This omnibus brings together, for the first time, three well-known works on the history and culture of one of India's premier cities during colonial rule. Together they examine the complex relationship between the British and the Nawabi, which resulted in the legendary 'pomp and refinement' of Lucknow.
Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture by Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926) is the translation of a collection of essays which first appeared in the journal Dil Gudaz in Urdu from 1913 onwards. The essays describe the culture and way of life of the people of Lucknow during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This classic work has long been recognized as the most authentic and circumstantial account of its subject.
In A Fatal Friendship: The Nawabs, the British and the City of Lucknow, Rosie Llewellyn-Jones examines the fascinating interaction between two cultures--the Britisb and the Nawabi. Besides touching on the political aspects of Nawabi rule in the province of Oudh, the author discusses the ethos and architecture of Lucknow in its heydey: between the period of the first Nawab in the early eighteenth century, and the last Nawab who was deposed by the British in 1856.
The Making of Colonial Lucknow challenges conventional views about the extent of British intervention in India after the Mutiny. Veena Talwar Oldenburg contends that the supposedly neutral political, economic, and physical changes made in the city at that time constituted an aggressive attempt at controlling the population. Positing the reconstruction of Lucknow as a paradigm of urbanization in the mid-nineteenth century colonial setting, the author suggests that such changes continue to be accepted by Indian administrators even today.
Taken together, these three well-researched books provide different yet complementary points of view on the history and culture of Lucknow at a time when the city and its court saw the late Mughal civilization reach the peak of its splendour and sophistication.
In Prefaces written especially for this edition, the authors situate their works in today's context, thus underlining their continuing relevance.
Abdul Halim Sharar (1869-1926) was an essayist and historian of Lucknow. His writings have been translated and edited by (the late) Colonel E. S. Harcourt who served in the British army and lived for many years in Lucknow; and Dr. Fakhir Hussain who belongs to an eminent literary family of Lucknow, and whose most prominent members are discussed by Sharar in the present work.
Rosie Llewellyn-Jones is Archives, Records and Conferments Officer at South Bank University, London.
Veena Talwar Oldenburg is Professor of History at Baruch College and The Graduate Centre of The City University of New York.
Like all civilizations, the Indo-Mughal was grounded in a powerful set of ideas related to a specific social context. These ideas, expressed in institutions, ceremonies, ritual and language, underlined a markedly class-based society that, however unrepresentative and elitist, was in itself cohesive and harmonious. But inevitably, such a civilization could not remain static. New forces emerged, old ideas were challenged and the framework of the established order was disturbed. It is on this period of Indo-Muslim civilization, at its zenith which was also its last phase, when its centre was transferred from Delhi to Lucknow that the present work concentrates. In Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture, the essayist, historian and novelist Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926), himself a native of Lucknow, describes in detail many aspects of this civilization and particularly its more tangible manifestations in everyday life. In effect, he also deals with the religious, political and socio-economic patterns on which it was based; and the power of those ideas which provided its vitality. Whatever aspects he is dealing with, he makes the importance of the underlying ideas very clear. When they were powerful, so was the society embodying them; when they declined, so also did the society, though of course there were many other contributory factors.
The Indo-Mughal civilization developed during the long reign of the Mughal Emperors. These Mongol-Turks, who originally came from Central Asia, established themselves in 1526/7 in parts of north India and later expanded their empire in the sub-continent. Their rule effectively lasted until the middle of the eighteenth century, though it nominally continued until 1857. It is generally agreed that it reached its peak during the reign of kbar(1556-1605),and started to show signs of decay during the rule of Aurangzeb (1658-1707), Thereafter, military and political strife became rampant in the capital as 'Well as in other parts of the empire. The ensuing turmoil was brought about by the rapid rise and fall of many rulers in Delhi and those parts of the empire that had become independent. The chaos was quickly exploited by invaders from the north-east and political unrest did not end until the British gradually began to intervene. They became de facto rulers of Bengal in 1764. It took them another century, however, to establish themselves throughout the sub-continent.
The Mughals were the last group of invading Muslims who brought with them to India their own distinctive religious ideas, Islamic customs and social institutions. The contact of Islam with India had begun long before the Mughals' arrival, and Muslims had even established themselves as kings in parts of north India before 1526/7: consequently the Mughals' impact was far more profound than that of their predecessors. In part this was due to the longevity of their dynasty. But more particularly it was due to the new social style, religious spirit and system of administration which they introduced. However, the new home of the Mughals also had a civilization of its own, which was later to have important repercussions.
