Sie sind auf Seite 1von 139

Mark e l

India’s Fabled City:
The Art of Courtly Lucknow
Stephen Markel, Ph.D., is the curator and department
Stephen Markel with Tushara Bindu Gude
head of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art. Project director for this publica-
tion and its accompanying exhibition, he has also curated
numerous exhibitions and published widely on South Asian This is the first book to explore fully the opulent art and
decorative art, sculpture, and painting. refined lifestyle of Lucknow, a cosmopolitan Indo-Islamic-
European capital in northern India that flourished in the
Tushara Bindu Gude is associate curator in the South and
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Southeast Asian Art department at LACMA and co-curator
Cultural successor to the resplendent Mughal Empire
of the exhibition India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly
and fated to succumb to British imperial expansion,
Lucknow. She received her Ph.D. in art history from the
Lucknow was home to some of the most vibrant artistic

India’s Fabled Cit y: The Art of courtly

University of California, Los Angeles.
expression of its time, encompassing an unusually wide

• range of mediums. The city fostered a rare intersection of
South Asian and European traditions, as well as Persian
Muzaffar Alam is George V. Bobrinskoy Professor in
and Islamic influences, and the court of the ruling
South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the Univer-
nawabs was a showcase of sophisticated cultural diversity
sity of Chicago.
at its most magnificent.
Catherine Asher is a professor in the department of art India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow
history at the University of Minnesota. includes comprehensive introductory essays by Los
Angeles County Museum of Art curators Stephen Markel
Rosemary Crill is a senior curator for South Asia at the
and Tushara Bindu Gude, and contributions by nine addi-
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
tional scholars on multiple aspects of Lucknow’s cultural
Sophie Gordon is curator of the Royal Photograph heritage. This beautifully designed volume features more
Collection, United Kingdom. than 250 sumptuous illustrations, including oil paintings,
album paintings, illustrated historical and religious
rosie Llewellyn-Jones is an independent scholar special-
manuscripts, textiles and garments, photographs, and
izing in the history of India from the eighteenth to the
decorative art objects such as ornate metalwork, glass-
twentieth century.
ware, and jewelry. Period photographs provide an
Peter Manuel teaches ethnomusicology at the Graduate incredible architectural survey, and major essays cover
Center of the City University of New York. the literary and musical cultures of Lucknow.
A true feast for the senses and intellect, India’s Fabled
Carla Petievich , executive director of the Hoshyar
City offers an illuminating account of a uniquely luxuri-
Foundation, is professor emerita of history, Montclair
ant and dynamic culture, which lives on today as an

India’s Fabled City

State University, and visiting professor at the South Asia
emblem of a lost past while serving as a cultural model
Institute, University of Texas.
and source of national pride.
Malini roy is a visual arts curator at the British Library.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam
Indian History at UCLA .
is professor and Doshi Chair of

The Art of Courtly

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

DelMonico Books•Prestel
Delmonico front: 16. Mir Kalan Khan, Lovers in a Landscape (detail), c. 1760 –70
Printed in China · Back: 21. A Dancer Balances a Bottle, c. 1770
Pr e stel
India’s Fabled Cit y

The Art of Courtly


India’s Fabled Cit y

The Art of Courtly

Stephen Markel
with Tushara Bindu Gude

and contributions by
Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam
Catherine Asher
rosemary Crill
Sophie Gordon
rosie Llewellyn-Jones
Peter Manuel
Carla Petievich
Malini roy

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

DelMonico Books • Prestel Munich berlin London New York

2 3
4 5
Contents Foreword
Michael Govan...................................8

The Dynastic History of Lucknow

Stephen Markel.......................................................................................... 14

India's Fabled City: Narratives of an Exhibition

Tushara Bindu Gude.................................................................................. 24

Lucknow and European Society

Rosie Llewellyn-Jones................................................................................ 55

Hybrid Visions: The Cultural Landscape

of Awadh
Tushara Bindu Gude.................................................................................. 69

Innovations Pious and Impious:

Expressive culture in Nawabi Lucknow
Carla Petievich......................................................................................... 103

Lucknow’s Architectural Heritage

Catherine Asher....................................................................................... 121
This book was published in conjunction with the exhibition India’s Fabled City: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Art of Courtly Lucknow, which was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum Head of Publications: Nola Butler “A Sacred Interest”: The role of
of Art and supported in part by grants from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Editor in Chief: Thomas Frick Photography in The “City of Mourning”
Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The book was made possible Editor: Joseph N. Newland, Q.E.D.
Sophie Gordon.......................................................................................... 145
in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support for the exhibition Designer: Jin Son
and book was provided by the Southern Asian Art Council, LACMA. Supervising Photographer: Peter Brenner
Production Manager: Karen Knapp Origins of The Late Mughal Painting
Rights and Reproductions Coordinator: Cheryle T. Robertson Tradition in Awadh
Proofreader: Dianne Woo Malini Roy................................................................................................ 165
Indexer: Kathleen Preciado

Exhibition Itinerary: Of Princes and Poets in

Los Angeles County Museum of Art December 12, 2010–February 27, 2011 Copublished by the Eighteenth-Century Lucknow
Musée national des Arts asiatiques–Guimet, Paris April 6–July 11, 2011 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam............................................ 187
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data “This Blaze of Wealth and Magnificence”:
Markel, Stephen. The Luxury Arts of Lucknow
India’s fabled city : the art of courtly Lucknow / Stephen Markel ; with Tushara Stephen Markel........................................................................................ 199
Bindu Gude and contributions by Muzaffar Alam ... [et al.]. -- 1st ed. DelMonico Books, an imprint of Prestel Publishing
p. cm. Prestel, a member of Verlagsgruppe Random House GmbH
Textiles and Dress in Lucknow in The
Catalog issued in connection with an exhibition held Dec. 12, 2010-Feb. 27, 2011,
Prestel Verlag Prestel Publishing Ltd. Prestel Publishing
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, and Apr. 6-July 11, 2011, Musée Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Königinstrasse 9 4 Bloomsbury Place 900 Broadway, Suite 603
Guimet, Paris.
80539 Munich London WC1A 2QA New York, NY 10003
Rosemary Crill......................................................................................... 227
ISBN 978-3-7913-5075-2 (hardcover)
Germany United Kingdom Tel: 212 995 2720
1. Art, Indic--India--Lucknow--Exhibitions. 2. Art, Indic--India--Oudh--Exhibi- Music in Lucknow’s Gilded Age
Tel: 49 89 242908 300 Tel: 44 20 7323 5004 Fax: 212 995 2733
tions. 3. Art and society--India--Lucknow--Exhibitions. 4. Art and society--India-
Fax: 49 89 242908 335 Fax: 44 20 7636 8004 E-mail: Peter Manuel............................................................................................ 243
-Oudh--Exhibitions. I. Gude, Tushara Bindu. II. Alam, Muzaffar. III. Los
E-mail: Email: sales@
Angeles County Museum of Art. IV. Musée Guimet (Paris, France) V. Title.
N7308.L83M37 2010
Printing and binding: Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., China
2010027701 Checklist of the Exhibition............252
ISBN: 978-3-7913-5075-2 Jacket front: 16. Mir Kalan Khan, Lovers in a Landscape (detail), c. 1760–70 Selected Bibliography....................262
© 2010 Museum Associates, Los Angeles County Museum of Art Jacket Back: 21. A Dancer Balances a Bottle, c. 1770
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any Page 2: 4. A Turkish Sultana (detail), c. 1810–20 Acknowledgments..........................264
form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or Pages 4–5: 157. Mir Kalan Khan, A Royal Lion Hunt at Allahabad, c. 1760–65
Lenders to the Exhibition.............266
any other information storage and retrieval system or otherwise, without written Page 6: 156. Women’s Dancing Party, c. 1780
permission from the publisher. Page 9: 118. Style of Mihr Chand, A Partridge and an Iris, c. 1765–85 Index.............................................268

6 7

India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow is the for devising the exhibition’s themes and organization.
first major international exhibition to focus exclusively on In turn, Dr. Markel selected the decorative art objects
the vibrant artistic traditions and refined cosmopolitan and was primarily responsible for loan negotiations,
culture of the northern Indian city of Lucknow, the administrative matters, and curatorial decisions regard-
capital of the Mughal Empire’s province of Awadh. From ing the structure and content of the exhibition publication.
the mid-eighteenth century until the establishment of Given the substantial range and diversity of the
formal British rule in India in 1858, Lucknow rose in approximately two hundred works of art in the exhibition,
prominence to become a cultural epicenter. Indian artists, Dr. Markel realized that a multilayered interpretive
poets, and courtiers migrated there in large numbers approach to the material was required to do it justice.
seeking security and patronage. European artists, travel- Accordingly, the exhibition and its publication are
ers, military adventurers, and commercial and political designed to complement rather than duplicate each other.
agents were also soon lured to the region, seduced by tales Whereas the exhibition is primarily arranged themati-
of the wealth and largesse of its rulers and the beauty cally and chronologically, this beautifully illustrated
of the city. A distinctive aesthetic vision developed in volume of historical and media-based essays by leading
Lucknow as a result of the dynamic interaction between international scholars covers a broad range of Lucknow’s
the Mughal courtly traditions and the diverse artistic distinctive humanities, including its renowned literature
imagery introduced by the city’s many multinational resi- and music. In this way it has been possible to offer a
dents. India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow more nuanced interpretation of Lucknow’s rich body of
presents the full array of artworks associated with aesthetic achievements.
Lucknow, discusses the development of its hybrid artistic India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow
traditions, and explores cultural issues within the broader represents the culmination of a series of important
narrative of South Asian colonial history. exhibitions on later Indian art organized by LACMA’s
As with most museum projects this ambitious in Department of South and Southeast Asian Art: From
scope, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow Merchants to Emperors: British Artists and India
required a long gestation period. Project director Stephen 1757–1930 (1986 – 87), Romance of the Taj Mahal (1989 – 90),
Markel, LACMA’s Harry and Yvonne Lenart Curator and Images from a Changing World: Kalighat Paintings
and Department Head of South and Southeast Asian Art, of Calcutta (1999). We are proud that the Los Angeles
developed the Lucknow exhibition over the course of County Museum of Art can be ranked at the forefront of
several years by locating appropriate works of art in world-class museums with the expertise essential for
collections worldwide, refining the exhibition concept presenting the extraordinary artistic and cultural tradi-
through discussions with pertinent scholars, and selecting tions of legendary Lucknow.
potential contributors to the accompanying publication.
The exhibition’s co-curator, Tushara Bindu Gude, Associ-
ate Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art, joined
LACMA in 2006. Dr. Gude fine-tuned the preliminary Michael Govan
selection of paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director
recommended additions, and was principally responsible Los Angeles County Museum of Art

8 9
Compiled by Stephen Markel

1759–1806 Reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II. 1814–37 Robert Home (1752 –1834) serves as court
Long but impotent reign. Desires but fails to restore the glory of artist at Lucknow. Designs royal regalia for Ghazi al-Din
the Mughal Empire. Haidar’s coronation in 1819.

