The rule came into force on Monday

If you are a woman looking to explore the grand complex of Bara Imambara in Lucknow, you will have to ensure that you cover your head. For it is now compulsory for women to cover their heads before entering the historic monument.

The Imambara administration has accepted the two-year-old demand of the local Shia community to implement a dress code for women entering the religious site, built in the late 18th century by Asaf-ud-Daula, Nawab of Lucknow.

The demand was formalised into a rule by the secretary of the Hussainabad Trust, ADM west, H.P. Shahi, after renewed calls by the influential Shia cleric, Kalbe Jawad. Supporters of the Shia cleric had been on a protest dharna at the site for the last five days. Mr. Shahi said the decision was based on the consideration that the Imambara was “a religious site, highly revered by the Shias.”

While only those women with their heads covered will be allowed on the premises of the Chota Imambara and the Bara Imambara, others can acquire dupattas from a counter before entering the premises.

Move draws flak

The rule, which came into force on Monday, drew sharp criticism from women’s groups. Tahira Hasan, vice-president, All-India Progressive Women’s Association, said it was a violation of “women’s prerogative,” and the timing was politically motivated. There is no tradition of covering the head at the Imambara, she said.

The Bara Imambara complex, one of the grandest in the State capital, is the site of mourning for Shias during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

Cleric Kalbe Jawad was not available for comment.