The Indus Valley civilization, as it is known today, existed in parts of the north-west of India in the third millennium before Christ. These people were invaded by the Aryans, who are presumed to have come from southern Russia. They conquered the non-Aryans, fought among themselves, looked after their cattle and organized pastoral life in villages. 'It was they who gave us the gift of the Sanskrit language, the horse and a religion'. Indeed, the all-embracing influence of the Aryans still survives, since the Rig Veda, the book of their religious beliefs concerning the thirty-three Gods and ritual practices, remains the most Holy Scripture in India up to the present day. This survived from one generation to the next through oral tradition, and there later developed from it the texts known as Brahmanas, which concern the correct performance of rituals. By 1500 BC the Aryans had extended their rule to the present region of Delhi. Their civilization seems to have reached its high-point with the legends of their wars and high-minded warriors which became the subject of the national epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. From the Aryan sense of values evolved a pattern of social organization having a strict code of behaviour, with ideas of moral and physical courage at its centre. Aryan values dominated India almost totally until the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries when the Muslims became dominant in the north of India. Even after their arrival, however, these values remained supreme for the non- Muslims and are still important today.
The source of this value system was the religious spirit formalized in the Rig Veda: polytheism and incipient monotheism with leanings towards pantheism, and a constant concern for correct ritual. This gave rise to the study and development of the books of revelation, the four Vedas, the Upanishads, explaining the doctrines of Brahman, Karma and Atman-creation and re-birth in the process of life and death-as well as a body of literature which elucidated these doctrines, such as the Sastras and the law codes of Manu. In addition, there was the Bhagavad-Gita dealing with the manifold aspects of religion in relation to the complexities of everyday life, and also the literature propounding the Buddhist and Jain view-points. From these major sources Hindu philosophy developed over the course of centuries. Since most of this literature was in Sanskrit, the language flourished, both as the vehicle of intellectual discourse and because of its rich literary merit. In society at large, therefore, a respect for education and learning developed which culminated in the rise of universities such as Nalanda (near Patna) between 415 and 456. Religious sentiment found new forms of expression in temple architecture, sculpture and painting, characteristically to be seen in such outstanding achievements as the rock temple of Ellora, the wall paintings of Ajanta and the carved lions at Sarnath, which have now been adopted by the Republic as the government seal. To attain self-realization an individual had to follow dharma, duty of wisdom in action, which in turn was subdivided into artha, economic duty, kama, the duty of the preservation of the race, and moksa, the duty towards the self. These duties were related to the four stages of an individual's life. The underlying idea was that life is a preparation for salvation-a notion that was further developed by Buddhism. The last message of Gautama the Buddha (d. 483 or 543 BC) was: 'Decay is inherent in all component things, work out your salvation with diligence.
Social organization was based on the notion of 'caste'. By virtue of birth people became members of a fixed social group, their caste determining both their occupation and their choice of marriage-partners. There were four castes which ranked in hierarchical order. Among Aryans, the Brahman, teacher and preacher of the sacred lore, was at the top, followed by Kshatriya, the soldier administrator, and Vaisya, the farmer artisan. The non-Aryan Sudra was assigned the task of serving the higher castes through menial work. This system was opposed by the Buddhists and Jains. They strongly attacked the caste system-an opposition which was revived in recent times by Gandhi who also attempted to integrate the lowest caste into the general social order. (Today, of course, it is a criminal offence in India to discriminate on grounds of caste.) But Indians with this background experienced a long-drawn-out encounter, beginning in the early thirteenth century, with another group which had a different religion, set of beliefs and social institutions-the Muslims.
'There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.' With this message, Muhammad (born about 571) began to call the faithful. His aim was to restore and complete through his religion, Islam (which means 'I submit to the will of God'), the religion of Abraham. This was at a time when people in the land of Abraham had lapsed into polytheism and Christianity. Having consolidated his position in Mecca and Medina through converts and peace treaties with the Jewish and Christian tribal leaders, Muhammad planned to take the message of Islam into neighbouring lands. At the time of his death in 632, the Arabs had found a superior faith and morality.
