challenges · Photography · Travel

Ghats And Nawabs In Faizabad, India

I’m in the middle of my winter break and I am travelling. So yes, 2022 couldn’t have got a better start than this. I have actually dubbed this trip as my grand ‘Spiritual Rejuvenation Tour’.

Presently I am in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh. Many don’t recognise the place so I find it easier to call it Ayodhya which happens to be the adjoining twin city.

Faizabad had its glory days when it was the capital city of the Nawabs of Awadh. In 1775, the capital shifted to Lucknow but one can still find pockets of faded beauty hiding in plain sight.

A huge, wooden, studded, painted black door with a smaller door set within found at the Bahu- Begum Makbara in Faizabad
Door with a view.
The grand facade of the Bahu begum makbara in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh
The soaring Bahu Begum makbara in Faizabad

If you are ever in Faizabad, look out for ornate makbaras (tombs) and crumbling but grand darwaza (doorways) straddling chaotic roads.

One may need to make an effort because the city has grown higgledy-piggledy.

Ornate, brick lined Nawabi darwaaza or doorways that stretch across the roads with three passages, one of which is encroached  upon.
Keeping up with times- an unwanted makeover.

Shops, signboards, encroachments hide all these grand edifices, unless one is actively seeking them out.

Oh! Also tackling the vehicular traffic to access these places is a nightmare. Think of these roads as an invisible net tightly pulling the cars, scooters, pedestrians and hawkers, while they thrash to free themselves.

If you are successful, you will find yourself in these islands of peace and extraordinary charm that both both time and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) forgot.

Shuja -ud-Daula Makbara at Gulab Bari, Faizabad.
The magnificent Shuja -ud-Daula Makbara at Gulab Bari.

Trust me, they could do with a whole lot of love and care.

My favourite place though happens to be the Guptkar Ghat at Saryu river. I had always imagined this tributary of the mighty Ganges to be some what small. Saryu stuns you into disbelief. It is unbelievably broad with huge sand banks stretching into far horizon.

Google now tells me that it is also known as the familiar River Ghaghara that I learnt of in school.

The sun sets at Guptkar Ghat over Saryu river as a boat races across the shimmering water to catch the golden rays of the sun .
Racing against the sun.

Anyway, the Saryu riverfront is a perfect spot to watch the sun move across the sky. One can feel the cool breeze while colourful boats bob in the water.

One of the biggest temple, Raja Mandir is here. Mornings are quiet and calm. Often one hears the loud racket of the birds mingling with the soothing strains of the bhajans (hymn) wafting in the air. On the other hand, evening takes on the energy of a bustling tourist spot.

It is loud and colourful.

A bhajan programme with orchestra being conducted outside the temple in front of an audience of devotees at Raja Mandir, Faizabad.
An evening Bhajan programme at Raja Mandir. Check out the accompanying orchestra.

The local boatmen and the corn sellers that hang around in the evening have begun recognising me. Each one has staked a claim on me to buy their wares and sail to the sand banks across the river. One day I need to do both.

Ah! These sand banks are also a treasure trove of discarded stuff. Broken idols, flowers, bangles, puja offerings to the river regularly wash up on the shores next to the Ghat steps. A sight we take for granted considering how we Indians revere the river. So you can imagine our curiosity when my hubby and I saw two young men, wading in the shallow pools of a sand bank, panning the sand in the far corner.

What in the world were they looking for? Couldn’t be crabs, right?

Hubby got talking and soon enough they showed us what they found for their back breaking effort. They had been at it for a few hours. Their haul included seven silver metal snakes and a well crafted, miniature gun metal elephant buried in the sand. Selling those would bring enough money to supplement their earnings. They would be back when their money runs low.

Fascinating, right? I’ve yet to find my treasure. I’ve realised one needs X-ray vision to spot it in the squishy grey earth.

Anyway with Ayodhya as a close neighbour, the legend of Rama dodges our footstep out here as well.

Idols of Shiva, Ganesha under a tree being worshipped
…All things wise and wonderful

The young priest of the Raja Mandir at Guptkar Ghat explained, “Shri Ram at the end of his lifespan, in the presence of his people, gods and goddesses left this plane at this very Ghat. Bharat aur Shatrughan ka ansh apne mei samakar, Shri Ram gupt hogaye. Hence the name of the Ghat. Also that’s why Rama’s idol in the temple doesn’t have him holding a bow and arrow. He gave it up.”

Now, the priest too smiles where ever he sees us around. Quick to chat, from him I have learnt a bit about the local history too.

Three milestones dating to 1910 with instructions and warning against fishing and poaching at Guptkar Ghat area by the British along side a recent sign that signs glory of Lord Ram.
Milestones, keepers of the past meet the signage of the present with a valuable message.
  • For instance, Raja Mandir is an ASI protected monument. There is no sign that mentions it but it’s been around since the time of the nawabs.
  • The motif of the twin fish on the walls and roofs of the temple were actually the sigil of the Awadh Nawabs. (I’ve seen the same motifs in many old buildings and grand doorways all over Faizabad and Ayodhya.)
  • A temple next door claims to have the footprints of Rama. The young priest explained logically how it could not be possible. Then again, religion is all about belief.
  • Dev Kali temple in the city with a beautiful pool at its entrance is the kuladevi, the ancestral deity who watches over the kula (clan), of Lord Rama.
  • There is a samadhi (a memorial) at the Ghat. It is dedicated to the illusive Subhash Chandra Bose when he lived here as Gumnami Baba. Papers connected to him were recovered from the room he lived in. A red herring or perhaps the truth. One may never know.
A view of the Raja Temple, Faizabad with the idols visible as seen from its ornate doorways with the Awadh fish sign visible on the walls and roof.
Fish on the walls, can you spot them?