1580 Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556 –1605) estab- c. 1763–75 Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gentil (1726 –1799) 1775–1800 Major General Claude Martin (1735– 1827–37 Reign of King Nasir Al-Din Haidar.
lishes province (suba) of Awadh. in Faizabad. French military officer in Compagnie des Indes 1800) in Lucknow. French-born military officer in the English Scandalous reputation. Constructs only a few structures,
Orientales employed by Shuja al-Daula. Major patron of Indian East India Company and Renaissance man who becomes the principally the royal observatory, 1832 – 40.
1719–48 Reign of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah.
painting, manuscripts, and atlases, whose collection items survive superintendent of the Lucknow Arsenal under Asaf al-Daula.
His long reign suffers numerous attacks culminating in the sack 1837–42 Reign of King Muhammad Ali Shah.
in Paris and London libraries. Assembles extensive library and collection of technological
of Delhi in 1739 and the disintegration of the Mughal Empire, but Constructs numerous edifices, including Husainabad Imambara,
rarities. Designs and constructs town house Lakh-i Pera,
he revives the declining Mughal aesthetic style to a refined level 1764 Battle of Buxar (Baksar). Combined armies 1837–78 (serves as his tomb); and Jami Masjid, 1845 (completed
completed c. 1781; and country house Constantia (La Martinière),
throughout the humanities. of Shuja al-Daula, Shah Alam II, and the nawab of Bengal by his widow).
1796 (serves as his tomb).
Mir Qasim (r. 1760 – 63) defeated by greatly outnumbered forces
1722–39 Rule of first nawab (governor) of 1842–47 Reign of King Amjad Ali Shah.
of the English East India Company. Establishes dominance of 1780–82 British civil servant Richard Johnson
Awadh, Saadat Khan Burhan al-Mulk, an Iranian Shia Brief, pious rule. Constructs Sibtainabad Imambara (also known
the Company. (1753 –1807) in Lucknow. Important patron of Indian painting,
appointed by Muhammad Shah. He defeats the shaikhzadas of as Chota Imambara; serves as his tomb).
whose collection survives in London.
Lucknow, rules from temporary capital at Faizabad, and 1765 Treaty of Allahabad. Lord Robert Clive (1725 –
1847–56 Reign of King Wajid Ali Shah. Great
establishes nawabi dynasty. 1774) restores Shuja al-Daula to power in exchange for trade 1783 William Hodges (1744 –1797) in Faizabad and
patron of the arts. Commissions several architectural projects,
concessions, mutual defense fund, and substantial war restitution. Lucknow. First British landscape and architectural artist to
1739 Delhi sacked by Iranian King Nadir Shah principally the Qaisar Bagh Palace complex, 1848 – 52.
visit Awadh.
(r. 1736 – 47). Precipitates first of four migration waves of poets, c. 1771–72 English artist Tilly Kettle (1735 –1786)
1856 Awadh annexed by the English East India
artists, and intellectuals to Faizabad and Lucknow in Awadh. engaged by Shuja al-Daula in Faizabad. Creates portraits of the 1784–88 (intermittently) German neoclassical
Company. Wajid Ali Shah exiled to Calcutta, where he continues
nawab and family that inspire numerous copies. painter Johann Zoffany (1733 –1810) active in Lucknow.
1739–54 Rule of Nawab Safdar Jang. Serves as as a patron of music and poetry until his death in 1887.
prime minister (wazir) of the Mughal Empire. Distinguished 1773 First British Resident Nathaniel Middleton 1797–98 Rule of Nawab Wazir Ali Khan.
1857–58 Great Uprising (also known as the Sepoy
military officer and able administrator. Formally resides in appointed to Awadh court in Faizabad (serves intermittently to Serves only four months before being deposed for his violent
Mutiny or Rebellion and as the First War of Indian Indepen-
permanent family home in Delhi (palace built by Mughal Prince 1782). Numerous Residents serve until annexation of Awadh in anti-British views.
dence). Period of violent revolt against British colonial rule in
Dara Shikoh [1615 –1659]). Rules Awadh from Faizabad, but 1856. Residents responsible for political and financial decisions
1798–1814 Rule of Nawab Saadat Ali Khan. northern and central India, which is forcefully repressed.
frequently based in Lucknow as dictated by events. of court; nawab authority confined to administrative and
Constructs Chattar Manzil, c. 1803 (primary residence of nawabs
personnel matters. 1858 Felice Beato (1832 –1909) arrives in Lucknow to
1748–54 Reign of Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah. until completion of Qaisar Bagh in 1852); Dilkusha Kothi,
photograph the sites of important events during the Uprising in
Short and ineffectual rule. Important painter Mir Kalan Khan 1773–76 and 1780–88 Colonel Antoine-Louis Polier c. 1805 (designed by Gore Ouseley); and Lal Barahdari (darbar
order to memorialize British heroism.
(fl. c. 1734 –70) probably migrates to Awadh during this period. (1741–1795) in Faizabad and Lucknow. Franco-Swiss military hall later converted to coronation hall and throne room for Ghazi
officer and engineer in the English East India Company. Major al-Din Haidar). 1858 Local minor rajas and taluqdars (wealthy Muslim
1754–75 Rule of Nawab Shuja al-Daula. Serves
patron of Indian painting and manuscripts whose collection items and Hindu landowners and landlords) assume nawabs’ former
as prime minister of the Mughal Empire. Serves in Lucknow first 1801 Richard Colley Wellesley, governor-general of
survive primarily in Berlin, Paris, and London. Establishes role as patrons of the arts in Lucknow.
as the deputy governor responsible for the western provinces of India (1798 –1805), forces Saadat Ali Khan to cede half of
studio headed by preeminent artist Mihr Chand (fl. c. 1759 – 86).
Awadh. After becoming nawab, he continues to favor Lucknow as Awadh’s territory and its revenue to permanent British control.
his primary residence until signing Treaty of Allahabad in 1765, 1775–97 Rule of Nawab Asaf al-Daula. Returns
when he shifts the Awadh capital back to Faizabad and begins 1814–27 Rule and reign of Ghazi al-Din
Awadh capital to Lucknow. High period of nawabi art and
Haidar, who was Nawab to 1819, thereafter King of
extensive building program. During his long rule an independent culture. Constructs Bara Imambara, including extant gateway
Awadh. Constructs Shah Najaf Imambara (serves as his tomb
style of art and culture develops in Awadh. Rumi Darwaza, 1786 – 91; and Daulat Khana, c. 1789.
and that of three wives).

10 11
And after this there is morning, a new dawn, Majaz,

The twilight of Lucknow’s sorrows fades with us.

Note to the Reader

Published on the occasion of the exhibition of the same name, this
Asrar al-Haq Majaz (1911–1955)
book provides the general reader and scholarly audiences with a
historical overview and interpretive discussions of the works of art
featured in India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow.
The checklist in the back of the book provides full caption
information on the objects exhibited. It is organized by the
exhibition’s themes, and checklist items are numbered consecu-
tively. These numbers are used in page references as well as in the
abbreviated checklist captions to allow for easy cross-reference.
Figures, separately numbered consecutively throughout the book,
are comparative, nonchecklist illustrations; full caption informa-
tion for these is provided with the images. The checklist is
complete and accurate as of July 28, 2010.
Indian words and names have been rendered in the roman
alphabet using various conventions, all with an eye toward
simplicity. Preference has been given to phonetic spellings and
versions familiar to English-language readers, such as the
Anglicized “Lucknow” rather than the more accurate “Lakhna’u”
or “Lakhnau.” Diacritical marks have not been used. When dates
are given in the Islamic calendar, they are preceded by AH; as
these refer to lunar years, a slash may be used to indicate
ambiguity in stating their solar/CE equivalent.
Dimensions given generally follow the order height x width x
depth. Occasional variants include: length (l) x width (w), and
height (h) x diameter (diam.).

12 13
The Dynastic History
of Lucknow
Stephen Markel

RiveRs of wealth flowed, Riches Rained down fRom the sky . . .

theRe was a pRolifeRation of pleasuRe-seeking,
an excess of mateRial wealth. 1

This evocative characterization of the abundance enjoyed in the northern Indian city of
Lucknow during its majestic heyday in the mid-eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth
centuries epitomizes its popular conception in the minds of Indians and Europeans alike.
It is also the key to understanding the motivation of myriad immigrants of diverse
occupations and nationalities who came to Lucknow seeking their fortunes and often
fame or power.
While the story of the region’s origins begins in ancient religious lore, the later his-
tory of Lucknow relevant here began in 1580, when the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556 –
1605) established the administrative province of Awadh (also known in literature by its
Sanskritized name, Avadh, and by its Anglicized forms, Oudh or Oude). Prosperous from
its bountiful agriculture, Lucknow remained an otherwise unremarkable provincial
capital and commercial center until political events in the Mughal capital of Delhi engen-
dered several waves of migration to the safety and affluence of Awadh. The first exodus
from Delhi was precipitated by its sack in 1739 by the Iranian ruler Nadir Shah (r. 1736 –
47). During the second half of the eighteenth century Delhi was also invaded by the
Sikhs, the Marathas, and the Afghan Rohillas, all of whose raids contributed to further
instability in the imperial capital. A second and a third surge of immigrants to Awadh
occurred during the rules of the nawabs (governors) Shuja al-Daula (r. 1754 –75) and
Asaf al-Daula (r. 1775 – 97), respectively. A fourth influx to Lucknow followed the occupa-
tion of Delhi in 1803 by British troops and their assumption of political control over the
weakened Mughal Empire. As a result of the emigration of many of Delhi’s leading
cultural luminaries and intelligentsia to the blossoming court of Awadh, the region
experienced a rapid rise to eminence. Constrained geographically, militarily, and politi-
cally by the growing hegemony of the English East India Company, Awadh’s rulers
ultimately turned to artistic pursuits rather than territorial acquisition to assert their
dynastic ambitions. The riches and political importance of Awadh lured supplicants from
near and far who joined the nawabs and court elite in the cultural ferment. Local minor
rajas and wealthy landholders frequently sought to curry favor from the nawabs. Numer-
ous British and Continental visitors, many of whom became long-term residents, were
also attracted to Awadh in hopes of profit for both their companies and themselves.

