The story of Lucknow from the Last Nawab of Lucknow - Nawab Jafar Mir Abdullah.
Ladies and Gentleman,
The subject of my brief talk today is Avadh Culture. Kindly allow me to first introduce you to Avadh and then talk about her culture.
Avadh is a territory, which roughly covers the eastern of Uttar- Pradesh- the northern state of India Bordering Nepal. It is through that Avadh that India's most sacred rivers viz. Ganga and Yamuna flow and meet that at Prayag-one of the holiest places of Hinduism. Ayodhya, Kashi, Sarnath and Kasia, all important pilgrim centers of Hindus and Buddhists, are also located in and around Avadh.
Ayodhya, besides being the birthplace of Lord Rama - the God Incarnate, is also famous for the Historic Gurudwara of Guru Gobind Singh (the Sikh Guru) and the last resting place of Seth - the third son of Adam and Eve, equally revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Lucknow - the capital besides being famous for the mausoleums of Sufi saints Shah Meena and Shah Peer Mohammed is also the center of the Methodist Church in India. Many imposing churches, adorn the city's horizon.
If would, therefore, not be wrong to call Avadh the meeting place of some of the world's greatest religions having Semitic and Aryan origin.
Prehistoric, ancient and Hindu - India is believed to have been ruled by Lord Rama - the 'God Incarnate' from his capital at Ayodhya located in what later came to be known as Avadh.
In Mughal times Avadh was but a province of their vast empire covering an area equal to that of Europe sans Russia.
In the air 1722 the emperor Mohd. Shah Rangeele appointed Burhan-ul-Mulk as Subedar of Avadh.
He established his headquarters a few kilometers west of the ancient town of Ayodhya and named it Bangla (Which later came to be known as Faizabad.), and then with ferocious energy, tour the job of organizing the province.
Many of Burhan-ul-Mulk's comrades, who also happened to be Syeds and custodians of the highest traditions of Islam, came into contact for the first time with Suryavanshi Rajputs, descendants of Lord Rama and keepers of the highest traditions of Hinduism. This unique interaction between Islam and hinduism sowed the seed, which was later to germinate in the form of Ganga Jamuni Tahzeeb or Avadh Culture.
Asaf-ud-daullah the fourth Nawab of Avadh developed serious differences with his mother Bahu Begum Sahiba on matters relating to succession and decide d to shift his capital frrom Faizabaad to Lucknow - then a small town on the banks of the river Gomti, The proposed transfer took place in the year 1775, which according to students of cultural history is the year of the birth of Avadh Culture.
Our ancient art, architecture, language, literature, law, philosophy and religion are our true cultural heritage and our great historical personalities signify the spirit of our culture, Hence a fair knowledge of these subjects is the key to understanding its culture. I would now like to introduce you to some of its salient features of Avadh Culture.
Avadh architecture bears the stamp of Hindu, Saracenic and European influences. The Nawabs here constrcted buildings of two different natures i.e. ' religious ' like Imambaras and mosques and ' public' like places complexes. The former have a marked Saracenic while the latter a marked European influence. Some of the masterpieces of Avadh architecture were/are as follows :
Macchi Bhawan :
Macchi Bhawan was a huge place belongings to the Mughal Governors of Avadh. When Burhan-ul-Mulk assumed governship, he converted it into his residence. The main complex within the battlements was Panch Mahal or five places.
Built in 1779 by Nawab Asaf-ud-daullah, it was the centerpiece of a new complex. It stood in a huge garden with an auxiliary private mosque, a Sheesh Mahal ( Hall of Mirros ), a private museum and a library.
In june 1803 ,Saadat Ali Khan, the sixth Nawab of Avadh purchased a town house of Claude Martin - a freelance adventure in the court of Avadh. It was a fine example of European architecture, which was gaining popularity in those days.
Qaisar Bagh Complex:
Built between 1848-1850, it was the place of the multifaceted Wajid Ali Shah - the last Nawab of Aavadh. From a distance it looks like a never-ending carnival with elliptical arches and baradaries ( verandas having 12 entrances ) with burj like structures.
La-Martiniere or Constantia:
Located towards the east of lucknow it is a fantastical building of every specimen of architecture ; ornamented with enormous lions having a lamps instead of eyes , Chinese mandarins and god and goddesses, it appears more as a Gothic castle from a distance. Its chief purpose was defence but it also served as the residence of Claude Martin - the designer . Currently it is used as a educational institution as per the builder's will.