What I do know that Faizabad is an underrated city with much to offer.

Such as the pakoras (fritters). They are the tastiest I have ever eaten.

So is the tea!

Now if only some one could do something about the kulhad (the earthen cup) it is served in. It could do with an upgrade in size.

Like an upgraded 2022.

The grand solid door with a smaller trapdoor at the Bahu-Begum Makbara in Faizabad with a goat peeping in.
Knock! Knock!
A goat wearing a sweater, peeping through a trap door set in a huge door at Bahu-Begum Makbara.
Hello, 2022 is here!

Here’s wishing all the readers a fantastic new year, sunny days and piping hot brew, all through winters.

To making each day count, cheers!

Lens-Artists Challenge: Favourite images of 2021

42 thoughts on “Ghats And Nawabs In Faizabad, India

  1. Stunned by the beauty of India, though it’s a place I will likely never set foot. I’m relying on you to do that for me, Sheetal, and bring me all your hidden treasures. And, oh, those pink skies! Thank you so much! Happy New traveling Year!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I was waiting for this, Sheetal. Excellent narration ( especially the treasure hauling story and the gupt exit) with the beautiful captures.
    Happy 2022, wishing you many such illuminating trips with, hopefully, large sized kulhads..and it’s only the second day of it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Reading, ‘…it’s only the second day’ and I can’t help smiling. Thank you Manjari for making today so memorable by your beautiful wishes. I couldn’t have asked for more.
      To new adventures in 2022, together and our long awaited coffee date. Best wishes for a fabulous year. ✨😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sheetal, you are so fortunate to be able to travel and your destinations are amazing. So different from anything here in the US! Loved your images but the little goat peeking through in your final image is my favorite of this set. Happy 2022 to you!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Counting my blessings, Tina. Travel can really broaden one’s horizons and to be able to do so after such a long time is amazing.

      Happy to offer you a glimpse into the Indian heartland. I can imagine how different you must find it all.

      The goat picture is my favourite too. It was such a surprise to find two of them, clad warmly in sweaters, peeping in. Wishing you too many more delightful memories in the new year, Tina.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, where do I start?! This looks like a wonderful place for photography 🙂 Your images intrigue me with the beautiful faded structures. The temple, the doors with their little peepholes, the river – you bring them all to life!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Sarah for that lovely feedback. This place has a laid back charm. Often I feel like I have stepped back in time.

      I’ve rediscovered street food that I had only read of, spoke to people who were detached from the World Wide Web (www), jumped headlong into the local lore that mixed mythology with history and made it their own. Happy you liked the tour of the place.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, John. The door was very impressive to look at and to know that it had been standing for more than two centuries. It had to make my favourite list. As for the boat photo, it captured the serene vibe of that place. Happy you picked on it too.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You nailed it, Frank. Spiritual is the right word. I’m in the Indian heartland and it is a sensory experience like none other. The door was even more grand to look at and there were more than one in all those places.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok, now I wonder whether I may have hyped Faizabad a tad too much? 😄 It is a booming small town city with a cosmopolitan vibe. Actually with Ayodhya next door, Faizabad has taken a back seat in terms of a travel destination. So much potential squandered away. Still, it has its charms. I love it.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Your travelogues are always a pleasure to read and this one is no exception. And won’t be surprised if UP tourism is already looking to offer a contact 🤫.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “Travel can really broaden one’s horizons and to be able to do so after such a long time is amazing. ” A wonderful thought and a wonderful opportunity for you! Well taken care of! Beautiful India…love your BIG doors with a small opening to show another world behind it! The little goat peeking in there is just a wonderful picture, a lasting image to me. Thank you, Sheetal, for sharing your experiences! All the best for the new year!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Sheetal, I really enjoyed reading about your journey in India and seeing your beautiful pictures. It brought back good memories when my husband and I traveled there some years ago and visited the southern part and a couple of the larger cities. We did not spend time in the middle parts of the country. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Happy to read your comments, Sylvia. They are heart warming. India is a marvel, a kaleidoscope of culture, perhaps that’s why they call it incredible India. The south is very different from the north though, but I guess you are already aware of that.
      Thank you ❤

      Like

    1. Cady, I am so excited that you will be visiting India. I hope you have an amazing trip, memorable in the best way possible. I am already looking forward to seeing my country through your lens. It has such diversity in terms of food, language, culture that every state feels like a new country. By the way which parts will you be touring, Cady?

      Like

    1. I’m smiling while I read your cheery response. Thank you. Saryu was an eye opener for me as well. I’ve come to believe travel truly expands one’s horizon. Seeing is believing.😊

      Like

    1. You said it all, Narayan. Faizabad was a quaint surprise, an Indian town not overrun by malls and international fast food chains, yet. I was charmed by it. Perhaps Saryu too played a major role in that. There is something magical about its water. Happy you enjoyed reading. Much appreciate your warm comments.

      Like

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