Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula – an address of power with cunningness
Lucknow is home to many fabled architecture and quite in contrast to each other too. Many architectural styles can be found in Lucknow and each style due to amalgamation with another makes Lucknow monument architecture quite unique and without compare. Roshan-ud-Daula Palace particularly is from the Indo-French style by Taj-ud-Din Muhammad Hussain Khan. Taj-ud-Din Muhammad Hussain Khan was the Prime Minister of Awadh from 1832 till 1837 during the reign of Nasir-ud-Din Haider and Taj-ud-Din Muhammad was given a tile of Roshan-ud-Daula by Nasir-ud-Din Haider himself thus being referred so by his title rather than his name.
It is a given fact that Nasir-ud-Din Haider was an anglicized ruler of Awadh and was always attracted to the European way of life, good food, wine and women too. He had quite a flamboyant lifestyle and was somewhat an easy target for many in the court who wanted to take advantage, so he was for the British too who enjoyed the most during his reign.
Roshan-ud-Daula built a palatial house that costed a lot of money and took great deal of time too. In the house Roshan-ud-Daula placed a life-size painting of King Nasir-ud-Din Haider that actually impressed the King so much that the King named this Kothi (large palatial house of royalty is so referred) as ‘Qaiser Pasand’. Though there is a bit of difference in this fact among some old historians, some opine that Qaiser Pasand was a different building though also built by Roshan-ud-Daula. .
Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula was somewhat inspired by La Martiniere, at least the crown on its roof and in later years Wajid Ali Shah’s Kaiserbagh Gates too were inspired by Constansia, the main building of La Martiniere and Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula.
Roshan Taqui a renowned historian has described Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula as a building that amalgamates many architectural designs and as many Lucknow buildings, specially the European ones has a basement too.
Primarily it was a four storey rectangular stricture with angled (oblique) corners, a kind of canted facade similar to Baroque architecture on one of the front, while regular bay on another and yet another front has a huge portico. The building has small balconies and courtyards along with stairs on each of its side. This building came up on a tank which was much lower than the normal ground level and that is the reason that the ground floor is lower than usual.
We must remember that Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula was constructed when Kaiserbagh Palace complex of Wajid Ali Shah did not exist thus comparisons of it to Kaiserbagh may not be a right explanation, rather architecture of Kaiserbagh may be explained to be influenced by Roshan-ud-Daula that existed much before Kaiserbagh was even thought of. The northern part of this building came up first and is inspired by Asif-ud-Daula’s Daulat Khana while the southern part was constructed in the second phase which was though different but connected to each other through five doorways..
The ceilings of the two grand halls are still the same as they were earlier and there has been no structural change in that, even though periodic changes were made after 1860s when this building came under the British and was converted into an office. The weight of the building is evenly distributed through many small beams onto a large one which resets of the wide walls, though these walls too are not that wide considering the size and number floors that Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula has..
Copper covered domes and interestingly a half dome too, adorned the top of the building with extensive use of pottery along with copper ware in this building. The half dome or call it a ‘sliced dome’ resembles the rising sun and all the domes of Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula when existed were covered with copper.
Roshan-ud-Daula was a clever man and quite ambitious too. Of course he was at a very high position in the court of Nasir-ud-Din Haider and wanted to have a stronger hold over Awadh, particularly to better his position and hold on the King. Nawabs of Lucknow and even people in general were gastronomes and had a weakness for good food always at all times, this still holds true for the people of Lucknow and they take pride in cooking and eating good food. Roshan-ud-Daula employed some of the finest cooks in his kitchen and one dish that was the highlight of Roshan-ud-Daula’s kitchen was, ‘Moti Pullao’. Moti translates to pearl and the preparation of this dish was not only extremely time consuming but also quite unique. Today of course this is one dish that is extinct from Awadh and one could really have the courage to try it out again. The process involved the intestines of a hen being emptied and thoroughly cleaned to convert it into tube (similar to the initial process of sausage). It was then stuffed with egg whites, silver and gold dust and very carefully tying at short lengths only to the size of a pearl. This was then put in boiling water and when cooked, the long strip was untied carefully and very delicately cut to have pearls ready and be an ingredient of the pulao. Another unique dish was maize in yogurt mixed with some secret spices and yet another was a ‘Sheermal’ that was stuffed with dry fruits.