Bara Imamabara or Asafi Imambara:
This is the most magnificent specimen of Avadh architecture and is to Lucknow what Eiffel Tower is to Paris. It was built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daullah in 1784. Its main hall which is 50 feet in height is the most impressive . The absence of any pillar or support makes it architecturally unique. The galleries and corridors above from a labyrinth called ' Bhul Bhulaiyan ' while its minarets, domes, and spires from a striking skyline. There are many other splendid buildings such as chota imambara, residency, Picture Gallery, Dilkusha , Kothi Bibiyapur, Rumi Gate, Moosa Bagh, Tomb of Saadat Ali Khan, Shah Najaf, Satkhanda, Jama Masjid and Khursheed Manzil to name but a few. The time at my disposal is but limited which prevent me from going into details of each one of these.
The Avadh school of Painting bears the stamp of Hindu, Mughal and European influences.
Hindustani - an amalgam of Hindu and Urdu is the langua franca of Avadh. Urdu originated in South India with the advent of Muslim rule in that part of the country. Interaction between Turkish and Persian speaking soldiers with the locals gave birth to this language which uses Persian nouns with Hindi verbs and is written in Arabic script.
When the Parsis ( Zoroastrians ) of Bombay introduced the 'Theatre' as the chief source of public entertainment in India, having fourteen regional languages, they chose Urdu as the language of their theatre.
It was Urdu , which coined the immortal slogan , ' Inquilab Zindabad ' ( long live the revolution ) during our freedom struggle against the British . It was also in Urdu that majority of our patriotic songs and poems were composed . A few examples are as follow :
A. 'Damdame main dam hai baaqi Boo rahe eemaan ki. Tegh Londaon mein bhi ja chamke gi Hindustan ki. '
B. ' Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai. Dekhna hai zoore kitna baaque qatil mein hai. '
The greatest musician ever born in our country was Tansen who drew inspiration from Sam Weda and rose to the status of 'Minstrel Laureate' at court of the Mughal emperor Akhbar-the-great about four centuries back. it is said of Tansen that when he rendered the 'Deepak Raga' in his pitch dark chamber at night with seven unlit deepak's (earthen lamps) placed on lamp stand of equal capacity denoting the seven musical notes, the deepak's god lighted and their light intensity kept fluctuating whit the ebb and flow of his mellifluous voice. He is still remembered by his countrymen as the maestro with the Midas touch and the magic maker of memorable melodies.
Kathakali or Kathak, as it is generally known , we came very popular in Avadh under the Nawabs. The foremost amoung Kathak dancers of Lucknow was capital Bindadin who rose to fame as Bindu Maharaj after becoming the court dancer of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Eye witness accounts passed down through his descendants tell us that why performing, his body became so ethereal as to alow him to dance for hours together on pulverized glass without tiring or injuring the soles of his feet.
Among non-classical dance forms the most popular one in Avadh was Mujra performed by female dancers called Tawaifs (nautch girls) this dance was performed to the accompaniment of Saazes (orchestra) composed of Tabla, Sarangi and harmonium.
The Naach Gher was Exquisitely decorated with chandeliers on the ceiling for illumination. The walls displayed an impressive array floral paintings and illustrations of the famous quatrains of Omar Khayyam - the astronomer poet of Persia. In four corners of the room stood incense burners made of silver from which emanated the enchanting fragrance of ood, loban, agar and sandal.
The dignitaries were attired in spotless white angarkhas, churidars and dopalli topis(traditional Lucknowi dress of the Nobles). Their clothes were richly perfumed with attars of henna and khus and around their wrists could be seen snow-white gajras of jasmine. By their sides were kept silver khasdaans containing perfumed gilauris (folded beetle leaves )
Mujra was an expensive entertainment. After abolition of Taluqdari(Boranial System) in Avadh in 1952, the Rajas and Nawabs vanished from the scene and Mujra dwindled into oblivion. It can now be seen only in movies. Some of their most outstanding practitioners of Mujra were Gauharjaan, Umraojaan, Haiderjaan, Zohrajaan and Jaddan Bai.
Drama, in its rudimentary form, existed in India since times immemorial. But, when Kalidas - the Shakespeare of India wrote his great work 'Shakuntala' in Sanskrit, the people's imagination was fired and they became more and more inclined towards histrionic arts. Shakuntala was translated into many regional language and became the most popular play with the masses.
