The Chhota Imambara dates from 1838, ie, the reign of Nawab Muhammad Ali Shah. The graves of the Nawab and his mother are inside the Imambara. You pass through a large gate before coming to the Imambara complex. Unlike the Rumi Darwaza, this gate is not in great repair, so you can actually see how lakhauri bricks and lime mortar were used to build these enormous arches. I took the photo above so that I could study the technique without putting a crick in my neck. The construction is really impressive.
As one enters the complex through the Naubatkhana, the hamaam lies to the left. This is a beautiful space with lovely blue and rose coloured walls, elegant tiles and windows with green glass which let in a lovely modulated light. The CFL bulb hanging above the bath was wholly unnecessary during the day. The hamam does not seem to be in use today.
One of the most elegant parts of this complex is the Jawab opposite the grave of Muhammad Ali Shah’s daughter, Zeenat Algiya. It was attractive in the half-light of the monsoon, when I took the photo above. It remained attractive when the clouds blew away and the evening sun came out to play on the white exterior.
The Chhota Imambara belongs to the Husainabad Trust, which has now started on a well-meaning exercise to renovate the main structure. We saw the arches above the lovely carved wooden doors being renovated. The older construction was of lakhauri brick and mortar, as you can see in the photo alongside. The structure of this arch is similar to that of the large arch in the photo on top.
Unfortunately, these lovely old arches are being replaced by modern ones in reinforced cement, like the one on the left. The new arches are not ugly, they are quite nice and modern; but they efface the history of the structure. I hope that the detailed plans of the old structure remain in some architect’s studies. In future if the Trust wishes to return to a historically more accurate restoration they would come in useful.
The Imambara contains elegant pieces of Arabic calligraphy in the form of birds. However, what left us stunned was the gaudy collection of lamps. I’ve never seen so many lamps and chandeliers, apparently all from Belgium, collected into such a small space. The effect is overwhelming. The Family asked a caretaker whether they are all lit sometime. We were told that they are lit during Muharram. We were invited to come and join the queue to devotees who flock to see this marvel. It must be, indeed.