14 15 MaRkel : The Dynastic HistoRy of Lucknow

Lucknow’s hereditary dynasty began in 1722 when an Iranian Shia Muslim noble Mir Qasim (r. 1760–63), were decisively defeated at the
named Saadat Khan Burhan al-Mulk (r. 1722–39) was appointed the nawab of Awadh by Battle of Buxar (Baksar) in Bihar, in eastern India, by
the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah (r. 1719–48). Although nominally in charge of the the greatly outnumbered British forces led by Major
region, Saadat Khan still had to conquer the local land barons who ruled Lucknow, the Hector Munro (1726–1805). Shuja al-Daula shrewdly
shaikhzadas, in order to begin his governorship. Through able as well as devious adminis- threw himself upon the mercy of Lord Robert Clive
tration Saadat Khan consolidated his control over Awadh and secured his political base (1725–1774), who, unwilling to take over the administra-
and increasing autonomy. In 1739 Saadat Khan conspired with Nadir Shah to conquer tion of the vast realms of those defeated and wanting a
Delhi but died immediately before the attack, reportedly by suicide. Saadat Khan’s
buffer zone against the Marathas and the remaining
nephew and son-in-law Safdar Jang (r. 1739–54) was then appointed the governor of Mughal Empire, restored Shuja al-Daula to power in
Awadh by Muhammad Shah. After Safdar Jang repulsed several military incursions, he Awadh through the Treaty of Allahabad in 1765, this in
was rewarded by being promoted to wazir (chief minister) of the Mughal Empire. During exchange for duty-free trade concessions throughout
Safdar Jang’s long rule, Awadh enjoyed a lasting peace that enabled the development eastern India and parts of present-day Bangladesh, a
of an independent style of art and culture. mutual defense alliance funded by Awadh, and a substan-
Both Saadat Khan and Safdar Jang regarded Delhi as their permanent family home. tial war restitution of five million rupees.4 On his return
Consequently, they ruled Awadh from temporary quarters in a fort at Faizabad, approxi- to Lucknow, Shuja al-Daula curtailed his military
mately ninety miles east of Lucknow. The early nawabs and their officers often traveled aggression and relocated his capital to Faizabad. He
back and forth between Faizabad and Lucknow, residing in the city where current events developed Faizabad into an important cultural center and
erected luxurious palaces and lush gardens,5 but it
served as Awadh’s capital for only another decade, until
Shuja al-Daula’s death in 1775. Shuja al-Daula’s son and
successor, Asaf al-Daula, returned the capital to Lucknow
1. Tilly Kettle, Shuja al-Daula, Nawab of Awadh,
soon after his accession, reportedly to establish his
Holding a Bow, 1772
independence and escape the interference of his mother,
the powerful widow of Shuja al-Daula, Bahu Begam.6
dictated their attention. Faizabad was closer to the It was during the rule of Asaf al-Daula that the
eastern provinces of Awadh, whereas Lucknow was artistic glories of Lucknow and the Awadh dynasty truly
centrally located and also functioned more readily as the began to flourish. Asaf al-Daula reveled in a life of courtly
base of operations for activities in the western provinces. splendor and strove to surpass his rival potentates, the
Thus, the two cities of Faizabad and Lucknow served as Nizam Ali Khan of Hyderabad (r. 1762–1803) and Tipu
alternating seats of nawabi power and presence. 3
Sultan of Mysore (r. 1783–99).7 He spent lavish sums on
When Safdar Jang died in 1754, he was succeeded by the luxuries of royalty and built imposing palatial and
his son Shuja al-Daula as the nawab of Awadh. Shuja religious architecture to proclaim the magnificence of his
al-Daula had been living in Lucknow in his capacity as dynasty. Grand palaces, mosques, and mausoleums were
the deputy governor responsible for the western provinces erected, inspired by the architectural marvels of the great
of Awadh, and after becoming nawab, he continued to Mughals but given a European flavor through hybrid
favor Lucknow as his primary residence. Like his father, flourishes and embellishment on the interior with numer-
Shuja al-Daula also served valiantly and skillfully at the ous European glass chandeliers. Asaf al-Daula and the
Mughal court, and eventually was appointed wazir under nawabs of Lucknow also commissioned special halls called
Shah Alam II (r. 1759–1806). imambaras in honor of Shia religious leaders (imams) for
The course of Lucknow’s history changed dramati- use in the Shia observance of Muharram.8
cally in 1764. In what proved a futile attempt to curb the The significance of the reigns of Shuja al-Daula and
growing power of the English East India Company, Asaf al-Daula cannot be understated. Shuja al-Daula and
14. Muhammad Shah and Nadir Shah, c. 1740
the combined but ineffectual armies of Shuja al-Daula, his primary wife, Bahu Begam, cultivated a vibrant,
Pages 14–15: 2. Muhammad Azam, Nasir al-din Haidar , c. 1830 Shah Alam II, and the recently deposed nawab of Bengal, urbane culture for the Awadh court at Faizabad. Asaf

16 17 MaRkel : The Dynastic HistoRy of Lucknow

al-Daula, though neither praised during his life nor remembered by historians for any
momentous political accomplishments, nonetheless was responsible for fostering a sophis-
ticated aesthetic vision for the Awadh court at Lucknow, which in turn defined the
stylistic identity for much of the dynasty’s future artistic achievement. The two nawabs
also enabled Awadh to become a fertile environment for the arts. The prosperity and
patronage of their courts not only attracted numerous Indian painters,9 poets,10 musi-
cians, singers, and dancers 11 but also enticed many Britons and Europeans into long-term
residences while they served at court in various military or advisory capacities. These
expatriates 12 are significant in the present context because some of them became active
collectors and patrons of the arts, especially of Indian painting. They in turn attracted
various European artists to Awadh 13 who not only produced numerous portraits and other
works in western styles but also helped stimulate a dynamic cross-cultural interaction
in the arts and architecture.
After the death of Asaf al-Daula in 1797, the English East India Company (“the
Company”) quickly demanded and was accorded far greater political and economic
control over the Lucknow court. Asaf al-Daula’s chosen successor was his adopted son,
Wazir Ali Khan (r. 1797–98), but he ruled for a mere four tumultuous months before being
deposed for his violent anti-British views by Sir John Shore, the governor-general of
India (1793–97). Shore installed Asaf al-Daula’s young half-brother Saadat Ali Khan
(r. 1798–1814) as the new puppet nawab of Lucknow and forced him to sign a succession
settlement ceding control of the Allahabad Fort and committing to a substantial annual
subsidy to the British. Further concessions were imposed in 1801, when the succeeding
governor-general (from 1798 to 1805), Richard Colley Wellesley, Lord Mornington and
1st Marquis of Wellesley, forced Saadat Ali Khan to surrender even more political author-
ity and to cede half of Awadh’s territory and the considerable revenue derived from it to
permanent British control.14 Despite Saadat Ali Khan’s enfeebling loss of half his domain
and virtually all his political power—or some might say because of his great loss—he
proved a remarkable builder who transformed Lucknow’s urban landscape. He had a
broad thoroughfare constructed for European visitors so they would not have to trans-
verse Lucknow’s notorious crowded lanes, and he commissioned numerous country homes
and a palace complex built in an imposing hybrid architectural style.15
Another major chapter in Lucknow’s history opened with the accession in 1814 of
Saadat Ali Khan’s son, Ghazi al-Din Haidar, who in 1819 was officially crowned king of
Awadh; he ruled until 1827.16 In casting off the nominal yoke of Mughal subjugation to
assert his sovereignty, Ghazi al-Din Haidar proudly proclaimed the fulfillment of the
Awadh dynasty’s imperial aspirations. His assumption of an independent throne was
aggressively promoted on behalf of the Company by Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1st
Marquess of Hastings, who was then Indian governor-general (1813–22). The long-term
practical effect of the collusion was that Ghazi al-Din Haidar and his reigning descen-
dants became entrenched in financial and political obligations that would help lead to the
complete annexation of Awadh in 1856, and eventually to the establishment of formal
British rule over India. Ghazi al-Din Haidar’s coronation was an exceedingly lavish
affair, modeled in ceremony and symbolic accoutrements upon Mughal empowerment 36. Muhammad Azam, Ghazi al-din Haidar , c. 1830

rituals, but the crown and sumptuous garments of his imperial regalia were designed in a

18 19 MaRkel : The Dynastic HistoRy of Lucknow

His most magnificent monument was the Qaisar Bagh, an
enormous palatial complex built between 1848 and 1852.
After less than a decade of Wajid Ali Shah’s reign, how-
ever, in 1856 Awadh was annexed by the English East
India Company and the former king was banished to Cal-
cutta (Kolkata), where he continued to patronize music and
poetry, and lived, muted, in exile until his death in 1887.
Although the aesthetic glories of Lucknow declined
sharply at this time, especially after the widespread retal-
iatory destruction in 1858 following the Great Uprising
of 1857 (also known as the Sepoy Mutiny or Rebellion and
the First War of Indian Independence), sophisticated
artistic expression in the media of painting, metalware,
and jewelry, and in arts such as music and poetry, contin-
ued in Lucknow well into the early twentieth century.
Three primary sources of artistic sponsorship developed
Fig. 1. CRown PResented to EdwaRd VII when PRince of
Wales by the TaluQdaRs of Awadh, c. 1875; India, Uttar to fill the void left by the forced departure of Awadh’s
Pradesh, probably Lucknow; gold, enamels, pearls, emeralds,
diamonds, velvet, and cotton, 6 9⁄16 x 12 1⁄2 in. (16.8 x 32 cm); The ruler and court. The principal new arts patrons were the
Royal Collection
local minor rajas and taluqdars, a class of wealthy Muslim
and Hindu landowners and landlords, many of whom
aspired to become gentry (179).20
hybrid European style by his English court artist Robert Home (1752–1834).17 Although A lucrative commercial market functioned as a second
Ghazi al-Din Haidar expended considerable effort and expense in proclaiming his form of new patronage for the artists of Lucknow. Because
newfound kingly status, including issuing appropriately aggrandizing coinage and of the widespread renown of the cataclysmic events of
commemorative medals, he had little actual political power under the controlling over- 1857–58, especially the six-month siege of the Residency,
sight of the British Resident, who was responsible for promoting the commercial inter-
Lucknow became a “must see” stop on tourist itineraries
ests of the Company. With limited governmental responsibilities, Ghazi al-Din Haidar for European and Indians alike (although the emotional
was free to patronize literature and poetry, as well as commission various monuments, connotations of the sites visited certainly differed for the
including the Chota Chattar Manzil, parts of the Moti Mahal complex, and the Shah two groups). Accordingly, a thriving trade in Lucknow’s
Najaf Imambara, which serves as his mausoleum. famed silver metalware and jewelry sprang up in the
Ghazi al-Din Haidar was succeeded by his son Nasir al-Din Haidar (r. 1827–37). He city’s main market (182, p. 22).21 Popular genre paintings
built only a few structures, principally the royal observatory, but is chiefly remembered and stock photographs were also presumably available.
for his dalliances and avoidance of administrative responsibility. When he died childless Finally, it is not unlikely that some of the craftsmen
after being poisoned in 1837, a tragic struggle for succession ensued. Ghazi al-Din
who produced the nawabi and subsequently royal architec-
Haidar’s brother Muhammad Ali Shah (r. 1837–42) was finally installed by the British ture of Lucknow were hired to build the many Hindu and
as the new king of Awadh and promptly set about restoring an effective administration Jain temples of Awadh that were commissioned by the
and constructing numerous edifices, including the grand Husainabad Imambara, in wealthy Hindu nobles at court or by the city’s rich Jain
which he is entombed. jewelers and merchants.22
Muhammad Ali Shah was followed briefly by his pious son Amjad Ali Shah Although but a shadow of its former resplendence, the
(r. 1842–47), who was succeeded by his son Wajid Ali Shah (r. 1847–56). Wajid Ali Shah aesthetic legacy of Lucknow lives on in the arts and crafts
inherited a kingship that was virtually bereft of political power. In consequence perhaps, being produced there today, in cinema and music extolling
he was a devoted practitioner and patron of the arts, especially music, dance, and poetry. Lucknow’s once suave sophistication, and in scholarly
Many notable compositions were created during his reign. He also commissioned a publications and exhibitions such as India’s Fabled City: 179. Darogah Abbas Ali, from An IllustRated
HistoRical Album of the Rajas and TaluQdaRs
number of architectural projects, including a walled garden for his wife Sikander Begam. The Art of Courtly Lucknow. of Oudh, 1880