Based on the expertise of the cooks, Roshan-ud-Daula organised lavish banquets and in many the King too was invited. The attraction of food of Roshan-ud-Daula’s kitchens could never let King Nasir-ud-Din Haider deny an invite extended to him. Taking advantage of Kings Presence at these banquets, Roshan-ud-Daula introduced his relative’s daughter to Nasir-ud-Din Haider so as to entice him to accept her as his bride. The intention of Roshan-ud-Daula was to make his position in the court much stronger and much more stable. It surely was a huge task to make any girl, king’s bride but Roshan-ud-Daula was so clever that he could succeed. Some believe that Roshan-ud-Daula in a similar way introduced many young girls from his family to Nasir-ud-Din Haider and succeeded in making most of them Nasir-ud-Din Haider’s wife. This way his position in the court became much stronger and that of the King’s relative.
Once King Nasir-ud-Din Haider fell in love at first sight of young girl named ‘Qamar Talat’. She was the daughter of Roshan-ud-Daula’s maternal uncle Bakar Ali Khan who happened be an administrative head of Rohilkhand another royal kingdom near Awadh. When Roshan-ud-Daula took the proposal to the Father of this girl, the father denied. The reason was that Bakar Ali Khan the father of the girl knew the plight of girls who became the brides of Nasir-ud-Din Haider, many of whom were just abandoned after only a few days of marriage. One must understand that royalties in those days had many wives and all may not necessarily be the King’s favourite, some even lasted only for a day and then never had a chance to meet the king all their lives. Financial security was taken care of by the court but this was just not enough for a young bride to live her life. Seeing all this Bakar Ali father of the young girl Qamar Talat was reluctant and just not getting ready to give in.
Roshan-ud-Daula was adamant and saw immense opportunity for himself if Qamar became Nasir-ud-Daula’s wife. Roshan-ud-Daula to make this proposal work offered to take care of all wedding expenses upon himself rather than taking any contribution from the bride’s father. This trick worked and the father of the bride agreed to marry his daughter to Nasir-ud-Din Haider.
King Nasir-ud-Din Haider along with his relatives and the then British Resident of Awadh Sir John Low accompanied by many other Europeans reached the bride’s home to solemnize the marriage which was a grand affair and quite a lot of money was spent on it.
It is estimated that one and a half million was spent on this wedding which surely was a fortune in those days. Other than the cash presented to the bride and her father a whole lot of expensive jewelry was given to deck up the bride and some historian go the extent of saying that this was the most expensive wedding of those times, understandably so, as Roshan-ud-Daula’s prestige was involved and he was seeing his life change after this wedding. King Nasir-ud-Din Haider was so much in love with this young girl that he bestowed the title of ‘Badshah Jehan Mumtaz-ul-Dahar’ and a special status was awarded to this young bride which was much above the rest of all wives of Nasir-ud-Din Haider. Tragically, the initial fears of the father of this girl proved right and soon Nasir-ud-Din Haider lost interest in her and the pompous position awarded to this wife had to be surrendered. With this Roshan-ud-Daula’s dream of making this new bride Begum Qamar Talat a means to achieve his own ambitions in the court of Nasir-ud-Din Haider were lost too.
After the death of Nasir-ud-Din Haider, Mohammad Ali Shah took over the reins of Awadh on 8th of July 1837 and in a case of wasteful expenditure from the treasury, Roshan-ud-Daula was removed from services and all his wealth was confiscated by the state. Due to his close proximity to King Nasir-ud-Din Haider Roshan-ud-Daula had in fact amassed huge properties in and around Lucknow but now all was gone. He then fled to Kanpur which was not a part of Awadh and was a British territory.
After Wajid Ali Shah took over as the King of Awadh and was building Kaiserbagh, funds were allocated for the repair and renovation of Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula which was then used as the residence of Wajid Ali Shah’s wife Begum Maashooq Mahal. The family of Roshan-ud-Daula could not retain it or could get it back ever since he was charged with misappropriation of assets and misusing his powers.
During the rebellion of 1857 this building was controlled by the rebel forces and the godown of Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula was used by the mutineers to imprison the British captured alive. Most of these British were captured in Dhaurahra, estate near Lakhimpur Kheri, many were killed there itself while those alive were brought here. A few British among the imprisoned tried to escape through a tunnel dug by them for the purpose. All these were caught before they could escape and were taken to another site close by to be killed all together. One of the rebel leaders, Raja Jiya Lal was held responsible for all these killings and was hanged on 1st of October 1859.
After surviving the mindless destruction of Kaserbagh and its periphery by the British in revenge of the mutiny of 1857-58, Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula in early 1900s for some reason was devoid of top two floors, that made it much shorter than originally it was and the glorious crown atop this magnificent building was gone, so was it devoid of arches and the domes. Today Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula houses the office of state archaeology, Lucknow district’s election office and storage of government files and records. Originally there were two mosques in the premises of Kothi Roshan-ud-Daula, while one mosque still is being used for prayers; another has been merged in the main premises as its part.