Another play, widely enacted in Brij Bhumi, the land of Lord Krishna (the God of Incarnate) was 'Rahas'. It was based on the God's life and times and focused on his hide and seek with the 'gopis' (female cowherds) at Vrindavan.
During the reign the of Wajid Ali Shah, some knoen practitioners of Rahas migrated to Lucknow and captivated the hearts of the people by their performance. Thereafter, Rahas also became a favourite of masses.
Mushaera (symposium of poets):
Urdu is one of the sweetest language of the sub continent, which lends itself easily to poetry and music.
Mushaeras were and are still held to give opportunity to poets to express their talents. A mushaera is held in auditoria or huge tent called 'pandal' with a stage resembling that of a theatre. When the name of poet announced, he comes to the mike and recites his poem before the audience.
In competitive mushaeras, the budding poets are judged by a panel of judges and those found suitable are given prizes.
Another version of mushaera, held for reenacting history and drawing inspiration from the same, is known as 'Tamseeli Mushaera'. For enacting this, young poets, each dressed and made up like one of the past masters (not necessarily contemporaries) recites a poem from the 'Deewan' (collection of poem) of the master he portrays, in the latter's characteristic 'andaaz' (style) of rendering. Prizes are given on the basis of merit depending upon the quality of performance.
Bait Baazi (Poetic Play):
The game is played between two teams A and B having five members, seated opposite facing each other. It is started by team A with recitation of the first verse of the Holy Quran i.e. 'Bismillah arrahmaan arraheem', meaning 'In the name of the most merciful God'. The said verse ends with Arabic/Urdu letter 'meem'- phonetic equivalent of the Roman letter M. To this verse, team B responds by reciting an Urdu couplet beginning with the letter 'meem' and thus the game proceeds.
The following example is given for illustration:
Team A - Bismillah arrahmaan arraheem
Team B - Maqaame intehan hai ibtadar aah hoti hai. Mubarak tifl dil ki aaj bismillah hoti hai
Afsangoi (Tale telling):
As far as 'Tale Telling' as an art was developed in the Baghdad during the reign of the Caliph Haroonal Rashid. From Baghdad, tale telling traveled to Iran and from there to the court of Mughal emperors t Delhi before finally reaching Avadh. At Lucknow it became the favourite pastime of the idle rich with the result that many outstanding works on fiction saw the light of the day. The most famous among these books are, 'Tilismi Hoshruba', 'Fasanae Ajaib' and 'Qissa Chahaar Durvesh' to name but a few.
Those who adopted tale telling as a profession came to be known as 'Afsanagos' who generally happened to be males.
Afsanagoi was usually practiced at night after dinner in the private chamber.
The language of the Afsanago was chaste Urdu and style of narration so absorbing as to keep the ears of his listeners glued to his mouth.
India is a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural country and the people here celebrate a large number of festivals throughout the year. The most important among these being Dussehra, Diwali, Eid, Moharram, Christmas, Guruparb, Mahavir Jayanti, Buddha Purnima, Onam and Navroz to name but a few.
In Avadh, Dussehra and Moharram have a special significance and are celebrated/ observed with great ethusiasm. Dessehra is celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana. In Dussehra, Ram Lila is enacted to portray the battle scenes between the forces of Good and Evil and the ultimate victory of the former over the latter.
Moharram is mourning time is like Good Friday. It is observed to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husain - grandson of the prophet and his 72 followers, including 18 members of the prophet's family at Karbala by the army of Obeidullh - grandson of notorious prostitute Marjana, on orders from Yazid, son of Maviah, usurper of the Caliphate of Islam.
Lucknow is noted for its special brand of Avadhi food, an improvement on Mughal food, Lucknow gourmets have a wide selection of spiced meats, curries, special kinds of breads and desserts.
Therefore, introducing one of the standard menus for gala parties. The menus known as 'TODA' consists of Pulao, Muzafar, Shirmaal, Buraani, Kheer, Quarma, Tali Arvi, Tale Aalu, Kabab, Murabba, Achaar, Chatni and Raita.
In olden days Shiraz In Iran and Kannauj in India were knoen for their perfumeries throughout Asia. While former excelled in 'Attars' of henna, gulab, mushk and ambar, the latter was famous for its 'Sugandhs' of bela, chameli, motia, mogra and khus.
