Lucknow is known as a city of dreams, and 160 years after the elegant court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, there are almost as many different ways of interpreting it, as there were dreamers. Splendid buildings in brick that have witnessed centuries of history, the chime of temple bells, the call of the muezzin, the magical strains of thumri, the soulful lyrics of ghazals, the expressive grace of Kathak dance, the exquisite crafts, the delicate flavours of cuisine-all these are part of the fascinating city of Lucknow. The famed nazaakat and nafaasat, go hand-in-hand with the marvellous buildings in Indo-Saracenic style.
Lucknow: The City of Heritage and Culture takes us on many journeys through a bygone era, exploring the passions and aesthetics of the people of Awadh. It features over 100 colour photographs and minute architectural drawings that recreate the splendour of Lucknow's historic monuments.
VIPUL B. VARSHNEY is a multi-talented architect, whose portfolio covers a wide range of projects in India as well as Mauritius. She has designed and executed some of India's most renowned projects-from a township outside Mumbai for an urban diaspora to public buildings and hospitals.
She is Convenor-INTACH, Lucknow chapter; Adviser, National Scientific committee ICOMOS, India; and an avid lover of the fine arts and India's rich heritage. She is the author of two books Lucknow-A Treasure, and Shaam- e-Awadh-A Visual journey, as well as 50 research papers and numerous articles for national dailies and international conferences. She had been a technical adviser of the Lucknow Mahotsava Committee to the Government of U.P. and also in the Heritage Regulation Drafting Committee for Lucknow Master Plan 2021. She has also been a visiting faculty at her alma mater and Professor-Design Chair at Integral University, Lucknow.
She is the recipient of many awards including U.P. Ratan 2013, Ganj Carnival Award-Shakti Samman 2015, Heritage Award 2016 from U.P. Government, Hindustan Times Women Achiever's Award-2013 nominee, and A3 Foundation-Excellence in Architectural Journalism 2016.
AJAISH JAISWAL is a hotelier by profession and a photographer by passion. Born and brought up in Lucknow, he completed his schooling from St. Francis College, Lucknow.
Under the guidance of his guru Shri Ravi Kapoor, in the best guru-shishya (teacher-pupil) tradition, he held five solo exhibitions from 2012 to 2016 on the famous Asafi Imambara built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah, and also produced a calendar each year based on those images. As a food photographer, he has contributed to a book Chicken from my Kitchen, in association with Mrs Pankaj Bhadauria, India's first master chef.
The history of Lucknow does not begin in 1775 with the nawabs anymore than it ended with the First War of Independence in 1857. Mythology dates Lucknow back to the satyug period of the Ramayana and the settlement of Lakshmanpur. Lucknow is one of those eternal cities of India that need not be bracketed between the extravaganza of the nawabs and the expediency of Company raj only. Those perhaps were the best of times when royal pleasure boats and exotic goods from other parts of world sailed down the now-deserted Gomti. But the heart and soul of the city thrives in the bylanes of its chowks and bazaars, in its arts and crafts, in its historic monuments and relics, in its secular and religious institutions, not to forget the famous Awadh cuisine.
Today Lucknow is a city in transition. A book on the Heritage Walks of Lucknow, is an important endeavour to take people on a walk through history, and to remind them of its glorious past. I extend my good wishes to architect and urban planner Vipul B. Varshney for bringing out this book as a culmination of the listing and documentation undertaken by the Lucknow Chapter. It will sensitise citizens to the rich heritage they own, and help to safeguard the vistages of bygone eras.
LUCKNOW, IN SPIRIT AND soul, is about the abundance of all things fine and fragile. The city is recognised as an epitome of arts, culture, sophistication and beauty. This is manifest not only in the city's many magnificent monuments but is an intrinsic part of its lifestyle, such as its elegant speech and delicacy of etiquette. The aesthetic merit of cultural heritage can be a subject of debate; however, what is pertinent is there still exists in the city a narration of cultural pride, which has survived with significant aspects of its traditional tehzeeb.
Cities, the world over are believed by their inhabitants to have a distinct character of their own. What precisely is this 'character'? Is it in a city's monuments and buildings, its streets and alleys, its market places and restaurants? Or is the character of a city linked to the kind of lifestyle and pattern of living it allows for its inhabitants and visitors? It is actually all these elements together that create a city's identity.
Lucknow was an almost perfect microcosm of a city in transition during the period of British intervention. It was a flourishing medieval city. It received a tremendous impetus with the arrival from Iran of the nawabi family, which brought vigorous new ideas and culture at the exact time when they had enough political freedom and unlimited wealth to impose their values on the city. It also provided a prime example of British interference in a city before total colonial control was assumed. It is the interplay between the nawabs and the British East India Company, each jostling to impose their own world view on Lucknow, which fascinates.
