In Lucknow, two famous structures of the Nawabi era are: Bara Imambara and Chhota Imambara.
Asafi Imambara (Bara Imambara)
This large structure was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784 and is one of the architectural wonders of that era. Its central hall is said to be the largest vaulted chamber in the world. Except for the galleries in the interior, there is no woodwork in the entire structure. It is now used by Shia Muslims for the purpose of Azadari.
It has large underground passages which have been blocked up. A staircase from outside leads to a series of labyrinths known as Bhool-Bhulaiya, which is a complicated entanglement of zig-zag passages. Visitors are allowed to visit only with authorized guides. Within the compound of the Imambara is the grand Asafi Mosque. Shahi Baoli is another attraction here.
The Chhota Imambara also known as Hussainabad Imambara, was built by Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah between (1837-1842). The Imambara has a white dome and numerous turretsand minarets. It is more ornate in design with gilded dome, several turrets, exquisite chandeliers gilt-edged mirrors and colourful stuccos which adorn the interiors.
Chhota Imambara houses the tombs of Muhammad Ali Shah, its builders and his mother. A golden dome and fine calligraphy on the exterior of the building makes it a truly exceptional monument of Mughal architecture. It is decorated and lit up during special occasions.