Tomb of Saadat Ali Khan in Lucknow is the final resting place of the 5th Nawab of Awadh, Saadat Ali Khan and his siblings. Saadat Ali Khan ruled Awadh between 1794 to 1814, and this was a time when the British were already in the city and becoming increasingly more powerful by the day. Though the Nawab were technically clerks for the Mughal rulers in Delhi, it was the British now that they reported to on multiple matters.
It was during his time that the imposing Residency was built to house the British Residents and some of his staff and army. Though Lucknow is more famous for Bada Imambara, Chota Imambara and other heritage buildings built during the era of Asaf-Ud-Dowhala, the Kaiserbagh area is not famous, partially because a large part of the area was razed to the ground by the British after India's first war of Independence in 1857.
Today the tomb is mentioned in some guide-books to the city while others completely skip it. I actually stumbled across it as I was researching for a place to visit on a free morning in Lucknow - actually quite a random google search. It looked exactly like the kind of places I love exploring and decided to check it out.
It was early morning and the sun was already bearing down on me. I had chosen to walk from the Residency to the tomb, and was sweating already. The tea at a stall near the entrance was refreshing (read more: Street Food of Lucknow), but did nothing to beat the heat.
There was a couple sitting outside, but as soon as I entered the majestic tomb, all I could hear, see and feel was silence. I almost felt like I was intruding in here. An old man called out to me and I came back to the gate and wished him salaam, something he greatly appreciated. After a bit of chat about my new city Mumbai where even he had spent 21 years making shoes for a seth, he told me all about Western Line for the locals and how he always travelled on those.
Though I expected nothing, I took a chance and asked him if it was possible to go up the steps to the top of the tomb. Shockingly he said it's possible but not allowed, but if I gave a fee of Rs 50, I could go up and also get a guide to join me. I am usually vary of guides and their stories, but agreed nevertheless, as I was really keen to go up and see Lucknow from up there. However, my guide had other plans - instead of taking me up, he asked if I would like to see tehkhana (similar to a basement) where the Nawab was actually buried. Intrigued, I immediately agreed and followed him down the steps in pitch darkness with the aid of an old torch. There were originally four entrances, but only one is accessible, and remains locked unless someone asks for it.
Done with the Nawab's resting place, we went all the way up four stories from the ground. It was 120 steps and he was tired by the time we went up, but I was excited like a small boy. He initially mentioned that I was taking too many pictures, but I eventually managed to convince him to pose for one also :)
The thing about going up top is that you can't really see much of the building, but can really see the world all around, and it was beautiful. Lucknow is actually always so beautiful, and each visit makes me fall even more in love with it.
My beloved guide was happy with my enthusiasm and showed me another dome which is right below the main dome that we see from outside. So the real dome for the graves is actually a rather small and simple structure, and the large and beautiful dome is simply added as a super-structure to beautify the building from outside. Interesting.
I came down soon after and gave the fee of Rs 50 to my guide who then wanted to buy tea from the same money and offered it to me. I politely turned down the offer and decided to take a walk around the building. As you walk anti-clockwise, you will see a lovely flower garden on the side and the back of the building, and a few stray dogs who have made the compound their home. They are all friendly so there is no real need to worry about them. Sit down, take a moment and absorb the beauty of this gorgeous complex - try and imagine what it would have looked like back in the glorious days of Lucknow.
Also located within the same compound is the tomb of Saadat Ali's wife, Khurshid Zadi. It's as beautiful as the tomb of Nawab, though a bit slender in form. Unfortunately it was closed for entry and could be seen only from outside.
Tomb of Saadat Ali Khan is well marked on google maps so reaching here won't be a problem at all. If you are already in Kaiserbagh, you can easily walk up to here or take a hand-rickshaw. Uber and Ola are both available in Lucknow now and that's what I used to get from my hotel to this part of the town. Alternatively there is also the auto-rickshaw which can take you anywhere in the city - the only challenge is to fix the price as that is often negotiable and can be tough to guess.
The tomb is open from sunrise to sunset.
There is no fee to enter the compound and also inside the tomb. There is an informal fee of Rs 50 in case you want to climb to the top like I did.