With the establishment of perfumeries at Lucknow under the benign patronage of the Nawabs, both Shiraz and Kannauj were put into shade. Drawing upon the finer points of Shirazi and Kannauji techniques, the perfumes of Avadh developed a state-of-the-art technology for making perfumes. The result were such marvels as henna, khus, motia, mogra, ketki, madanmast and shamamae attare gil - perrfumes of the soil, the most outstanding contribution from Lucknow to the rest of the world.
A large number of handicrafts flourished during Nawabi days. Prominent among those being earthenware, bidri, zarbuland, koft, kundan, meena, silver and gold, ivory, blown glass, aari, zardozi, muqqaish and chikan.
Aari, zardozi and chiken garments from Lucknow are still much in demand in India and abroad, particularly during international fashion festivels.
Avadh was part of Mughal empire, it is therefore, but natural for the fashion prevailing at the Delhi court to exercise a powerful influence on that in vogue in Lucknow.
In Avadh, evolution in clothing became the order of the day as novelty in dress suited the people's temperament. Some of the important itemsof clothing evolved in Lucknow are as follows:
Headgear: The headgear which first came to Lucknow from Delhi was 'Dastaar', then gradually made way to stitched caps called 'Topis'. Various types of caps which were/are in vogue at Lucknow are Chowgoshia Topi, Dopali Topi, Nokedaar Topi, Mandili Topi, Jhola Topi and Qaraquli Topi.
Upper part o the body: Clothes worn on the upper part of the body by grandees of the Mughals court included 'Jaama'(collarless shirts) and a 'Balabar' (clock). these items underwent several alterations and modifications in Avadh under the Nawabs. Some of the important ones are Angarkha, Achkan, Chapkan, Sherwani and Khailat. Material used in Avadh for making garments were of high quality
Trousers: 'Tang Pyjamas' (tight fitting trousers) were in vogue at the Delhi court. In Lucknow, 'Khara Pyjamas' (narrow bottomed trousers) and 'Dheela Pyjamas' (loose trousers) were introduced in addition to the first named.
Footwear: The men of Avadh paid particular attention to their footwear. the shoes that made their way to Lucknow from Delhi were the 'Saleemshahis'. Other type of footwear introduced in Avadh are Naagra Jootas and Ghetley Jooties.
Women's Clothes: The Begums of Delhi, on the upper part of the body, wore 'Angia' (tight-fitting, half-sleeved garment) covered with 'Dupatta'. On their legs they wore 'Ghuttanas' (tight fitting trousers). Their favourite footwear was 'Saleemshahis'.
While the Angia and the Dupatta remained intact, the Ghuttanas initially made way for 'Farshi Pyjamas' (loose trousers) and later for 'Khara Pyjamas'.
Ornaments worn by the Begums of Avadh on the head neck, ears, nose, hands and feet are as follows:
- a) Head - Tika and Chhapka
- b) Neck - Guluband, Tauq, Patrihaar, Hansli, Haikal, Chananhaar and Satlada.
- c) Ears - Karanphools, Goshwaaras, Jhumkas, Kanautis, Chandaulis and Jhaalas.
- d) Nose- Keel, Besar, Bulaaq and Natth.
- e) Hand- Dastbands, Gajras, Chuhedattis, Shauqbands, Chooris, Kangans, Kadas and Sherdahans Feet - Payals, Todas, Lachhas, Jhaanjhs and Paazebs.
Ladies of high status usually wore long hair. The hair was knitted into a plait called 'choti', which was decoreted with different patterns from gold and silver glitter powder caled 'Afshan.
Lampblack preppared from mustured oil known as 'kajal' was applied to the eyes to give lusture to eye lashes.
Henna paste was applied to the hands and feet for colouring fingernails and creating exotic floral patterns on the palms
The unique experience of the Avdh fashion world was, to say the least, 'mesmerizing'.
The common forms of salutation in Avadh region before advent of Nawabs was 'Namastey', with the folded hands, among Hindus, and 'Salam', by up and down movement of the right forearm with the palm facing skywards, among Muslims. In order to demolish this artificial barrier between communities, a common form of salutation, known as 'Aadab', was introduced.
Abraham Lncoln, defined democracy as 'Government of the People, by the people and for the people'. According to which "Avadh Culture is an exquisite blend of 'Nafasat' (sophistication), 'Nazaakat' (delicacy) and 'Tehzeeb' (mannerisms)."