An interesting feature of medieval architecture was the Shish Mahal, or palace of mirrors.
The luxurious halls of royal palaces used to be embellished with pieces of mirrors in such a fashion (Ainabandi) that the walls and ceiling lit up with multiple reflections when candles were burnt. These were used for music and dance concerts. Later, richly ornamented royal palaces were also called Shish Mahals, as in the case of the Shish Mahal of Nawab Asaf ud Daulah in Lucknow. This palace no longer exists. The Daulat Khana, as it was also called, was built on the right bank of the Gomti River, and the ruins of it can still be seen in the area west of a tank known as the Shish Mahal Ka Talab. It is said that the palace, which was designed by Claude Martin, was lavishly embellished with stucco and inlaid mirrors. There were also large and artistically framed mirrors, Chinese, Japanese and European objects d' art and pen-portraits, all tastefully arranged.
The Daulat Khana is now in ruins and retains only a part of the roof. This roof, along with the semi-circular arched doorways and windows, was constructed in the Indo-European style. The palace was once surrounded by an elegantly laid out garden, the only remaining evidence of which is the ornamental fountain. Also known as the Asafi Kothi the Daulat Khana used to be occupied by the families of the later Nawabs.
This large rectangular masonry tank formed a part of a complex of monuments. Of great architectural merit are the stepped embankments with a series of arches. It was always filled with water and helps to cool the surrounding area in summer. There were niches along the embankments which were illuminated with earthen lamps on ceremonial occasions. It was originally excavated during the reign of Nawab Asaf ud Daulah, who had built his palace and Shish Mahal nearby. The Baradari was constructed later, by Muhammad Ali Shah, on the northern side of the embankment. This, together with the Clock Tower constructed by the British on the eastern embankment made the area picturesque.
Baradari Shish Mahal
The Baradari Shish Mahal is an imposing structure. It is a rectangular building remarkable for its Mughal and Europeans features. The building has been made with Lakhauri bricks, is covered with thick lime plaster and is notable for its beautiful surroundings. The Baradari is a double-storied building with an arcuate facade. The ground floor of the building has cusped arches in the later Mughal style. Each of these arches is crowned by a Kangura at the apex. It appears that originally all the arches were open, but they were closed with stone screens at a later date.
The upper storey consists of seven arched openings. European influence is clearly visible in the wide arches, which are supported on fluted stone pillars. The structure is covered with a flat roof but the ventilators have conical sloping roofs covered with metallic sheets. The main hall has the picture gallery, which contains paintings of the Nawabs and kings of Awadh.
On either side of the Baradari is an attached structure. The arches, pillars, roofs and parapets indicate that these structures belonged to a later date. The structure on the west is used as the office of the Husainabad Trust.
This discussed above is the Daulat Khana Conplex, an architectural specimen of the early Nawabi style.