open. The dome is interesting on the inside as well. It reveals some decorative plaster work.
I am tempted to make a sketch of this perfect ruin, a ruin untouched by man and being claimed back by nature. The sun is turning the landscape golden. I have learnt that there one other monument nearby and I am keen to see it this evening.
I retrace my path, take an auto-rickshaw and arrive in time for the tomb of Shuja-ud-Daula, the second Nawab of Oudh. It is a beautiful monument, something I could say of the mausoleum of Sher Shah Suri. It stands in an equally beautiful garden in which the flower beds are displayed to their best advantage in the filtered light of dusk. The place is popular with both locals and domestic tourists. As for foreign tourists, very few venture to Faizabad. I guess it does not take a prominent spot in any of the guide books.
The garden is designed along the concept of Islamic char bagh. Four water pools lead to the monument in each of the four cardinal directions. These pools are flanked by walkways and flower beds. Lawns take up the open spaces. A high wall surrounds the entire complex with a mosque at the western end. The main entrance that is today open to the public is also at the western end. This place has no entry fee.
If I had any doubt of having wasted a trip to Faizabad, this monument has dispelled it. Combined with a visit to Ayodhya, Faizabad does make a nice weekend outing. I believe this town has more to it that the little I have seen.