Muhammad was the last 'messenger of God' to his followers. He prescribed what was right and wrong for his people on God's authority and was the supreme judge of all religious, social and political matters. No wonder, then, that the doctrine of Islam, along with Hadis, the tradition of the Prophet, provides a code of human conduct embracing all aspects of life on earth. Additionally, Muhammad was a practical leader, an organizer and an efficient military strategist. The result was that Islam did not remain simply a religious doctrine, but became a powerful political force as well, with deep socio-economic over- tones; religion therefore became all-embracing. From the religious point of view Islam is total submission to the will of Allah, who has stated comprehensively the desirable and the non-desirable aspects of human conduct. His word is embodied in the Quran (Koran) which was revealed to Muhammad over a period of time through the archangel Gabriel. Islamic dogmas and beliefs have three aspects: iman, religious belief; ibadat, act of worship, religious duty; and iman, right doing. All these are embraced by the term din, religion, Iman means belief in God, the Quran, the Day of Judgement, and Muhammad as God's messenger on earth. Ibadat includes the five religious duties of profession of faith, prayer, alms-giving, fasting and pilgrimage, to which Holy War was later added.
The religious, political and socio-economic totality of Islam remained externally intact between 632 and 661 (the period of the four Caliphs). The orthodox successors to Muhammad, the Caliphs were religious leaders as well as heads of government with total responsibility for political and military affairs. Under their rule Muslims began to extend their power-base; initially to Palestine and Iraq in 632-4, then later to Syria between 633 and 640 and finally to Mesopotamia in 637 and Egypt in 642. Shortly afterwards they spread eastwards and established themselves with the help of local converts in Persia, western Turkestan and part of the Punjab. In less than half a century, half the civilized world from Spain to the borders of China was in the hands of the Muslims, unified by the young, dynamic culture of Islam. At the core of Islamic civilization were religious beliefs which transcended geographical boundaries as well as diverse social and national groups. Islamic obligations, practices and institutions provided the source of supreme values through which Arab; Turkish and Persian traditions could be blended together.
The initial consolidation of the Islamic territories under the Umayyad Dynasty (683-743) was followed by the Abbasides (750-1258) in Baghdad when political stability paved the way for major intellectual and social achievements. This is the Golden Period of Islamic history. The dominant elements helping to shape these achievements were, first, the Arabs, with their social institutions, knowledge of mathematics and astronomy and the Arabic language, which was the language not only of the Holy Book but also of the bulk of Islamic religious literature; secondly, the Turks who brought with them intellectual and social etiquette; and finally, the Persians with their poetic temperament, court manners and ideas about moral and social elegance. 'An Arab henceforth became one who professed Islam and spoke and wrote the Arab tongue, regardless of racial affiliation. This is one of the most significant facts in the history of Islamic civilization.... "Arab medicine", "Arab philosophy" or "Arab mathematics" is a body of knowledge in Arabic during the Caliphate held by men who are themselves Persians, Syrians, Egyptians or Arabians, Christian, Jewish or Moslem who may have drawn some of their material from Greek, Aramaean, Indo-Persian or other sources. This fusion brought forth a rich intellectual harvest with advances in the fields of medicine, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, alchemy, geography, history and Arabic literature. Along with this a pattern of living evolved which paid due attention to home life, furniture, hygiene and pastimes based upon ideas of elegant living. Both the religious-based intellectualism and the patterns of gracious living were carried by the Muslims wherever they went.
In 1972 I visited Lurknow for a week during a degree course in Urdu at London University. Attracted there by reading Maulana Sharar's Guzashta Laknau, his romanticized picture made the nawabi city appeal to me as a place worth seeing for a few days. Little of the city he described so nostalgically remained, though the battered palaces and the ruined Residency site hinted at a town of more solid importance than he had drawn. Oddly, no serious guide books were available to the casual tourist and those found concentrated almost solely on the siege of the city in 1857, as though the town had only briefly sprung into existence and faded from the map during a single year. True, there was mention of earlier nawabi buildings like the Great Imambara and brief references to the extraordinary Indo-European palaces of the eccentric Frenchman Claude Martin, but nothing of real worth to satisfy the mind and explain the origins and demise of so many fine buildings in and around the city. Returning to London I sought out the guide books I could not find in India, only to realize that what I wanted did not exist. So curiosity impelled me to begin my own researches in 1974.
There was no lack of descriptions of the city by western writers, beginning with the commentary of Jose ph Tieffenthaler, a Jesuit priest, in 1766, but followed over the next two hundred years by such a torrent of criticism of the architecture and social mores of Lucknow (one nineteenth-century writer solemnly compared it to Sodom and Gomorrah) that at times it seemed impossible to reconcile the two Lucknows-the battered and melancholic old city that exists today and the glittering, wicked one lost forever after the British annexation of Oudh in 1856.
