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Shia cleric locks the gates of Islamic heritage site saying they are not meant for tourism

Lucknow: Noted Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad has kicked up a controversy by saying the Bara Imambaras, popularly known as Bhool Bhulaiya and Chhota Imambara in Lucknow, are not meant for tourism. 

His followers have locked its gates and declared that it will only be used for religious purposes and mourning during Moharram. 

“The Imambaras are not meant for tourism. They are only for religious purposes like namaz and mourning. The authorities had thrown it open many decades ago for people to mint money. Although its earnings were not used for the welfare of poor Muslims, many officers became rich by siphoning off its income,” Jawad alleged.

The Imambaras are managed by Hussainabad and Allied Trust (HAT), which is controlled by the state government through Lucknow District Administration. 

Jawad is Imam-e-Juma of Asifi Masjid on the premises of Bhool Bhuliaya. 

His followers have also launched protests and are holding a demonstration near the Imambara to mount pressure on the Samajwadi Party government to remove Waseem Rizvi from the post of chairman of Shia Muslim Waqf Board. 

Reacting to Jawad’s statement, Rizvi said: “The two Imambaras had been thrown open for the tourists many decades ago. Since then thousands of tourists from across the country come here to see the monuments. It is simply illegal to lock the gates of the monument and deprive the people from seeing it.” 

“Instead of trying to impose a Talibani rule, those who have some grudges against us should talk to the government and reach a solution,” he said. 

Bara Imambara was built by Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Lucknow, in 1784 to provide jobs to the people who were suffering because of famine. The building is also known as Asafi Imambara. 

The three-dimensional labyrinth with interconnected passages through 489 identical doorways is known as Bhool Bhulaiya (the labyrinth). 

Since this occupies a major portion of the Imambara, the tourists conventionally refer the entire building as Bhool Bhulaiya. 

A stranger cannot enter or come out of this passage without the help of a guide.

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