20 21 MaRkel : The Dynastic HistoRy of Lucknow

1 . Abul Lais Siddiqi, Lakhna’u ka Dabistan-i Sha’iri (Lahore: Urdu Markaz, Talwar Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow, 1856–1877 (Princeton:
1955; Ph.D. diss., Aligarh Muslim University, 1942), 47, quoted in Carla Princeton University Press, 1984), 215 – 43; and Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri,
Petievich, Assembly of Rivals: Delhi, Lucknow and the Urdu Ghazal (New Studies in the Anatomy of a Transformation: Awadh from Mughal to Colonial
Delhi: Manohar, 1992), 21. Rule (New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 1998), especially “Origin and
2 . Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava, The First Two Nawabs of Awadh, 2nd ed. (Agra: Growth of Ta’alluqadari Tenures in Awadh,” 73 – 81, and “The Land
Shiva Lal Agarwala & Co., 1954), 70. Controlling Classes in Awadh—A Study of Changes in Their Composition,
1600 –1900,” 157–76.
3. In strictly chronological terms, the capital of Awadh was as follows:
Faizabad, 1722 – 54; Lucknow, 1754 – 65; Faizabad, 1765 –75; Lucknow, 21 . Wynyard R. T. Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858–1947: Silver from the Indian
1775 –onward. Sub-Continent and Burma Made by Local Craftsmen in Western Forms
(London: W. R. T. Wilkinson, 1999), p. 126.
4. Michael H. Fisher, A Clash of Cultures: Awadh, the British, and the Mughals
(New Delhi: Mahohar, 1987), 38. 22 . See Catherine Asher’s essay in this volume.
5. Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava, Shuja-ud-Daulah, Vol. 2, 1765–1775 (Lahore: Min-
erva Book Shop, 1945), 48 – 49.
6. Richard E. Barnett, North India Between Empires: Awadh, the Mughals, and
the British, 1720–1801 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1980), 105.
7. Abdul Halim Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture, trans.
and ed. E. S. Harcourt and Fakhir Hussain (1975; Boulder, CO: Westview
Press, 1976), 45 – 47.
8. Muharram commemorates the Battle of Karbala in 680 and the massacre of
the third Imam, Husain, the grandson of the Prophet, whose death helped
foster a severe sectarian split within Islam. The Shias differ from the more
numerous Sunnis in that they consider an alternate historical line of
religious leaders as the true followers of the Prophet Muhammad (c.
570 – 632). Shias also do not ascribe to the authority of the Sunna, a
supplement to the Quran concerned with Islamic law. Whereas the Mughal
emperors were Sunni Muslims, the Lucknow nawabs were Shia. Under their
rule, Lucknow became the leading center of Shia learning in India and one of
the greatest in the vast Islamic world.
9. Including Mir Kalan Khan (fl. c. 1734 –70), Nidha Mal (fl. c. 1735–75), and
Mihr Chand (fl. c. 1759 – 86).
10. Especially Mirza Rafi’ “Sauda” (1713 –1780), Muhammad Taqi “Mir”
(1722 –1810), and Mir Ghulam Hasan (c. 1735 –1786).
11 . Such as Ghulam Rasool and his son Ghulam Nabi Shori “Shori Miyan” (fl. c.
1790 –1795).
12 . Most notably Major General Claude Martin (1735 –1800), Colonel Antoine-
Louis Henri Polier (1741–1795), and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gentil (1726 –
13. The earliest and best known of the British artists was Tilly Kettle
(1735 –1786), who was engaged by Shuja al-Daula in Faizabad from c. 1771 to
1772. Later notable European artists who worked in Lucknow for part of
their careers included Johann Zoffany (1733 –1810), William Hodges
(1744 –1797), Thomas Daniell (1749 –1840) and William Daniell (1769 –1837),
Robert Home (1752 –1834), Francesco Renaldi (1755 –c. 1799), and George
Chinnery (1774 –1854).
14. Barnett, North India Between Empires, 235 – 36.
15. Neeta Das, “The ‘Country Houses’ of Lucknow,” in Lucknow: City of
Illusion, ed. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (New York: Alkazi Collection of
Photography; Munich: Prestel, 2006), 170 – 89, figs. 93 –110.
16. Even though from this point onward the sovereigns of Awadh technically
reigned as kings rather than ruled as governors, the “nawabi period” is
generally defined as continuing until the annexation of Awadh in 1856.
17. See Fisher, A Clash of Cultures, pp. 120 – 41; and Michael H. Fisher, “The
Imperial Coronation of 1819: Awadh, the British, and the Mughals,” Modern
Asian Studies 19:2 (1985): 239 –77.
18. British Residents, who functioned as the English East India Company’s
political agents in situ, were first posted at the Awadh court during the rule
of Shuja al-Daula. Originally intended to advise the court on foreign and
economic policies, the Residents’ authority increased over time, until they
determined virtually all governmental matters (apart from purely adminis-
trative decisions) and rivaled the nawabs in prestige and even pomp. See
Fisher, A Clash of Cultures; and Michael H. Fisher, “The Resident in Court
Ritual, 1764 –1858,” Modern Asian Studies 24:3 (1990): 419 – 58.
19. Sharar, Lucknow, 56 – 58.
20. For historical studies of the taluqdars, see Thomas R. Metcalf, Land,
Landlords, and the British Raj: Northern India in the Nineteenth Century
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979), especially Left: 182. Ewer with Coriander
“The Taluqdari Style of Life: A Leisured Aristocracy,” 341–75; Veena Flower Pattern, c. 1860

22 23 MaRkel : The Dynastic HistoRy of Lucknow

India’s Fabled City:
of an Exhibition
Tushara Bindu Gude

And after this there is morning, a new dawn, Majaz,

The twilight of Lucknow’s sorrows fades with us.
Asrar al-Haq Majaz (1911–1955) 1

The visual culture of Awadh, from the time of its emergence as an independent nawabi
state in the mid-eighteenth century through the aftermath of the Uprising in the mid-
nineteenth century, encompassed a rich variety of artistic forms, styles, and practices.
These were reflected in architecture, traditional courtly paintings, decorative arts, and
textiles, as well as landscapes, portraits, and photographs by Indian and European
artists working for elite patrons in the region. Many such artworks circulated far beyond
the political boundaries of the kingdom. Varied collections were taken to England and
Europe by travelers and by officials and merchants of the various East India Companies,
while paintings, prints, and, later, photographs of Lucknow exposed the city to distant
eyes. The region and its arts were thus refracted through many diverse lenses which are
considered throughout this exhibition.
India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow examines the full range of artistic
traditions associated with the region of Awadh, encompassing subjects that have never
before been the focus of a major museum exhibition. An extraordinarily sophisticated and
ethnically diverse community flourished in the Awadhi capitals of Faizabad and Lucknow
during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The region’s cosmopolitan culture and its
complex political, social, and cultural histories—as many of the essays in this volume
make clear—prevent any easy or simplistic approach to the presentation of its arts. In
order to do justice to these complexities, as well as present the visual material in a
manner that is at once comprehensible to a general audience, of value to a scholarly one,
and of interest to both, the exhibition is organized along several intersecting narrative
lines that allow for a consideration of stylistic developments in Awadh’s arts as well as
related issues of identity, hybridity, colonialism, memory, and nostalgia. While such
issues are also addressed in this publication, its various essays—many of which are
focused on particular media—are intended to complement, rather than duplicate, the
organization and emphases of the exhibition.
The “fabled” city that is the focus of this investigation was known for many extraor-
dinary things, including the richness of its Urdu poetry. While such poetry was but one

24 25 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

facet of Lucknow’s elegant literary culture, the story of How to tell you about the extent of the city?
the city—a place that promised the fulfillment of desire It is like Isfahan, as good as half the world. . . .

and fantasy—reverberates remarkably with the imagery Its whiteness, wonderful to look at, is such,
of many Urdu verses extolling the seductive allure of one’s That it seems the bricks have turned into marble.
beloved. Much of this poetry, furthermore, addresses How should I describe the grandeur of the fort?
love’s attendant sorrows so that disappointment, anguish, The mountain seems to droop on seeing its height.
heartbreak, and cruelty are also among its subjects. 2 The palace here was the abode of light.
Luxury and splendour always flourished there.5
Whether we are referring then to Lucknow’s South Asian
and Persian residents and immigrants or to European,
A little more than seventy years later, the last king of
especially British, expatriates and travelers, the multifac-
Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah—a renowned poet who wrote
eted expressions contained in the region’s poetry provide
under the name Akhtar—expressed his exile from Awadh
apt metaphors for the ambiguous and complex political
in the following words:
and social relationships which shaped Lucknow’s history
and culture. Father, I am leaving my home;
That memories of cities themselves could inform Four bearers are lifting my palanquin;
poems of great eloquence is suggested by several verses My house is becoming foreign to me.6
that bracket the history of Lucknow from the time of its
emergence as a North Indian cultural capital to its 1856 Utilizing imagery recalling a new bride’s farewell to her
annexation by the English East India Company. From the parental home or the raising of a corpse upon a funeral
mid-eighteenth century until the establishment of formal bier, Wajid Ali Shah poignantly couched his forced
British rule in India in 1858, Faizabad and then Lucknow departure from the beloved city of his birth in terms of
had eclipsed Delhi to become the cultural center of loss and death.7
northern India. Artists, poets, and courtiers flocked to Poetry, such an important feature of Lucknow’s
Awadh as Delhi suffered a long period of unrest that culture, thus provides India’s Fabled City with an evoca-
began with Nadir Shah’s sack and plunder of the imperial tive narrative structure against which the history of
Mughal capital in 1739. One of these poets, Muhammad the region and its arts are anchored. Some segments of
Taqi “Mir” (1722 –1810), migrated to Lucknow in 1782 and the exhibition are organized chronologically in order to
wrote nostalgically of what he perceived to be his forced chart—against this poetic narrative—Lucknow’s cultural
estrangement from Delhi: emergence, flowering, and destruction following the 1857
Uprising. The introduction to the exhibition is titled
Far better than Lucknow “Hybrid Visions” and consists of a few key artworks,
were the ruins of Delhi: dating from the mid-eighteenth through the mid-
Would that I had died back there nineteenth centuries, suggesting the multiple perspectives
than let my madness lead me here!3 that informed Lucknow’s history, culture, and legacy.
The exhibition’s first main section, “The Nawabs of
Several of Mir’s younger contemporaries shared his view Awadhas Sovereigns and Heirs to Mughal Glory,”
that Lucknow could never rival the magnificence, cultural describes Awadh’s relationships to Mughal Delhi, which
or otherwise, of their beloved native city. Other Delhi-
are crucial for understanding both the sources of the
bred poets, however, came to appreciate the particular region’s various artistic traditions and the forms through
charms of the Awadhi capital. Mir Hasan (1727–1787), for which the nawabs expressed their sovereignty well into
instance, appears to have modeled the city in Sihr al- the nineteenth century. Several eighteenth-century
22. Layla and Majnun, and KhusRau and ShiRin, c. 1775
Bayan (The Mirror of Eloquence), his famous 1784 – 85 Mughal and Awadhi paintings document the manner in
masnavi, after Lucknow itself: which the region’s cultural preeminence was initially built
Pages 24–25: 56. PRocession of Ghazi al-Din Haidar
thRough the StReets of Lucknow (detail), c. 1820 upon the dissolution of the imperial capital and the