How could mere buildings excite such vituperation from writers, politicians and architects? Why was such a dreadful revenge visited on speechless monuments of brick and stucco when the British East India Company marched in as victors in 1858? Gradually I perceived that the answer lay in the fact that Lucknow's buildings were the outward symbol of what the British imagined to be wrong with the city and what the nawabs believed to be right and beautiful. Simply stated, this premise became honed and refined during the course of research until I arrived at the term 'political architecture' to de- scribe urban buildings erected during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by both Indian rulers (the nawabs) and putative rulers (the Company).
Though only one town was examined, similar studies of Indian towns during this period would undoubtedly exhibit many of the same motives for the development of a colonial city. But by a happy chance Lucknow was an almost perfect microcosm of a city in transition during that 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 such a city before total colonial control was assumed. A hundred years earlier and Lucknow would have been no more than a medieval curiosity like Jaunpur. A hundred years later the nawabi dynasty could not have existed. It is the interplay between the nawabs and the Company, each jostling to impose their own world view on Lucknow, which continues to fascinate.
The British contribution itself was made up of three separate elements which are closely examined in this book-the need for a military base (at first nominally under the nawabs' command), a civic and administrative centre for the expanding activities of the British Resident (again originally under the nawabs' auspices) and the eclectic talents of the European adventurers who rightly judged Lucknow to be a richly exploitable city. The ascension and decline of all these elements (except that of British civic administration after 1856), which can be traced in the city's buildings over the last two hundred years, as well as the gradual usurpation of nawabi authority by the British and consequent slipping away of real power from the Indian rulers, demonstrated by the city's buildings, would have provided sufficient material for a book. But two other important facets emerged that are perhaps the most intriguing of all. Given the furious though ultimately unsuccessful attempts of the nawabs to slough off British interference in the city's affairs, why did they at the same time wish to flatter and impress the west with their own interpretations of 'classical' European architecture, so that by the mid-nineteenth century Lucknow often reminded Europeans of handsome western cities like Oxford, Dresden or Leningrad, albeit with an 'Oriental' touch? In some cases, as will be shown, the nawabs had been blackmailed and coerced into creating such buildings, often to the direct advantage of the East India Company, who subsequently used them for their own purposes. But there were many other 'classical' structures erected entirely spontaneously by the nawabs, who would co-opt Company engineers for their construction. The nawabs' motives are carefully considered in this book, but if one was to engage in the fruitless task of apportioning blame for the demise of the city as an indigenous organism one would have to indict the nawabs almost as much as the British for their vacillating, half-hearted attempt to keep the city purely Indian. It was as if the nawabs had said: 'we can create our own vision of a nineteenth century European city more splendid than the Company officials could imagine or execute'. And they did. Unhampered by spatial considerations or social concerns they neglected the old medieval city of Lucknow to produce a series of handsome palaces, religious buildings, gardens and broad streets along the banks of the river Gomti. But ironically their beautification of Lucknow (as they perceived it) attracted some of the bitterest criticism from European commentators and led ultimately to the semi-ruinous state of much of the southern Gomti bank today.
A few years ago a friend of mine who was preparing herself for her first visit to Lucknow, a city three hundred miles southeast of Delhi, said: "I can't find a history book that mentions Lucknow after the Mutiny of 1857. Has nothing new happened there since?" The remark took me by sur- prise. It made me wonder why Lucknow ceased to be the stage for momentous events in the latter half of the nineteenth century, even though it remained the fourth largest city in British India. There were other related and equally perplexing questions: Why do present-day Lakhnawis still draw upon the nawabi epoch to speak of the greatness of their city? Why is Lucknow more of a "state of mind," with its reputation for culture and refinement invoked in innumerable anecdotes, but so hard to substantiate from the existing reality? Its crumbling nawabi monuments have not earned it a place on the official tourist map of India; people visit it chiefly for business with the state bureaucracy. This uneventfulness is also true of some other once-great cities of the northern plain where the mutiny raged in 1857. Once aroused, this morbid curiosity about the "death" of a city provoked me to probe the issues that form the core of this work: What wrought the far-reaching changes in Lucknow's political, social, and economic structures? Can the history of Lucknow after 1857 tell us something about the history of other Indian cities? Can it explain the basic trends in city planning and government today?
