Lucknow is the capital city of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state of India. It has a population of 4,875,858. Lucknow is also the administrative headquarters of Lucknow District and Lucknow Division. According to Government of India, the Lucknow district is one of the ninety Minority Concentrated Districts in India, shown by 2001 census data on population, socio-economic indicators and basic amenities indicators.
Located in what was historically known as the Awadh region, Lucknow has always been a multicultural city. Courtly manners, beautiful gardens, poetry, music, and fine cuisine patronized by the Persian-loving Shia Nawabs of the city are well known amongst Indians and students of South Asian culture and history. Lucknow is popularly known as the The City of Nawabs. It is also known as the Golden City of the East, Shiraz-i-Hind and The Constantinople of India.
Today, Lucknow is a vibrant city that is witnessing an economic boom and is among the top ten fastest growing non-major-metropolitan cities of India. It is a centre of Hindi and Urdu literature and is the second largest city in Uttar Pradesh, after Kanpur.
After 1350 AD the Lucknow and parts of Awadh region have been under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, the Nawabs of Awadh, the East India Company and the British Raj. Lucknow has been one of the major centers of First War of Independence, participated actively in India’s Independence movement, and after Independence has emerged as an important city of North India.
Until 1719, subah of Awadh was a province of the Mughal Empire administered by a Governor appointed by the Emperor. Saadat Khan also called Burhan-ul-Mulk a Persian adventurer was appointed the Nazim of Awadh in 1722 and he established his court in Faizabad near Lucknow.
Awadh was known as the granary of India and was important strategically for the control of the Doab, the fertile plain between the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers. It was a wealthy kingdom, able to maintain its independence against threats from the Marathas, the British and the Afghans. The third Nawab, Shuja-ud-Daula fell out with the British after aiding Mir Qasim, the fugitive Nawab of Bengal. He was comprehensively defeated in the Battle of Buxar by the East India Company, after which he was forced to pay heavy penalties and cede parts of his territory. The British appointed a resident in 1773, and over time gained control of more territory and authority in the state. They were disinclined to capture Awadh outright, because that would bring them face to face with the Marathas and the remnants of the Mughal Empire.
Lucknow’s rise to growth and fame begins with its elevation as capital of Awadh by Nawab Asaf-Ud-Dowlah. He was a great philanthropist and gave Lucknow a unique and enduring legacy. The architectural contributions of these Awadh rulers include several imposing monuments. Of the monuments standing today, the Bara Imambara, the Chhota Imambara, and the Roomi Darwaza are notable examples. One of the more lasting contributions by the Nawabs is the syncretic composite culture that has come to be known as the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb.
In 1798, the fifth Nawab Wazir Ali Khan alienated both his people and the British, and was forced to abdicate. The British then helped Saadat Ali Khan to the throne. Saadat Ali Khan was a puppet king, who in the treaty of 1801 ceded half of Awadh to the British East India Company and also agreed to disband his troops in favor of a hugely expensive, British-run army. This treaty effectively made the state of Awadh a vassal to the British East India Company, though it notionally continued to be part of the Mughal Empire in name until 1819.
The treaty of 1801 formed an arrangement that was very beneficial to the Company. They were able to use Awadh’s vast treasuries, repeatedly digging into them for loans at reduced rates. In addition, the revenues from running Awadh’s armed forces brought them useful revenues while it acted as a buffer state. The Nawabs were ceremonial kings, busy with pomp and show but with little influence over matters of state. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the British had grown impatient with the arrangement and wanted direct control of Awadh.
In 1856 the East India Company first moved its troops to the border, then annexed the state, which was placed under a chief commissioner – Sir Henry Lawrence. Wajid Ali Shah, the then Nawab, was imprisoned, and then exiled by the Company to Calcutta. In the subsequent Revolt of 1857 his 14-year old son Birjis Qadr son of Begum Hazrat Mahal was crowned ruler, and Sir Henry Lawrence killed in the hostilities. Following the rebellion’s defeat, Begum Hazrat Mahal and other rebel leaders obtained asylum in Nepal.