26 27 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

emigration of imperially trained artists. Awadh’s rulers
articulated a continuum between the Mughals’ and their
own rule through the collecting of imperial manuscripts
and the adoption of other Mughal prerogatives. New styles
as well as the innovative treatment of subject matter—as
in composite illustrations of Persian and South Asian
romances, perhaps not surprising given the importance of
poetry among Awadhi elites—were soon formulated in the
kingdom (22, p. 26; 23).
The next three areas of the exhibition explore various
thematic subjects through which the development of the
Awadhi style is assessed, particularly in portraiture,
architecture, and courtly decorative arts. These sections
also examine the nature of artistic and cultural interac-
tion at Lucknow in the years before the Uprising. The
first of these, for instance, “The Nawabs of Awadh as
Patrons,” consists primarily of portraits that serve to
introduce Awadh’s rulers—from Shuja al-Daula to Wajid
Ali Shah—as well as highlight their patronage of various
artists who flocked to India in the late eighteenth century
in the wake of significant political gains made by the East
India Company. Tilly Kettle was one of the first profes-
sional British artists to travel to India, and spent a year in
Faizabad in about 1771–72. Several of his portraits were 13. PoRtRait of a EuRopean Woman, early 17th century

copied by Indian artists, as were other works by subse-

quent European painters at Awadh (1, p. 17; 31, p. 239; 122,
p. 178; 154, p. 180). In certain ways, these Awadhi copies
of various paintings and prints can be seen to continue are juxtaposed here in order to examine their differing
earlier artistic practices in which painters at the Mughal approaches to the depiction of the built environment and
court assimilated and experimented with the styles and their underlying sensibilities. The range of the latter is
subject matter of European artworks (13; 4, p. 31). conveyed by the picturesque aesthetic of William Hodges
Although European-style portraiture was thus a signifi- and Thomas and William Daniell, the topographic
cant feature of Awadh’s artistic history, here it is explored interest of amateur British military artists, the tradi-
in relation to more traditional manners of depiction, tional approach of Indian artists—as conveyed, for
which continued to find royal favor even after the advent instance, in Jean-Baptiste Gentil’s Palais Indiennes—and
of photography. the stylistic synthesis evident in later Indian panoramas
Photographs by both Indian and European practitio- and watercolors by artists such as Sita Ram (107, p. 30).
ners are featured in several sections of the exhibition, Because the bulk of the surviving visual documentation
23. Attributed presenting complementary and conflicting images of for Lucknow’s architecture consists of late-nineteenth-
to Faizullah,
A Composite Lucknow. They join drawings, watercolors, and prints in century photographs, several examples are brought
of Scenes
fRom PeRsian
the fourth section, “The Allure of Faizabad and Luck- together to illustrate the city’s major religious and
now,” where they collectively present a vision of the secular monuments. The various styles of these buildings
“LoveRs and landscape, architecture, and other sights of Awadh (34, reflect the multiple sources—Mughal, indigenous, and
c. 1765 35, p. 34). Indian and European works of art especially European—that were brought to bear upon the region’s

28 29 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

107. Sita Ram, GeneRal Claude MaRtin’s House Constantia
Set in Its PaRk at Lucknow, 1814 –15

architecture. A similar range of styles can be seen in Lucknow’s decorative arts tradi-
tions, several examples of which are gathered together in the fifth section of the exhibi-
tion, “Courtly Opulence in Awadh.” 4. A Turkish Sultana, c. 1810 –20

The cumulative effect of Lucknow’s built environment was described with awe,
and some derision, by Honoria Lawrence in 1843:
lying before us. Is this a city in Oudh? Is this the capital of a writing on Muslim India.12 The British decision to annex
Gilded domes surmounted by the crescent—tall, slender pillars, lofty colonnades, half-grecian looking
semibarbarous race, erected by a corrupt, effete, and degraded the province of Awadh was legitimized in large part by
houses of several stories high with pillars, verandas and windows, iron railing and balustrades (entirely
dynasty? I confess I felt inclined to rub my eyes again and again.9 both official pronouncements and sensationalistic
foreign in this country), cages of wild beasts and brilliant birds, gardens, fountains and cypress trees . . .
make a confused and very dazzling picture. . . . Here the sight-worthiness of the place consists not in accounts of debauched nawabi rule.13
any one building but in the architectural groups, the long vistas or arches, domes and minarets, the Both Lawrence’s and Russell’s observations reflect While colonial political machinations are not the
glittering crowds, the whole bewildering mixture of Europe and Asia and the air of wealth which despite nineteenth-century orientalist constructions of India, as focus of this exhibition, the culture of colonialism and its
bad taste and inconsistency, altogether comes nearer to anything I have seen to realize my early ideas is evident in the former’s equation of Lucknow with the effects on nineteenth-century assessments of Awadhi art
of the Arabian Nights and Lala Rookh.8 romanticized East—both in literary translation (One and architecture inform its approach to some degree.
Thousand and One Nights) and in imagination (Thomas Notions similar to those expressed by Lawrence, Russell,
Similar sentiments were echoed some years later in My Indian Mutiny Diary, written
Moore’s 1817 poem Lalla Rookh)—as well as the latter’s and others—regarding various realms of artistic activ-
by the Irish war correspondent William H. Russell:
mention of “a corrupt, effete, and degraded dynasty” as ity—persisted well into the twentieth century.14 Rosie
the architects of the “fairy-city.” 10 In contrast to these Llewellyn-Jones has noted that the most negative assess-
A vision of palaces, minars, domes azure and golden, cupolas, colonnades, long facades of fair perspective
in pillar and column, terraced roofs—all rising up amid a calm still ocean of the brightest verdure.
incredulous descriptions of Lucknow, other observers ments of nawabi architecture were directed toward those
Look for miles and miles away, and still the ocean spreads, and the towers of the fairy-city gleam in its noted the “squalid poverty” and “wretched habitations” of buildings that were stylistically unique in either their
midst. Spires of gold glitter in the sun. Turrets and gilded spheres shine like constellations. There is Lucknow’s “swarming population.” As is well known, the
particular presentation of disparate European architec-
nothing mean or squalid to be seen. There is a city more vast than Paris, as it seems, and more brilliant, language of oriental despotism informed much British tural elements or their commingling of European and

30 31 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

South Asian traditions. European critics, seeing miscegenation in the building styles of estates, and the collecting of Indian artworks. Martin’s Europe. When Polier finally departed Lucknow, he left
with which they were most familiar—and thus readily able to criticize—never once massive country mansion and tomb, Constantia (or La his two Indian wives behind.20
considered the parallels between Western pastiches of oriental exotica and the nawabi Martinière), is the European visual equivalent of the Maya Jasanoff has noted the different ways in which
refashioning of European architectural forms. As Europeans became familiar with more nawabs’ own architectural “excess.” Polier and Martin pursued wealth and prestige at Luck-
traditional South Asian architecture, Lucknow’s buildings also came to be compared The households of Polier and Martin included their now. Polier fashioned himself socially as a European
unfavorably with the Mughal monuments of Delhi and Agra. Increasingly through the Indian wives and their Anglo-Indian children—as was orientalist while privately he lived as a Mughal nobleman.
nineteenth century, the perceived decadence of Awadh’s architecture came to be inter- the case for many, mostly British, men in India prior to Martin, on the other hand, emulated the elevated status
preted as a sign of its rulers’ self-centered, weak, and depraved moral characters. The 15
the early-nineteenth-century hardening of colonial of a European aristocrat. One of the means through
confusion that might have been occasioned by contradictory and shifting foreign atti- policies and attitudes toward Indian and European social which both men effected their self-transformations was
tudes to Lucknow’s hybrid arts recalls a verse by the Lucknow poet Khwajah Haidar Ali and sexual interactions (Fig. 2). 18
Such relationships are through the collecting of art.21 While Martin acquired
Atish (1777–1847): not without a certain degree of controversy or ambiguity.19 many Indian items, his primary interests lay in European
Both Polier and Martin were highly cognizant of their artworks, decorative objects, and scientific inventions,
On the chess-board of love own cultural identities within the increasingly British- many of which he also supplied to Nawab Asaf al-Daula.22
Where the heart dominated arena where they amassed their great for- His Enlightenment-era interests were also reflected in his
Squares off against the Beloved tunes; both wished to return, ultimately, to their native vast collection of natural history specimens and drawings
I’m bewildered into checkmate.16

Although they were severely constrained politically through the course of the early
nineteenth century, Llewellyn-Jones writes that it is perhaps “No wonder that the
response of the last three nawabs was to withdraw into the more familiar world of Muslim
culture, for it must have seemed to them that any action would bring British criticism
from one quarter or another.” 17
European engagement with the city was not always characterized by the harsh
judgments that came to be heaped upon Lucknow, as is demonstrated by two of the
middle sections of the exhibition. If the examination of early Awadhi painting traditions,
portraiture, architecture, and decorative arts indicates some of the ways the nawabs
proclaimed a sovereign identity—articulated over the course of their rule through the
integration of Mughal, Iranian Shia, and European visual and cultural codes—other
works suggest the ways that European émigrés to Lucknow styled their lives in similarly
hybrid fashion. In the late eighteenth century especially, a remarkable degree of accul-
turation appears to have accompanied the interactions that took place in Lucknow
between its Indian and European residents, and these are examined in the sixth section
of the exhibition, “A Cosmopolitan Culture.” The most famous record of this period is
Johann Zoffany’s Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match, 1784 – 86, in which a lively group of
competitors and spectators includes Nawab Asaf al-Daula, the commander of his body-
guard, Colonel John Mordaunt, the nawab’s minister Hasan Reza Khan, Company
officials such as John Wombwell, the Swiss-born military adventurer Colonel Antoine-
Louis Polier, and the Frenchman Major General Claude Martin (105, p. 66; Fig. 34,
p. 228). Polier’s and Wombwell’s adoption of Indian dress and habits are portrayed
individually in other paintings, by Indian artists (106, p. 68; Fig 26, p. 180; fig. 35,
p. 230). These two men appear together with Martin in yet another Zoffany painting,
which depicts a gathering at Polier’s home and hints at the various pursuits that must Fig. 2. Johann Zoffany (1733 –1810), Boulone, Bibi of Colonel (Later
have engaged many like men in late-eighteenth-century India—the employment of Indian Major-GeneRal) Claude MaRtin, Fishing with MaRtin’s Adopted
Son James MaRtin; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1786; oil on canvas,
servants, the commissioning of European oil paintings, the constructing and maintaining 24 x 30 in. (61 x 76.2 cm); La Martinière College, Lucknow

32 33 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

116. Mihr Chand, Venus, c. 1773 –76

top: 34. After Emily Eden, The Nawab of Awadh’s

Hunting Cheetahs and Their CaRetakeRs, 1844

left: 121. Mihr Chand, Nilgai, c. 1770 –76

bottom: 35. After Emily Eden, The Nawab of Awadh’s
Hunting Dogs and Falcons with Their CaRe-
takeRs, 1844 Right: 150. Mihr Chand, A Female HeRmit with Two
Ascetics befoRe a Hut, c. 1765 –73

34 35 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

(110).23 Polier, conversely, invested considerable energy in the acquisition of Persian and
Sanskrit manuscripts as well as Mughal, Deccani, and Awadhi paintings (116, 121, 150,
p. 35; 118, p. 9). Several folios from Polier’s various albums are included in the seventh
section of the exhibition, “European Patrons and Collectors,” where they join paintings
acquired by other visitors to Faizabad and Lucknow, such as Jean-Baptiste Gentil (141,
p. 39) and Richard Johnson (133, 134, p. 39; 136). Clear artistic relationships between a
few of their paintings suggest the elite and interconnected worlds of these late-eighteenth-
century orientalists (152, 153). Paintings that once belonged to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke
of Wellington, whose eight years of service in India were spent largely in the South,
indicate the broader market in which Lucknow paintings were circulating by the centu-
ry’s end (158, 159, p. 38). It is in this section that the distinctive painting styles of Awadhi
artists—many known by name—are explored. While such collections speak to colonial-
ism’s role in both the dispersal of Indian royal collections and the formation of national
European ones, this selection particularly highlights the direct European patronage of left: 152. A Game of Polo, c. 1785

Indian court artists.