I began my fieldwork in 1976. The "Emergency" declared by Indira Gandhi was in full evidence: the elected municipal council had been suspended and a professional administrator was in command of civic government; there was talk among bureaucrats of all ranks of the pleasures of governing the city without "interference" from the elected representatives of the citizens of Lucknow; one heard a great deal about "discipline," "the rule of law," cleanliness, and the serious hazards of disloyalty to the Emergency Raj. This set me digging for the roots of present-day Lucknow and, to my growing horror, I discovered indeed that the colonial prescriptions for the built environment still haunt the counsels of present-day administrators and city planners. Even the government of 1976 demonstrated that it was best geared to cope with a political crisis, real or imagined (this time the mysterious crisis that prompted the "Emergency"). The crisis-oriented machinery of government created after the mutiny is still intact and kept well oiled.
After Lucknow was recaptured by the British, the key-stone of imperial urban policy was laid: the crucial first step in the process of reconsolidation of power was to hold firmly the principal city in the province, the seat of regional authority in Oudh. Here they were to perfect a system of political, economic, and social control that would make future mutinies impossible. This system also served as a model for the organization of smaller towns in Oudh that were centers of indigenous local authority.
In the next two decades thoughts and energies were devoted to evaluating the failure of past policies and to hammering out fresh, bold ones to bolster the shaken foundations of the Raj in Oudh. The crisis left its mark on policy and praxis, and in its lengthening shadow the urban world of Lucknow was transformed. This study, it should be reiterated, concentrates on examining the mechanism of this transformation in the nawabi city of Lucknow-the urban aftermath, as it were, of revolt.
Civic planning in a gunpowder-treason-and-plot era naturally reflected the insecurity and fear that pervaded the European community. Those who understood the task of evolving a more effective form of government in the city were determined to create a rebellion-proof environment that would restore the confidence of the ruling class and make the capital a solid base from which the rest of the province could easily be governed and the revenue collected. An astute summation of the situation was ottered by the financial commissioner of Oudh: "If Lucknow, the most important city in Upper India next to Delhi, could be held," he stated, "and the British flag still made to float over the battered seat of the British authority in Oudh, the effect would be immense."! The goal was unambiguous: it took the zeal of single-minded military bureaucrats to achieve it.
Three imperatives came to dominate policy, determine legislation, and supply the rationale for action in the urban context: safety, sanitation, and loyalty. During the ten horrible months of revolt, the city of Lucknow had demonstrated to the British that it was physically impossible to defend, that its insanitary conditions had nurtured disease which had claimed a large number of European lives, and that virtually all of its citizens were tainted in varying degrees by rebelliousness. Nothing was more urgent, therefore, than to make it safe, clean, and loyal-three themes, therefore, rather than chronology, that order this book.
The first chapter introduces the historical setting and British perceptions of the nawabi city: its frightening maze of narrow streets and blind alleys, its "hostile" population, its incompetent kings, and finally the traumatic days of the siege. From the point of view of the new rulers the city, first of all, had to be safe. The danger perceived was not from external attack but from internal conspiracy, rebellion, or sabotage. The second chapter examines in detail the military plans to improve civic defences and communications, the construction of the cantonment and civil station, with the new sections of the city juxtaposed to the half-ruined old, and the emerging colonial morphological pattern. If the structure of the old city made the battle more grim and prolonged the siege, the traumatic experience of the siege would exert a profound influence on the new urban form. The extent of the actual demolitions in the city, its colonial-style rebuilding, and whether, in fact, this made the city safe for its new rulers form the substance of this chapter.
Cleanliness was the Victorian shorthand for variety of related concerns: morbidity, disease, sanitation, salubrity, drainage, conservancy, "social disease," hospitals, water supply, vegetation, clean air, parks, gardens, density and overcrowding. Indian cities were notoriously "unhealthy," and Lucknow was particularly so. Disease had accounted for a greater number of European dead than had enemy action. These concerns were articulated in institutional form, but questions remain of whether the civic government was effective in making the entire city clean and what the financial and social costs of implementing these new policies were. These major issues are discussed in the third, fourth, and fifth chapters, with special emphasis on the evolution of a centralized civil authority, its major activities, and civic taxation as important features of colonial urban development. An attempt will be made to describe, wherever the available evidence permits, the ways in which the new government impinged upon the lives of ordinary citizens. Colonial policies will be evaluated for their overall effect on the local population as well as for the extent to which they fulfilled the goals of their initiators.
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