Those company troops who were recruited from the state, along with some of the nobility of the state, were major players in the events of 1857. The rebels took control of Awadh, and it took the British 18 months to reconquer the region, months which included the famous Siege of Lucknow. Oudh was placed back under a chief commissioner, and was governed as a British province. In 1877 the offices of lieutenant-governor of the North-Western Provinces and chief commissioner of Oudh were combined in the same person; and in 1902, when the new name of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh was introduced, the title of chief commissioner was dropped, though Oudh still retained some marks of its former independence.
The province of Awadh (anglicized to Oudh) was annexed by the East India Company in 1856 and placed under the control of a chief commissioner. In the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the First War of Indian Independence and the Indian Mutiny), the garrison based at the Residency in Lucknow was besieged by rebel forces. The famous Siege of Lucknow was relieved first by forces under the command of Sir Henry Havelock and Sir James Outram, followed by a stronger force under Sir Colin Campbell. Today, the ruins of the Residency, and the picturesque Shaheed Smarak offer reminiscences of Lucknow’s role in the stirring events of 1857.
The city played an important role in both the First War of Independence and the modern Indian freedom struggle. Whether it was the Lucknow Pact of 1916 or the Khilafat Movement, it brought the citizens on a united platform against the British rule. In the Khilafat Movement Maulana Abdul Bari of Firangi Mahal, Lucknow actively participated and cooperated with Mahatama Gandhi and Maulana Mohammad Ali.
In 1901, after staying the capital of Oudh, since 1775, Lucknow, with a population of 264,049, was merged in the newly formed United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. However, it became the provincial capital in 1920 when the seat of government was moved from Allahabad. Upon Indian independence in 1947, Lucknow became the capital of Uttar Pradesh, the erstwhile United Provinces.
Places to Visit
The Asafi Imambara (popularly known as Bara Imambara), the Chhota Imambara, Residency, and Shah Najaf are monuments of architectural importance at Lucknow. The famous ‘Bhul Bhulaiyan’ (Labyrinth) is part of Asafi Imambara complex. Some other places of interest are the Picture Gallery, Chattar Manzil, State Museum / Lucknow Zoo, Shaheed Smarak, Dilkusha, Ambedkar Memorial, Planetarium, Baradari and Ram Krishna Math.
The British-built architectural sights in Lucknow include the Vidhan Sabha (State Legislative Assembly), the Clock Tower and the Charbagh Railway Station, with its distinctive domes, arches and pillars.
St Joseph’s Cathedral in Lucknow is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lucknow.
Some of the oldest schools in India are also situated in Lucknow: La Martiniere Lucknow,Loreto Convent Lucknow and the Colvin Taluqdar’s College.Amiruddaula islamia Inter collge is about 100 years old.
Lucknow has several well-kept parks that attract the citizenry in large numbers on evenings, holidays and weekends. The bigger parks are Ambedkar Memorial and Lohia park in Gomti Nagar, Swarn Jayanti park and Aurobindo Park in Indiranagar, Dilkusha Park, Begum Hazrat Mahal Park, Globe Park, Mukherjee Phuhaar, Haathi Park, Buddha park, and Neebu Park. The sprawling National Botanical Garden at Sikandarbagh on the banks of Gomti river is also worth visiting.
The city also has a Reserve Forest, Kukrail Crocodile Park (a picnic spot and Gharial rehabilitation centre). Moosa Bagh and Utretia are other popular picnic spots.
Natural attractions accessible from Lucknow are Katarnia Ghat, Dudhwa National Park, Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary and Samaspur Bird Sanctuary.
Lucknow is bravely struggling to retain its old world charm while at the same time acquiring a modern lifestyle. Regarded as one of the finest cities of India, Lucknow represents a culture that combines emotional warmth, a high degree of sophistication, courtesy, and a love for gracious living. The Pehle-Aap (after you) culture, popularised as a tagline for the society of Lucknow, is waning. But a small part of Lucknow’s society still possesses such etiquette. This sublime cultural richness famous as Lakhnawi tehzeeb blends the cultures of two communities living side by side for centuries, sharing similar interests and speaking a common language.
