My Kaiserbagh heritage walk ended with a visit to The Kotwara House located at a distance of around 50m from the Kaiserbagh Chouraha. The Kotwara House is a heritage property and the personal home of famous Film director Muzzafar Ali of Umrao Jaan fame starring Rekha and his fashion designer and architect wife Meera Ali.
The Kaisebagh Palace was built by the last nawab of Awadh Wajid Ali Shah for his wives in 1842. Later after British supremacy the whole area was handed over to the landowners of Awadh. It was Mazzafar Ali’s great-grandfather Raja Raza Hussain of Kotwara who bought this mansion in 1921 from the Raja of Chandrapur.
As I entered through the gates of The Kotwara House my eyes fell on a huge black-coloured “Buggy” or Heritage Carriage pulled by horses. It belonged to the ancestors living in the house and was used as a mode of communication. Buggy rides at that time in India were a sign of aristocracy and authority. These were mainly owned by rich feudal lords or landlords.
The mansion is restored and decorated by the couple maintaining their family legacy and also showcasing the culture that existed in Lucknow. The huge two-story mansion was divided into many smaller sections and many smaller rooms were created using partitions. But only half of it is welcome for tourists as guests of Tornos India. Tornos India is the travel agency that conducted my Kaiserbagh Heritage Walk on a payment basis.
The last point of this walk ended by visiting The Kotwara House. They arranged a tour inside this heritage private property and also high tea for me. That was the most spectacular and quite an enriching experience for me.
The ground floor houses the boutique owned by designer Meera Ali. It has a classic collection of exquisite Chikankari apparel and accessories. There is also a small sitting room adjacent to it beautifully decorated with antique pieces, and old wooden furniture giving quite a vintage feel to the entire setup. The house itself is a heritage property so getting a vintage feel in every corner is quite obvious, isn’t it?
From there my guide led me through a small corridor to the workshop where designer Meera Ali’s designs take the form of masterpieces under the label, “House of Kotwara”. I saw artisans busy in embroidery work called Zardouzi on sarees and blouse fabrics. Zardouzi is a kind of expensive needlework done on fabrics using gold threads and beads. Zar means gold and Dozi means embroidery. Lucknow is famous for this form of expensive and exquisite form of embroidery.
Pictures from the workshop of designer Meera Ali at The Kotwara House
There were lots of shelves on the walls of the workshop where I saw plenty of bottles full of beads. A group of artisans were doing embroidery work on just a small fabric piece cut out for making a blouse. It’s a beautiful showcase of the artisans of Lucknow some of whose ancestors were working for the Nawabs of Avadh itself.
I tried to ask them a few questions but I felt they were feeling disturbed as the work requires a lot of attention and concentration. So I just watched for some time the embroidery that they were busy doing. The workshop remains open till evening 6 p.m.
There was also a small library on the first floor. I had to open my shoes outside because the floors were completely covered with dhurries and carpets. As I entered the living room I was spellbound to see the collection of old books, type-writers, huge portraits of the ancestors of the house hung from the walls, carpets or kaleens were also hung on walls as decorative pieces which must be really expensive and vintage, telephone sets, table-lamps, the furniture, curtains, everywhere there were artifacts and antique pieces. Both Muzzafar Ali and Meera did their best to decorate the interiors and tried to retain that old-world charm and former glory of their ancestral home.
I would say it’s not just a home but a piece of art itself. In restoring the property they tried to maintain the same heritage features and interiors with which it was built during the time. Even the old doors and windows were replaced by similar patterns of doors and windows that used to be seen in the old mansions during the period when the house was built.
I was also led to a small room where a beautiful study table adorned the corner, portraits and pictures from Muzzafar Ali sir’s famous movie Umrao Jaan hung on the walls. There was also a beautiful lamp which looked so stunning to me.
Then I went inside another room where there was a huge dining table and the walls were decorated with beautiful frames, some painted and some photographed. The house also used to be an intellectual hub where poets, writers, thinkers, and politicians used to discuss important matters over cups of tea.
I had tea sitting in a room full of artifacts and books. I loved the complete aura of the house. Just one thing that I felt could have been better was the lightning inside. There were low lights everywhere, the walls were painted yellow and rust and I feel this made the rooms gloomy and dark, especially in the corners. The frames and portraits could have been highlighted with better lighting.
This also impacted my photos as I was clicking pictures with my iPhone. My photos are generally good with this device even in low light. Nevertheless, photos are just a memory of the moments spent. But in reality, after I toured inside The Kotwara House the pictures captured with my eyes will stay with me forever.
The house portrays a perfect blend of Awadhi culture and heritage. The house stood through time and even in this modern times gives us a glimpse of the lifestyle and aristocracy that existed during the times of the Nawabs in Lucknow.
The information shared in this blog is my personal experiences when I visited The Kotwara House in Kaiserbagh Lucknow and also the information given to me by my guide Mr Mahesh. This is not a sponsored post, I booked the visit at my own expense with Tornos India. Please do share with your friends and have a great time reading.