Around Lucknow

The area around Lucknow has been involved in some of the most turbulent events in modern Indian history, from the 1857 Uprising in Kanpur, now the state's largest industrial city, to the clashes in 2002 between Hindus and Muslims over the holy site of Ayodhya. East of Ayodhya, Gorakhpur makes a convenient base for exploring a number of key Buddhist sites, as well as being a popular jumping-off point for the crossing to Nepal, while north of Lucknow in the Himalayan foothills, the rarely visited Dudhwa National Park protects a handful of tigers and a reintroduced population of Indian one-horned rhino.

Dudhwa National Park

A reserve since 1879, Dudhwa was designated a national park in 1977 and Project Tiger Reserve in 1988 by adding 200 sq km of the Kishanpur Sanctuary, 30 km away. Bordering the Sarda River in the Terai, it is very similar to the Corbett National Park. It has sal forest (in addition to sheesham, asna, khair and sagaun), tall savannah grasslands and large marshy areas watered by the Neora and Sohel rivers.

To view the wildlife you can hire a jeep or minibus from the park office at Dudhwa. However, elephants are recommended and are available at Dudhwa only. Elephant rides should be booked on arrival at the park.

The best time to visit is February to April; from April to June it becomes very hot, dry and dusty, but it is good for viewing big game. In summer the maximum temperature is 35°C, minimum 10°C. In winter the maximum is 30°C, minimum 4°C. Annual rainfall is 1500 mm; the wettest months are June to September. Palia has a bank, a basic health centre and a post office. Dudhwa has a dispensary.

Bareilly

Bareilly, the capital of Rohilkhand (an empire built by two Afghan Rohillas who served under the Moghals), was founded in 1537 by the Bas Deo and Barel Deo brothers (hence Bareilly) and traces of their fortress remain. It was ceded to the British in 1801 and later contributed to the drama of the 'Uprising'. There are three 17th-century mosques and two churches in town. Bareilly is known for its iron industry and its gold
zari
work. It is an important rail junction and its population numbers 700,000.

Faizabad

Faizabad, 124 km east of Lucknow, is handy for visiting Ayodhya. It was once the capital of Oudh. Shuja-ud-Daula (1754-1775), the third Nawab of Oudh, built Fort Calcutta here after his defeat by the British at Buxar in 1764. The 42-m-high white marble
Mausoleum
 of Bahu Begum
(circa 1816), his widow, is particularly fine. Gulab Bari (Mausoleum of Shuja-ud-Daula, circa 1775) nearby, contains the tombs of his mother and father.

Ayodhya

Ayodhya ('a place where battles cannot take place'), 9 km from Faizabad on the banks of the
Saryu River
, is one of the seven holy Hindu cities (the others are Mathura, Haridwar, Varanasi, Ujjain, Dwarka and Kanchipuram). It is regarded by many Hindus as the birthplace of Rama and where he once reigned, though the historian Romila Thapar stresses that there is no evidence for such a belief. Jains regard it as the birthplace of the first and fourth Tirthankars, and the Buddha is also thought to have stayed here.

The Archaeological Survey of India and the Indian Institute of Advanced Study began excavation in 1978. The ruins have a circumference of between 4 km and 5 km, rising at some places to 10 m above the ground. According to Professor BB Lal, the site was occupied from at least the seventh century BC if not earlier, when both iron and copper were in use. Later finds include a Jain figure from the fourth to third century BC, possibly the earliest Jain figure found in India. Houses during this period were built in kiln-baked brick, and various coins have been found from periods up to the fourth century AD, some indicating extensive trade with East India. BB Lal goes on: “many of the now standing temples having been erected during the past two centuries only”.

In accordance with Muslim practice elsewhere, a number of temples were razed and mosques were built on the site, often using the same building material. In recent years Ayodhya has become the focus of intense political activity by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an organization asserting a form of militant Hinduism, and the BJP, its leading political ally. They claim that Ayodhya was ' Ramajanambhumi ' (Rama's birthplace) and that this holy site is beneath the remains of the Babri Mosque, built by Babur and deserted now for many years. On 6 December 1992, the mosque was destroyed by militant Hindus. This was followed by widespread disturbances resulting in over 2500 deaths across the country. Ayodhya remains a potential flashpoint, so check conditions first if you plan to visit. The massacre of young Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya to Gujarat in February 2002 resulted in over 1000 deaths in the following months.