Many of the cultural traits and customs peculiar to Lucknow have become living legends today. The credit for this goes to the secular and syncretic traditions of the Nawabs of Awadh, who took a keen interest in every walk of life, and encouraged the traditions to attain a rare degree of sophistication.
The Awadh region has its own distinct Nawabi style cuisine, with various kinds of biryanis, kebabs and breads.
The city has a range of fine restaurants catering to all tastes and budgets.
Makkhan Malai, ‘Malai Ki Gilori’ of Ram Asrey (an oldest shop of pure ghee sweets, established in 1805) Chowk , the famous Tundey Kebabs, named after the one-armed chef Haji Murad Ali,and ‘Kakori kebabs’ are very popular with food lovers.
The Chaat in Lucknow is one of the best in the country. There are quite a few places serving outstanding chaat, like Shukla Chaat and Moti Mahal in Hazratganj, Radhey Lal in Aliganj, Chhappan Bhog in Sadar and Neel Kanth in Gomti Nagar.
After a delicious dinner, one can have Paan at any of the innumerable Paan vendors.
Aminabad, a quaint bazaar like Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, is situated in the heart of the city. It is a large shopping centre that caters to a wide variety of consumers.
Chowk and Nakhhas are markets in the old Lucknow area where you can get a feel of traditional Lucknow. Some other important shopping centres are Alambagh, Kapoorthala, Indiranagar, Mahanagar and Nishatganj.
The Hazratganj area is an upscale shopping market with colonial- style buildings. Interestingly, a popular pastime among the locals is window-shopping in the Hazratganj market. It is popularly referred to in Hinglish as Ganjing. The Janpath market, Rovers, Lovers Lane, Mayfair building, Kwality, and Universal book store are some popular landmarks of the area.
Lucknowites are also experiencing the new waves of shopping malls and multiplex culture in India. The first shopping mall-cum-multiplex to open in Lucknow was the East End Mall in Gomti Nagar. Now Lucknow has many Mall-cum-multiplex like Saharaganj (PVR Cinemas), Fun Republic (Fun Cinemas) , Riverside Mall (Inox Theatre) and East End Mall (Wave Cinemas).
Language and poetry
Both Hindi and Urdu are spoken in Lucknow, but Urdu has been the lingua franca of the city for centuries. Under the rule of Nawabs, Urdu flourished and turned into one of the most refined languages. Hindu and Muslim poets like Brij Narayan Chakbast, Khwaja Haidar Ali Atish, Amir Meenai, Mirza Hadi Ruswa, Nasikh, Daya Shankar Kaul Nasim, Musahafi, Insha, Safi Lakhnavi, and the great Meer Taqi Meer took Urdu poetry to dizzying heights and established the Lakhnavi form of the language.
Lucknow is one of the world’s great cities for Shiite culture. Two poets, Mir Anis and Mirza Dabeer, became legendary exponents of a unique genre of Shia elegiacal poetry called Marsia centred on Imam Husain’s supreme sacrifice in the Battle of Karbala which is commemorated during the annual observance of Muharram.
In recent years the use of Urdu has reduced significantly. Day-to-day transactions in the city are typically performed in Hindi or English. Nevertheless, Lucknowites are still known for their polite and polished way of speaking which is noticed by visitors to this charming city. The revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil, who was hanged by the British at Kakori near Lucknow, was largely influenced by poetry and wrote verses under the pen name of “Bismil”. The surrounding towns like Kakori, Daryabad, Barabanki, Rudauli and Malihabad produced many eminent poets and literateurs of Urdu like Mohsin Kakorvi, Majaz, Khumar Barabankvi and Josh Malihabadi.
Recently in 2008 which is the 150th year of ‘mutiny’ of 1857 a novel has been released which uses 1857 as a backdrop. ‘Recalcitrance’ is the first English novel by a Lucknowite on the ‘mutiny’ of 1857.
Education and Research
Lucknow is a hub of education and research with many premier institutions. Schools and higher educational institutions in Lucknow are administered either by the Directorate of Education, the UP government, or private organizations.