Right: 153. Ram Sahai, A Game of Polo, c. 1770

136. Patak Chand, Raja Anand Dev and Raja DhRub Dev,
c. 1770

110. Spoonbill, c. 1780

36 37 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

left: 158. The LoveRs Elope, c. 1800

Right: 159. ShiRin DiscoveRs the Body of FaRhad,

c. 1800
133. Mir Kalan Khan, A PRincess Watching a Maid
Killing a Snake, c. 1770

top: 141. Shuja quli Khan and a Woman on a TeRRace,

c. 1760

bottom: 134. Style of Mir Kalan Khan, A EuRopean

PRincess, c. 1770

38 39 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

This world of activity at Lucknow was nearing its end by the time of Claude Martin’s
death there in 1800. Having strategically inserted themselves at Awadh when Shuja
al-Daula was nawab, the British rapidly gained military and political ascendency in the
region during the following years, and the opportunities for such intercultural explora-
tions gradually ceased to exist. We may evoke the potential threat of the situation in the
late-eighteenth century through reference, once again, to the imagery of Urdu poetry,
particularly those verses in which the beloved is cast in the role of a stealthy hunter:

I worry about the nightingales

Now that spring has come:
The hunter pitches camp
Right outside the garden.24

It would take many more years before the British finally deposed, in contrived and
illegal fashion, the last king of Awadh. One year later, in 1857, Indian soldiers and their
local supporters at Lucknow joined the spreading North Indian rebellion against the
East India Company. By the time the rebellion was suppressed in 1858, it had entered the
British popular and artistic imagination; this is explored through photography and
paintings in the eighth section of the exhibition, “The Great Uprising of 1857: European
Visions.” Few paintings by British and European artists document the aggressions
directed at the city or its pillage (175, 176).25 Other works, such as Thomas Jones Barker’s
1859 history painting The Relief of Lucknow, 1857—based on the sketches of Swedish
artist Egron Lundgren, the only European artist present in India during the Uprising—
indicate the ways in which the rebellion was memorialized in terms of masculine British

above: 175. William Simpson, View of the Qaisar Bagh

in Lucknow, 1864

left: 176. William Simpson, the Shah Najaf, 1861

oveRleaf: 171. Thomas Jones Barker, the Relief of

Lucknow, 1857, 1859

40 41 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

42 43 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition
valor and heroism (171, pp. 42–43).26 Louis William Desanges’ paintings from his Victoria
Cross series—which were displayed for many years in the Crystal Palace and photo-
graphically reproduced for public consumption—include several portraits of British
soldiers at Lucknow.27 One of these, entitled Thomas Henry Kavanagh VC (1821–1882)
Being Disguised as a Native during the Indian Mutiny at Lucknow, 9th November 1857,
1859 – 62, presents a later, darker side of the European adoption of Indian dress (174).
Kavanagh’s assuming the clothing of an “Oriental” allowed him to escape the besieged
British Residency in November 1857 in order to guide Sir Colin Campbell’s relief forces
into Lucknow. According to one popular retelling of this episode, when Campbell’s forces
came under fire from Indians at the Sikander Bagh (Secundra Bagh):

They forced their way in, and, maddened with resistance and the memory of Cawnpore, they showed no
mercy; the bayonet did its deadly work till all was still, and two thousand of the mutineers were piled
together in one gory mass as a monument of our vengeance. Humanity shudders at the remembrance of
above: 174. Chevalier Louis-William Desanges, Thomas
such a scene, but the murderers of helpless women and children at Cawnpore deserved no quarter.28 HenRy Kavanagh VC Being Disguised as a Native
duRing the Indian Mutiny at the Siege of
Lucknow, 9 November 1857, 1859 – 62
A number of European, mostly British, women were residing in various enclaves of
left: 173. Abraham Solomon, The Flight fRom
northern India by the mid-nineteenth century. Caught in the Uprising, their plights— Lucknow, 1858

underscored by fears of their sexual violation by Indian rebels—were also the subject of
Bottom: 172. Frederick Goodall, Jessie’s DReam (The
several Victorian-era paintings (173).29 The public appetite for stories of the Uprising and Relief of Lucknow), 1858

eventual British victory was fed by various photographers as well as by popular songs,
performances, and myths such as those describing Jessie Brown’s sonorous dream of bag-
pipes in advance of Lucknow’s relief by a Scottish regiment (172).30 The role of British
women in the racial estrangement and segregation between Indians and Europeans was
considerable, but the shock of the Uprising itself would forever alter British racial
attitudes and policy in South Asia. Following the rebellion’s suppression, large parts of
Lucknow were razed, both as a punitive expression of British power and in an effort to
secure and regulate the city.31 The gulf that came to separate two increasingly distant
worlds is evoked by the much earlier verses of Shaikh Qalandar Bakhsh Jurat (1748 –1810):

Now you don’t let me throw myself down even on the dust of your street. Alas!—and what
carpets you used to spread out for my sake!

Now you rub out the very name of love from your heart and make me weep—and you used to
read poetry with me, while your tears flowed.32

The poet Mir Babar Ali “Anis” (1802 –1874) lamented the fate of Lucknow, which in 1858
was ruined and bereft of its rulers:

The leaf of the World’s Book has overturned in an instant.

Why, O Heavens?
For what rapture has Time exacted this revenge?
Not only has a class of Lucknow been toppled,
O Anis! There is also a revolution in Poesy’s kingdom.33

44 45 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

That Lucknow was not left utterly barren of artistic patronage and creativity, however,
is indicated in the exhibition’s ninth section, “Post-Uprising Artistic Production at
Lucknow,” which includes artworks largely commissioned by its prosperous Hindu and
Muslim landowning and merchant classes in the late nineteenth century. One of these
landowners, or taluqdars, Raja Man Singh, organized the festivity depicted in a painting
that appears in the concluding portion of the exhibition, “Legacy of Glory: Lucknow
in the Popular Imagination.” Through the course of the Uprising, Man Singh shifted his
allegiances between the competing factions, an indication of the ways in which British
victory was achieved with native assistance. On the British side by the Uprising’s end,
he was rewarded with considerable properties and powers. In early 1859 Man Singh
threw a banquet for Colin Campbell at Lucknow, to which Egron Lundgren was invited.
Lundgren’s painting of the event illustrates that even at this time the legendary female
entertainers of Lucknow were still to be found in the city (189, pp. 52–53). His memoirs
describe in enchanted detail the dancers and their performance:

The cloth of her attire is of incandescent colours and like the veil threaded with gold and silver, the
borders replete with pearls and precious stones . . . the neck and arms too bear sparkling ruby trinkets,
and when she coyly, almost furtively now and then exposes her foot or calf, a gold anklet is seen around
her shin. She has rings in her ears and her hair is swept up and plaited across her skull, and decorated at
the front with a brilliant ornament of rose diamonds and silver depicting two fishes rampant, kissing.
Her entire forehead is concealed by a large flashing diamond gew-gaw, the radiance of which is nonethe-
less dimmed by the fire that burns in her eyes. . . .

. . . the dancer slinks to and fro with panther steps . . . , raises her eyes to the heavens before closing them Above: 193. FoRehead ORnament, c. 1870;
194. Pair of eaRRings, c. 1870
to smack her lips together, and sings verses from a sleepy lullaby, sways beneath her veils, stretches out
her arms, writhing like a serpent in paradise until her act is over, and another girl, more supple even Right: 195. Finger Ring, c. 1870

than her, more effervescent and serpentine, and who can blush at will, takes her place and sways to and
fro in her turn, shimmering as an airy feather, as diaphanous as a phantom.34

Lundgren’s painting joins several other works—eighteenth- and nineteenth-century

Indian and European paintings, textiles and jewelry (191, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197), nine-
teenth-century Indian photographs, and the imagery of twentieth-century Indian films
(201, p. 48) —that are brought together here in order to examine the impact of Lucknow’s
refined and highly romanticized courtesan culture upon the city’s legacy.
Although the term for these courtesans, tawaif, is inclusive of a range of female
performers, their highest ranks consisted of well-educated and exquisitely mannered
women who were employed by Lucknow’s elite classes for musical and dance perfor-
mances, poetry recitals, and the teaching of social etiquette. Respected tawaifs were even
employed to sing and recite poetry at Lucknow’s Shia religious assemblies.35 They were
depicted by many European and Indian artists in paintings and photographs that stand
in rather stark contrast to imagined views of wives and consorts in the protected domes-
tic spaces of the zenana, images that belie the latter women’s sometimes considerable Left: 197. Nose ORnament,
19th century
political influence (185, 186, p. 49; 187, 188, p. 48). Negative perceptions of the importance
Center: 196. Hand ORnament,
of women and feminine themes in the courtly culture of Lucknow significantly affected 19th century
British and Indian assessments of the city well into the twentieth century.36 Satyajit
Right: 191. Hair ORnament,
Ray’s famous 1977 film The Chess Players (Shatranj ke Khilari), which presents the c. mid-19th century

46 47 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

Top: 187. Attributed to Nevasi Lal,
Two Nautch GiRls Dancing the
KuhaRwa befoRe a Nobleman and
His CouRtieRs, c. 1780