Given the weight of all these foreign elements, can the 'real' Lucknow be said to have existed at all? Home to a largely Hindu population, with a Sunni minority, old Lucknow was built on a number of small hills south of the river Gomti. Lakshmanawati was known as the western gateway of the fortress of the ancient kingdom of Kaushal, one of the important centers of the past. Because of the presence of the 'Aadi Ganges'-the Gomti river- Lucknow was known as 'Chhoti Kaashi'. Till 1000 B.C., pilgrims used to visit this great shrine to the west of the river, where Kaundilya Rishi's ashram was situated, now known as 'Kudiya Ghat'. Lucknow is the one of the 10 centres of the Aryans who came to India in ancient times. The remains of the Shunga period and the Kushana period, with the bricks of the Gupta period have been also found here. In the 12th century during the attacks of Muslim invaders, the Shesh Teerth temple and the adjoining areas were damaged drastically. Despite that, worship continued without any hindrance. Lakshmanji is supposed to be the first worshipper of Shivalaya here.
After 1775, when the Nawabi Court moved from Faizabad to Lucknow, the Nawabs built almost entirely along the banks of the river, for the ground was level enough for their large palace complexes and extravagant vistas. There were a few buildings of note before their arrival, including the Aurangzeb mosque on Lakshman Tila, the Chowk, various ganj's and the oddly-named Firangi Mahal, which had first housed members of the East India Company in the middle of the 17th century.
As part of a deliberate attempt to step out from the shadow of his deceased father, Shuja-ud-Daula, the young Nawab Asaf-ud-daula, quickly began altering and improving the Macchi Bhawan. Immediately adjacent to it, he created the Bara or Asafi Imambara and the magnificent Rumi Darwaza. Although Asaf-ud-Daula and his wives were buried here, the primary function of an imambara is not that of a tomb, but a place for Shi'as to gather, particularly during Moharram, the period of mourning for the martyrs Hussain and Hasan. This art of expressing grief, Sozkhwani, became unique to Lucknow and evolved with time. In less than a decade Asaf-ud-daula had established Lucknow as the foremost Shia city in India. The enormous physical changes in Lucknow during this first decade were the most obvious sign that the foreign nawabs were bringing with them new ideas, new fashions, new architecture and a new culture. Ironically, though the nawabs had been appointed subedars of Awadh by the Mughals, their fortunes rose as Delhi waned, attracting artists, poets and craftsmen of all kinds who were looking for patronage.
He learnt about the European style from the French advisors at his father's court. Prominent among these was Antoine Polier, employed by Shuja-ud-Daula to design and supervise buildings at Faizabad in 1773. Polier introduced the Frenchman, Claude Martin, as a friend and surveyor, to the Lucknow court, and the two impressed the young Asaf-ud-Daula with their descriptions of Europe and its treasures. Martin's last building, unfinished at his death in 1800, was the great house of Constantia to the south-east of the city. Constantia is the single most important European building in Lucknow, one that was to influence nawabi architecture until the city's annexation. Echoes of it appear in the statues that adorned the Kaiser Bagh, gates with their quadrant arches and stucco decorations around the city.
The history of the Awadh dynasty of Shia nawabs of Lucknow was as tortured as it was brief. Their troubled 80-year-long relationship with the British was marked by a very complicated series of successive Governor Generals and Residents employed against the nawabs of Awadh, culminating in the outright takeover of the province. Briefly, Awadh was rich and extensive, and the British longed to control its revenues. The Hussainabad Imambara, Shahnajaf Imambara, Chhattar Manzil, Dilkusha Palace and Saadat Ali's Tomb are some examples of the richness of thought and grand architecture of nawabi rule. The British sought alliances with the strong and able early nawabs, and their ambitions in this region were whetted by the regular morsels received from the nawabs in the shape of military subsidies and loans.
In the 18th century the British, while using Awadh as a buffer against the hostile northwest, steadily nibbled away at its territory and revenues. Several treaties were signed between the nawabs and the British to legitimize the erosion: in 1775 the nawab ceded the Benares region and the revenues of Ghazipur; in 1797 the British absorbed Allahabad and the surrounding region; and in 1801 the nawab formally ceded the lower doab, Gorakhpur, and Rohilkhand. While Awadh shrank in size, the powers of the British Resident grew in inverse proportion.
The last nawab, Wajid Ali Shah began his extravagant masterpiece, the Kaiserbagh Palace, in 1848 and finished it after four years. He was sent into exile a few years later in 1856.