Higher education institutions in the city include six universities—University of Lucknow, UPTU, RMLNLU, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Amity University and Integral University; medical institutes like Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU), upcoming Sahara Hospital, Apollo Hospital and ERA’s Lucknow Medical College; and management institutes like IIM Lucknow, Institute of Management Science University of Lucknow and Jaipuria Institute of Management.
Lucknow is famous all over India for its schooling. Public schools(e.g. Government Inter Colleges, Kendriya Vidyalayas, Army Public School, etc.) in Lucknow—which employ either English or Hindi(most of state government run schools are Hindi medium) as the language of instruction—are affiliated to one of two administering bodies: the Uttar Pradesh Board of High School and Intermediate Education (UPB), Allahabad or the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), Delhi. Private schools (e.g. City Montessori School, Study Hall School, Lucknow Public School, Rani Laxmi Bai, St Francis,Mahanagar Boys Inter College, Bal Vidya Mandir, etc.) in Lucknow—which employ either English or Hindi as the language of instruction—are affiliated to one of three administering bodies: the Uttar Pradesh Board of High School and Intermediate Education (UPB), Allahabad or the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), Delhi or the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE), Delhi. Lucknow is home to really old and prestigious schools such as Colvin Taluqdars’ College, La Martinière College, Loreto Convent, St. Francis’ College and some new ones like Army Public School, Aminabad Inter College, St. Dominic Savio College, City Montessori School, Mahanagar Boys’ High School, St. Mary’s Convent Inter College, Spring Dale College, Jaipuria, Study Hall School and Lucknow Public School. After completing the ten-year secondary phase of their education under the 10+2+3 plan, students typically spend the next two years either in junior colleges or in schools with senior secondary facilities, during which their studies become more focused. They select a stream of study— liberal arts, commerce, science, or, less commonly, vocational. Upon completion, those who choose to continue, either study for a 3-year undergraduate degree at a college, or a professional degree in law, engineering, or medicine.
Notable higher education or research institutes in Lucknow include Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) (Formerly: Industial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC)), Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (IISR) and Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleobotany and Bhartendu Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Lucknow has traditionally been a sports-loving city. In the past pehlwani, kabbadi, chess, kite flying, pigeon flying, and cock fighting were popular pastimes. For decades Lucknow hosted the prestigious Sheesh Mahal Cricket Tournament. Today cricket, football, badminton, golf and hockey are among the most popular sports in the city. Gulli Danda has become a benchmark for the youth to achieve.
The main sports hub is the K. D. Singh Babu Stadium which also has a world-class swimming and indoor games complex. The other stadiums are at Charbagh, Mahanagar, Chowk and Sports College.
The Lucknow Golf Club, on the sprawling greens of La Martinière College, is one of the most famous golf courses in India.
The city has a good record in modern sports and has produced several national and world-class sporting personalities. Lucknow sports hostel has produced international-level cricketers such as Mohammed Kaif, Piyush Chawla, Suresh Raina and R. P. Singh. Other famous sports personalities include hockey Olympians K. D. Singh, Mohammed Shahid and Ghaus Mohammad Khan, the tennis player who became the first Indian to reach the quarter finals at Wimbledon.
An inspiration for films
Lucknow has been a major influence on the Hindi film industry of India and it would be true to say that without the Lakhnavi touch, Bollywood would not have been what it is today. Many script writers and lyricists hailing from Awadh like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kaifi Azmi, Javed Akhtar Ali Raza, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Dr. Kumud Nagar, Dr. Achala Nagar Wajahat Mirza (writer of Mother India and Ganga Jamuna), Amritlal Nagar, Ali Sardar Jafri and K. P. Saxena have enriched Indian Cinema.
Moreover, several famous movies have used Lucknow as their backdrop, such as Shashi Kapoor’s Junoon, Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan and Gaman, Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi. Ismail Merchant’s Shakespeare Wallah was also partly shot in Lucknow.
Bahu Begum, Mehboob ki Mehndi, Mere Hazoor, Mere Mehboob, Chaudhvin Ka Chand, Pakeezah, Main Meri Patni Aur Woh, Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, Saher, Anwar and many more films have either been shot in Lucknow or have Lakhnavi backdrops.