Bottom left: 188. Tilly Kettle,

An Indian Dancing GiRl with a
Hookah, 1772

Bottom Right: 201. Vasudeo,

designer, film poster, UmRao Jaan,

Top: 186. Attributed to Nevasi Lal,

Noblewomen Playing Chess,
c. 1780 –1800

Bottom: 185. AcRobats PeRfoRm-

ing on a TightRope, c. 1785

48 49 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

annexation of Awadh through an indictment of its ruling elites, provides one examination [The Private Life of an Eastern King, Together with Eliju Jan’s Story, or The “Embodying War: British Women and Domestic Defilement in the Indian
Private Life of an Eastern Queen (London: Oxford University Press, 1921)]. ‘Mutiny,’ 1857– 8,” Journal of Historical Geography 26:3 (2000): 403 –28;
of the discourse that set British masculinity in opposition to Indian effeminacy. Other 37
14. See, for instance, Percy Brown’s characterization of Awadhi architecture as Alison Blunt, “Spatial Stories under Siege: British Women Writing from
indicative of stagnation and “tawdry pretence” [Indian Architecture: The Lucknow in 1857,” Gender, Place, and Culture 7:3 (2000): 229 – 46; Claudia
films of the postcolonial era that are set in Lucknow—for example, Chaudhvin ka Chand Klaver, “Domesticity under Siege: British Women and Imperial Crisis at the
Islamic Period (Bombay: Taraporevala, 1942), 122 –23]; Phillip Rawson’s
(1960), Pakeezah (1971), and Umrao Jaan (three versions: 1971, 1981, and 2006)—con- comments on the shallowness of late Mughal painting styles, including that Siege of Lucknow, 1857,” Women’s Writing 8:1 (2001): 21– 58; and Julia
of Lucknow [Indian Painting (Paris: Pierre Tisné, 1961), 116]; and Basil Thomas, Pictorial Victorians: The Inscription of Values in Word and Image
sciously recall the city’s rich and cultivated history through the person of the tawaif. Gray’s remarks on the lifeless and superficial character of Lucknow painting (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004), 125 – 43.
Such films are important for understanding the development of a Bollywood trope— [Douglas Barrett and Basil Gray, Painting of India (Geneva: Albert Skira, 30. Projit Bihari Mukharji, “Jessie’s Dream at Lucknow: Popular Memorializa-
1963), 114]. tions of Dissent, Ambiguity, and Class in the Heart of Empire,” Studies in
inspired in large part by the city of Lucknow—that links courtesans indelibly with 15. Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal Friendship, 236 – 41. History n.s. 24:1 (2008): 77–113.
For a full discussion of developments in the city in the immediate post-
urbane Muslim culture.38 These can be contrasted with stereotyped filmic representations 16. Quoted in Petievich, Assembly of Rivals, 55. 31.
Uprising years, see Veena Talwar Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial
17. Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal Friendship, 234.
of chaste and idealized Hindu womanhood. The former, in their reference to the shared Lucknow, 1856–1877 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).
18. For a study examining various dimensions of these interracial relationships,
32. From a longer ghazal by Jurat, quoted in D. J. Matthews and C. Shackle,
precolonial courtly history of northern India, also speak eloquently to memories of “the see Durba Ghosh, Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of
An Anthology of Classical Urdu Love Lyrics (London: Oxford University
Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
unpartitioned homeland of the people of al-Hind.” 39 Press, 1972), 72.
19. Some of these controversies are expressed in an exchange between Pankaj
33. Quoted in Oldenburg, ed., Shaam-e-Awadh, 98.
Recollections of Lucknow’s past are what inspired, in part, the words of the poet Mishra and William Dalrymple: Pankaj Mishra, “More Trouble Than It Is
Worth,” Common Knowledge 11.3 (2005): 432 – 44; and William Dalrymple, 34. Quoted in Nilsson and Gupta, The Painter’s Eye, 127–28.
Majaz with which this essay opened. His verse expressed the hopes of a progressive Urdu “Assimilation and Transculturation in Eighteenth-Century India: A 35. The cultural roles of courtesans, both in pre- and post-colonial India, as well
Response to Pankaj Mishra,” Common Knowledge 11.3 (2005), 445 – 85. as at Lucknow, are explored in several studies: Doris M. Srinivasan,
poet for the future of the city in the years surrounding India’s Independence. For a
20. Martin’s decision to remain in Lucknow, rather than return to Europe, was “Royalty’s Courtesans and God’s Mortal Wives: Keepers of Culture in
number of reasons, the city would never achieve the same prominence it enjoyed in prompted in part by Polier’s murder in France in 1795. It also appears to Precolonial India,” in Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon, eds., The
have been influenced by his own fears of losing his wealth to European Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University
precolonial, or even pre-Partition years. India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow taxation. [Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Man of the Enlightenment in Eighteenth- Press, 2006), 161– 81; Regula Burckhart Qureshi, “Female Agency and
Patrilineal Constraints: Situating Courtesans in Twentieth-Century India,”
was organized to convey some sense of Lucknow’s extraordinary history and aesthetic Century India: The Letters of Claude Martin 1766–1800 (Delhi: Permanent
Black, 2003), 315; and Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Very Ingenious Man: Claude in Feldman and Gordon, The Courtesan’s Arts, 312 – 31; Adrien McNeil,
achievements as well as its unique place within the imaginative visual discourses of Martin in Early Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992), “Tawa’if, Military Musicians, and Shi’a Ideology in Pre-Rebellion Lucknow,”
204 – 5]. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies n.s. 32:1 (2009): 46 – 62; and
colonialism, national identity, and cultural memory. Veena Talwar Oldenburg, “Lifestyle as Resistance: The Case of the
21. Maya Jasanoff, Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East,
Courtesans of Lucknow,” in Violette Graf, ed., Lucknow: Memories of a City
1750 –1850 (New York: Knopf, 2005), 45 –114. See also Sanjay Subrahman-
(New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1997), 136 – 54.
yam, “The Career of Colonel Polier and Late-Eighteenth-Century Oriental-
1. Quoted in Mushirul Hasan, From Pluralism to Separatism: Qasbas in Colonial Awadh (New Delhi: Oxford University ism,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 10.1 (2000): 43 – 60. 36. See Michael H. Fisher, “Women and the Feminine in the Court and High
Press, 2007), 46. I thank Carlo Coppola for sharing with me his research on Majaz. Culture of Awadh, 1722 –1856,” in Gavin R. G. Hambly, ed., Women in the
22. See the 1801 inventory of Martin’s estate, British Library, Oriental and
Medieval Islamic World: Power, Patronage, and Piety (New York: St. Martin’s
2. See Carla Petievich, Assembly of Rivals: Delhi, Lucknow, and the Urdu Ghazal (New Delhi: Manohar, 1992). India Office Collections, Bengal Inventories, Vol. 1, no. 75.
Press, 1998), 489 – 519.
3. Ibid., 30. See Carla Petievich’s essay in this volume for further discussion of poetry at Lucknow, including its poets from 23. For one such collection of his paintings, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones et al.,
37. The film was based on the 1924 short story, of the same title, by the Hindi
Delhi. The Lucknow Menagerie: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of
writer Munshi Premchand. For discussions of the film, see Vinay Lal,
4. Ibid., 30 – 31. Claude Martin (1735–1800) (London: Hobhouse, 2001).
“Masculinity and Femininity in The Chess Players,” Manushi 92 – 93 (1996):
5. Quoted in Anna A. Suvorova, Masnavi: A Study of Urdu Romance, trans. M. Osama Faruqi (Oxford: Oxford University 24. By Atish, quoted in Petievich, Assembly of Rivals, 162. 41– 50; Darius Cooper, “The Representation of Colonialism in Satyajit Ray’s
Press, 2000), 112 –13. For a discussion of the poem’s evocation of the city, see 110 – 33. 25. A painting by Lundgren (1815 –1875), who for some time in 1858 accompanied The Chess Players,” in Wimal Dissanayake, ed., Colonialism and Nationalism
6. Peter Manuel, Thumri in Historical and Stylistic Perspectives (Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass, 1989), 20. the reporter William Russell, also documented the looting of the Qaisar in Asian Cinema (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,
Bagh. For information on Lundgren, see Sten Nilsson and Narayani Gupta, 1994), 174 – 89; and Suranjan Ganguly, “Poetry into Prose: The Rewriting of
7. Ibid.
The Painter’s Eye: Egron Lundgren and India (Stockholm: Nationalmuseum, Oudh in Satyajit Ray’s The Chess Players,” The Journal of Commonwealth
8. Quoted in Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal Friendship: The Nawabs, the British, and the City of Lucknow (New Delhi: 1992); and Sten Nilsson, “Egron Lundgren, Reporter of the Indian Mutiny,” Literature 30 (1995): 17–24.
Oxford University Press, 1985), 200 –201. Apollo n.s. 92:102 (1970): 138 – 43. William Simpson traveled to Lucknow in 38. Usamah Ansari, “‘There Are Thousands Drunk by the Passion of These
9. March 3, 1858. William Howard Russell, My Indian Mutiny Diary, ed. Michael Edwardes (London: Cassell, 1957), 57– 58. November 1860, after the rebellion had long since been suppressed [Mildred Eyes.’ Bollywood’s Tawa’if: Narrating the Nation and ‘The Muslim,’” South
It should be noted that Russell’s account attempts to give an honest and fair account of the uprising and of British Archer, Visions of India: The Sketchbooks of William Simpson 1859–62 Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies n.s. 31:2 (2008): 290 – 316.
conduct in India. (Oxford: Phaidon, 1986)].
39. Mukul Kesavan, “Urdu, Awadh, and the Tawaif: The Islamicate Roots of
10. Emily Eden had earlier described, in terms similar to those of Lawrence, a royal garden at Lucknow: “Such a place! The 26. J. W. M. Hichberger, Images of the Army: The Military in British Art, Hindi Cinema,” in Zoya Hasan, ed., Forging Identities: Gender, Communi-
only residence I have coveted in India. Don’t you remember where in the ‘Arabian Nights,’ Zobeide bets her ‘garden of 1815–1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 59 – 63; and ties, and the State (New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1994), 244 – 57.
delights’ against the Caliph’s ‘palace of pictures?’ I am sure this was ‘the garden of delights!’ [Emily Eden, Up the Joseph A. Kestner, “Victorian Military Painting and the Constructing of
Country: Letters Written to Her Sister from the Upper Provinces of India (London: Virago, 1983), 62]. See also, in a letter Masculinity,” Victorian Literature and Culture 24 (1996): 51– 54.
written to Fanny Parks from Lucknow, a description of Nasir al-Din Haidar’s wives as “creatures of the Arabian tales,“ 27. Hichberger, Images of the Army, 63 –70. Joany Hichberger, “Democratizing
one of them “so beautiful, I could think of nothing but Lalla Rookh in her bridal attire” [Fanny Parks, Wanderings of a Glory? The Victoria Cross Paintings of Louis Desanges, Oxford Art Journal
Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque, During Four and Twenty Years in the East; with Revelations of Life in the Zenana, 7:2 (1984): 42 – 51.
Vol. 1 (1850; reprint New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1999), 88].
28. S. O. Beeton, Our Soldiers and the Victoria Cross: A General Account of the
11. Quoted in Veena Talwar Oldenburg, “Nawabi Lucknow: Through Western Eyes,” in Veena Talwar Oldenburg, ed., Regiments and Men of the British Army and Stories of the Brave Deeds which
Shaam-e-Awadh: Writings on Lucknow (New Delhi: Penguin, 2007), 13 –14. Won the Prize “For Valour” (London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, 1867), 230.
12. Thomas Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj, The New Cambridge History of India III.4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Beeton’s book was written for young boys. The mention of Cawnpore
Press, 1994), 6 – 9. Metcalf further notes (171–77) that perceptions of India’s dirt, filth, and disease—to which some (Kanpur) references the 1857 massacre there of some 200 European women
observers alluded in their descriptions of Lucknow—also contributed to the ideology of difference which informed British and children. A depiction of Kavanagh in Indian dress was also painted by
colonial attitudes and policy in India. Egron Lundgren [Nilsson, “Egron Lundgren,” 139].
13. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, Engaging Scoundrels: True Tales of Old Lucknow (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), 29. A good deal of recent literature treats the subject of these women and the
65 – 66. See also the account of Sir William H. Sleeman, Resident at Lucknow from 1849 to 1856. Although Sleeman imagery they inspired: Pamela Gerrish Nunn, Problem Pictures: Women and
advised against the annexation of Awadh, his reports to Lord Dalhousie provided some of its justification [Maj. Gen. Men in Victorian Painting (Hants, UK: Scolar, 1995), 73 – 93; Alison Blunt,
W. H. Sleeman, A Journey through the Kingdom of Oude, 1849 –1850, with Private Correspondence Relative to the “The Flight from Lucknow: British Women Travelling and Writing Home, Pages 52–53: 189. Egron Lundgren, Nautch EnteR-
Annexation of Oude to British India, 2 Vols. (1858; reprint New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1995)]. The more 1857– 8,” in James Duncan and Derek Gregory, eds., Writes of Passage: tainment by Man Singh in Honor of LoRd Clyde,
sensationalistic accounts include William Knighton’s The Private Life of an Eastern King, first published in 1855 Reading Travel Writing (New York: Routledge, 1999), 92 –113; Alison Blunt, the Commander-in-Chief, 1859