Other sites include Lakshmana Ghat, 3 km from the station, where Rama's brother committed suicide. Hanumangarh takes its name from the Hanuman and Sita temple and the massive walls surrounding it.

Gorakhpur

Gorakhpur, at the confluence of the Rapti and Rohini rivers, is the last major Indian town before the Nepali border. The British and the Gurkha armies clashed nearby in the early 18th century. Later it became the recruitment centre for Gurkha soldiers enlisting into the British and Indian armies. The
Gorakhnath Temple
attracts Hindu pilgrims, particularly
Kanfata sadhus
who have part of their ears cut. Unusual terracotta pottery figures and animals are made here.


Kushinagar

Kushinagar, 50 km east of Gorakhpur, is celebrated as the place where the Buddha died and was cremated and passed into
parinirvana
; the actual site is unknown. Originally called Kushinara, it is one of four major Buddhist pilgrimage sites . Monasteries established after the Buddha's death flourished here until the 13th century.

In the main site, the core of the Main Stupa possibly dates from Asoka's time with the Parinirvana Temple. The restored 6-m recumbent sandstone figure of the dying Buddha in a shrine in front may have been brought from Mathura by the monk Haribala during King Kumargupta's reign (AD 413-455). The stupas, chaityas and viharas, however, were 'lost' for centuries. The Chinese pilgrims Fa Hien, Hiuen Tsang, and I Tsing, all recorded the decay and ruins of Kushinagar between 900 and 1000 years after the Buddha's death. The stupa and the temple were rediscovered only in the 1880s. The Mathakuar shrine to the southwest has a large Buddha in the bhumisparsha mudra and marks the place where the Buddha last drank water. Rambahar stupa m(Mukutabandhana), 1 km east, was built by the Malla Dynasty to house the Buddha's relics after the cremation. Some of the bricks (which have holes for easier firing) were carved to form figures.

Excavations were begun by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1904-1905, following clues left by the Chinese travellers. A shaft was driven through the centre of the Nirvana stupa “which brought to light a copper plate placed on the mouth of a relic casket in the form of a copper vessel with charcoal, cowries, precious stones and a gold coin of Kumaragupta I”. The whole area was occupied until the 11th century. In all there are eight groups of monasteries, stupas and images, indicating that Kushinagar was a substantial community.

Kanpur

With a population of over 2½ million people, Kanpur is the largest city of Uttar Pradesh and the most important industrial centre in the state. Cotton mills were first established in 1869, some of the first in India. It is now one of the major industrial cities in India with aviation, woollen and leather industries, cotton, flour and vegetable oil mills, sugar refineries and chemical works. As a result of this high level of industry, the city is extremely polluted, and has become one sprawling, congested market, with seemingly every street constantly choked with traffic. As an example of industry run riot it somehow has a perverse attraction, and perhaps needs to be experienced once in a lifetime.

The principal British monuments are in the southeast of the city in the old cantonment area. Stone posts mark the lines of the trenches near All Souls' Memorial Church (1862-1875), a handsome Gothic-style building designed by Walter Granville. A tiled pavement outside marks the graves of those executed on 1 July 1857, soon after the Satichaura Ghat massacre. To the east, the Memorial Garden has a statue by Marochetti and a screen designed by Sir Henry Yule, which were brought here after Independence. The infamous Satichaura Ghat, 1 km northeast of the church by the Ganga, has a small Siva temple. You can walk along the river from the Lucknow Road bridge (about 200 m, but dirty) which leads to the site of the boat massacre just upstream of the temple, where cannons were stationed on the high banks. The temple is altered but the landing ghats are still used by fishermen's boats and for washing clothes.

At the siege site, remains of the walls are still visible - as is the privy drain system and the well. The Massacre House was north of the canal about 250 m from the Ganga, and north of the Arms Factory, now marked by a statue of Nana Sahib. In the city centre there is the King Edward VII Memorial (KEM) Hall and Christ Church (1848). The higher-grade hotels are along the Mall, some within reach of Meston Road with its interesting, faded, colonial architecture and cheap leather goods shops.

Bithur

Nana Sahib's home town, 20 km north of Kanpur, has pleasant ghats by the Ganga. His opulent palace was destroyed by the British in 1857 and is now marked by a memorial bust. Ruins of a few large well heads survive in a park west of the main road into town from Kanpur. 'Enthusiasts' should allow two hours.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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