Built in the neo-classical style, Kaiserbagh resembles the conceptually central Asian theme of a walled enclosure with free-standing buildings and pavilions. There were mermaids and mermen, developed from the ancient royal symbol of the fish and, there were a number of unique buildings that have never been attempted again. With its exaggerated sculptures and bright colours, the Kaiserbagh has much in common with the post-modern movement in Europe. But the Lucknow Residency, was the centerpiece of one of the most dramatic sieges of all time and was also one of the key centres of the war of 1857. The long siege of the Residency made the British aware that radical changes were needed in the layout of the city, for their position to be safeguarded. These changes were made with meticulous precision, immediately after the war, and the face of the city was transformed. It is tragic that so much of it was demolished by the British after 1858 and that only a hint remains of its virtuosity and spirit.
Saadat Ali Khan had laid down the new road of Hazratganj, but after 1857, Hazratganj was a processional path, the Queensway, designed to show off the new European-style houses along it, and the Chaupar Stables, built in cruciform shape. It also provided a fitting prelude to the third palace complexes, the Chattar Manzil, which incorporated Martin's old house, Farhat Baksh. The Victorian era witnessed the construction of some of the finest British public buildings in the city. Lishman designed King George Medical College and the Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone on 26 December 1905. Subsequently, Lucknow University was combined with the Medical College and Hospital, Canning College (1909-1911) and the Isabella Thoburn College for women (1923) to create one institution. Though Thoburn College is in the classical style, the other sections of the university were designed by Sir Samuel Jacob who also designed Victoria Memorial and Charbagh Railway Station.
But, a surprisingly large amount of nawabi architecture stands in spite of the tragedy suffered since 1856. Although rich in timber, Awadh lacked building stone. For this reason, Awadh, and Lucknow in particular, developed the art of mimicking stone by using small, thin lakhori bricks, which were then covered in fine stucco. Made from crushed shells, pulses, lime and jaggery, and polished to a sparkling finish, stucco was used both externally and internally. Few examples of marble-like stucco do remain, for instance in the Residency. Pottery was also occasionally used to imitate stone, especially on balustrades, and as ornamentation at parapet level.
As of now, Lucknow-the old and the new, lying adjacent to each other from one end to the other, from the old Hussainabad area to the new Gomti Nagar-can showcase the layers of history within a city with pride, flowing along the river of life, the Gomti. Every ruler and habitue of Lucknow, native or foreign, has contributed, in greater or lesser measure, to the architectural skyline of the city. One can see here some similarity with the way in which Muslim poets were reworking traditional concepts in Persian poetry, where the poet was judged not so much by his originality in choosing new themes but by the way in which he brought fresh interpretations to bear on old and well-listened stories. The beauty of so much Urdu poetry lies in the associations the poet makes with things familiar to the listener, and the skill of the poet is in urging his audience to re-think, and more importantly to reinterpret, the well-known images which may have become mundane by common usage. It does not seem an assumption to assert that this is what some of Lucknow's unknown architects were trying to do-they were reinterpreting the buildings laid down by the early European traders, and this important aspect should be considered different from the simple duplicating which was also being done. The resultant heterogeneity of cultural conceptions and artistic styles could have spelled architectural anarchy for Lucknow. The triumph of harmony and balance in the buildings of Lucknow despite the diverse influences to which their builders were subject, is tribute to its evolved, aesthetic sense.
Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah developed Lucknow in such a manner that it soon earned immense fame and gained celebrity status as 'The City of Palaces and Gardens' .With its newly found identity as a hub of academic pursuits and literary and cultural activities, Lucknow became the cradle of an elegant Ganga Jamuni culture, which promoted respect and tolerance for each other's faith amongst Hindus and Muslims. Nafaasat and nazaakat developed as forms of graceful speech, polite manners, courtesy and etiquette that were synonymous with the name of the city, as were adab and Lakhnavi tehzeeb-the lyrical refined use of language that allowed for poetic conversations, engaging manners and courtly living. The fame of the city attracted literary scholars and writers, poets and composers, calligraphers and scribes, artists and painters, musicians and dancers, and cooks and rikabdars specializing in culinary skills. Master craftsmen of chikan and zardozi embroidery, jewellers, skilled artisans of Zarbuland, Bidri and ivory like bone carving, clay toy makers, who were appreciated and applauded for their proficiency and mastery in their fields, found a home in this city.
Lucknow: The City if Culture and Heritage suggests the heritage walks in the nawabi city that encompass the historic precincts and buildings, features their architectural drawing details and expressive; panoramic photographs, showcasing the structures that almost speak about the melodious music, the ethereal dances, the exquisite crafts, and the exotic cuisine, which are all part of the intrinsic Lucknow lifestyle-the splendour with the grandeur !
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