50 51 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition

52 53 Gude : NaRRatives of an exhibition
Ros i e Lle w e lly n -Jon es

Lucknow and European Society

Imagine for a moment that the court of Lucknow had forbidden Europeans from entering Awadh. How would this
have affected the development of the city? Firstly, we would have much less visual evidence. There would be none of
the iconic portraits of the nawabs by Company-school painters, or of Lucknow itself as it emerged from the forest
banks along the river Gomti to become a shining city of polished stucco and brass domes. Nor would we have the
extraordinary photographic panorama by a Frenchman taken about 1850, before the Uprising/Mutiny and British
revenge changed the city forever. Secular buildings would have been unremarkable, a cluster of courtyard houses
(havelis) around a medieval fort, instead of the exuberant series of royal dwellings with their Palladian-style
mansions. The Qaisar Bagh, the last palace complex, would not have existed in anything like its built form, had it
not been for the European buildings that had gone before it. In particular, it was Constantia, the baroque palace
tomb of the Frenchman Major General Claude Martin which gave the Qaisar Bagh its statues, Grecian columns,
and quadrant-arched gate tops. There would have been no sober British Residency with its bungalows and Ban-
queting Hall.
Perhaps the nawabs would not have indulged themselves with so many purchases of European goods, and
they would certainly not have been persuaded into buying expensive astronomical equipment for the royal observa-
tory, or even an iron bridge over the Gomti, which was sent out, in sections, from England. English steam engines
would not have powered the garden fountains or the fish-shaped pleasure boats. Lucknow would have been saved
from many rogues and rascals who preyed on the rich city, including the English East India Company officials as
well as the so-called adventurers. More importantly, that “fatal friendship” which developed between the court and
the Company would not have happened and the princely state of Awadh might well have survived until India’s
Independence in 1947.

54 55 Llewellyn-Jones : Lucknow and EuRopean Society

By the time of Shuja al-Daula’s death in 1775, the nawabi dynasty was already under evening. It must have been a grand occasion, for the
a heavy financial obligation to the English East India Company, which was becoming a nawab was there too, with six of his relatives, and another
political force while at the same time maintaining its mercantile role. It was the extraor- minister, Haidar Beg Khan. The Resident played the
dinary wealth of the nawabs which attracted the Company and the majority of Europeans harpsichord and Elizabeth Plowden, at the nawab’s
who flocked to the city during its heyday. All hoped to profit in some way from their request, sang a Persian song for him. During the follow-
proximity to unlimited riches. In the early 1800s, Shuja al-Daula’s son, the Nawab ing days there were nawabi fireworks parties on the river,
Saadat Ali Khan, was estimated to have an annual net income of over a million pounds puppet shows, acrobats, and a pantomime on the palace
sterling once all his expenses had been paid. It was land revenue, funneled in from terrace, which was beautifully decorated with swags of
Awadh’s fertile countryside, that funded the capital city and its extravagant lifestyle. roses and jasmine bound with silver thread. (Mrs.
The English East India Company was among the first to realize and then to exploit Plowden’s keen eyes often picked up details that male
the nawabs’ wealth. A British Resident was appointed to the court in 1774 while it was writers thought too trivial to mention.)
still at Faizabad, some ninety miles east of Lucknow. The task of Nathaniel Middleton, The Plowdens also visited Claude Martin and
and his successor John Bristow, was to cement “the Friendship between the Company admired his collection of medals and newly arrived prints
and the Vizier [Shuja al-Daula] and the obtaining of large Sums of Money said to be due from England. Martin was an avid collector, so much so
from him.” And this unfortunately set the pattern for most European interaction with
that his town house, later named Farhat Bakhsh, was
the nawabs during the next eighty years. It would be difficult to single out many, if any, described as a “perfect Museum.” He was a Frenchman,
foreigners who went to Lucknow for purely altruistic reasons, and who didn’t hope to get who had deserted from the army of the Compagnie des
nawabi money through wages (often ridiculously high), bribes, gifts, commissions, Indes in 1760 and joined that of the English East India
property, and other goods in kind. Europeans were employed by the nawabs in a wide Company when he saw it would be the victor in the battle
variety of occupations—there were coachmakers and coachmen, grooms, gunsmiths, for South India. Although Martin lived in Lucknow for
astronomers, cobblers, cooks, librarians, English tutors, jockeys, jugglers, musicians, twenty-five years, he was never truly accepted into
letter writers, and interpreters, as well as army officers. Some remained for all of their English society there partly because he was French, and
working lives and received a pension when they retired. Others served briefly, like the because he came from a working-class background.
aristocratic Ambrose Pierre Antoine, Chevalier de L’Etang, who was in charge of the Snobbery was rampant among British society, heightened
royal stables at Versailles before the French Revolution, and who took up a similar post by the comparatively small number of people far from
in Lucknow, was dismissed after only a year, because his employer, Saadat Ali Khan, home, with too little to do, and prone to gossip. Certainly
said he was mistreating the horses. Martin was regarded as a slightly comical figure, speak-
Europeans were not, of course, alone in seeking work and opportunities in Lucknow. ing imperfect English, boastful, and someone who tried to
Other groups of foreigners included Armenians, Iranians, Afghans, Chinese, and people win favors with extravagant gifts to powerful Company
from Iraq, which was then part of Turkish Arabia. But Europeans, and particularly the officers (111).3
British, formed the most influential group, not only because of their political hold over Few of Martin’s contemporaries appreciated him, yet
the nawabs, but because these same nawabs were fascinated by the European artifacts he was an extraordinarily talented man, a true polymath 111. Pair of Silver-BaRreled Pistols PResented by
Claude MaRtin to Lt. Col. Alexander Ross in
offered for sale, by European art, architecture, furnishings, mechanical toys, and, to who could turn his hand to many things. He farmed December 1786, c. 1786; detail below

only a slightly lesser extent, by the Europeans themselves. indigo on his Najafgarh estate near Cawnpore (Kanpur),
There is a charming account by Mrs. Elizabeth Plowden, a British officer’s wife, of managed the nawab’s armory, cast cannon and bells,
the friendly relations with the Nawab Asaf al-Daula and his ministers during the spring experimented with electricity, constructed and flew
of 1788. Her husband, Captain Richard Plowden, had commanded the nawab’s body-
hot-air balloons, exported goods to Europe, acted as
guard, and the Plowdens thoroughly enjoyed a season of entertainments in Lucknow. banker and moneylender to many, including the nawab,
They went as guests with the British Resident’s family to watch an elephant fight hosted and was an inspired amateur architect. He was also the
by the nawab, in a house overlooking the river. (The elephants fought on the opposite richest European in India of his era, another fact which
Page 54: Fig. 3. Johann Zoffany (1733 –1810), Colonel bank.) A breakfast of tea, toast, and passion fruit was served, and the visitors were probably did not endear him to his contemporaries, who
Antoine-Louis Polier with His FRiends Major-
GeneRal Claude MaRtin, John Wombwell, and
entertained by nautch dancers and a “set of Mimics,” one of whom “emulated a Monkey were themselves out to make as much money as they
the ARtist; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, 1786 or exceedingly well.” The chief minister, Hasan Reza Khan, was a breakfast guest at the could. The fact that Martin had made (most of) his
1787; oil on canvas, 54 x 72 1⁄2 in. (137 x 183.5 cm); Victoria
Memorial Hall, Kolkata Plowdens’ house, and he also attended a dinner in the British Residency one February fortune by his own hard work was overlooked. It is true

56 57 Llewellyn-Jones : Lucknow and EuRopean Society

that he did sell European goods to Asaf al-Daula at grossly inflated prices, but others, Given the attitudes towards Martin, it was not tion, and married among themselves, so that each family
including some British Residents, did the same. Martin had a superior set of contacts surprising that his real friends were European, rather tree weaves in and out of the others in a complicated
whom he sent on buying sprees for luxury European goods, shipped via Calcutta. In than British. Colonel Antoine-Louis Polier was born in pattern.4 These are not names usually associated with
attitude Martin was a product of the European Enlightenment, demonstrated by the Switzerland, and the two men first met in Faizabad, at Lucknow’s European society, even where the founder
books in his extensive library, his rational treatment of the peasants on his estate, his Shuja al-Daula’s court. Later Polier established his member was a Spanish nobleman (Don Joseph Chamois
irreligious beliefs, and his philanthropy. He bequeathed Constantia, completed after household in Lucknow, at a place he named Polierganj, de Quiros Chevalier), an Irish trader (James Duhan), a
his death (109), as a school for children of “any religion.” Its architectural influence on although its location has not been identified. Another close French soldier (Major Jacques Maximilian Deverinne), or
later European buildings by the nawabs was immense. The statues along Constantia’s friend was General Count Benoit de Boigne, born at an enterprising Englishman (Richard Rotton). The
parapets, molded by Indian craftsmen from local clay, were copied extensively and appear Chambery, then in independent Savoy. Both Polier and de majority of these families led respectable, industrious
on buildings, including the Qaisar Bagh, in post-Uprising photographs. The nawabs Boigne pursued careers mainly outside Lucknow, but the lives, although when they did get into trouble their mixed
clearly found no conflict with any Islamic strictures that frowned on the representation three friends had much in common, including harems of ancestry was cited in a disparaging way. Some were
of living forms. Also much copied were Martin’s distinctive octagonal towers, which women. In this they were not alone—the majority of shopkeepers, some invested in indigo, others were soldiers,
occur in later nawabi buildings, like the Alam Bagh palace and the Khurshid Manzil. unmarried European men in eighteenth-century India engineers, armament dealers, and painters. The commu-
In fact, the Scottish engineer who built the Khurshid Manzil for Saadat Ali Khan also took local wives or mistresses, known as bibis. Martin had nity adapted itself to changing circumstances, taking up
copied the moat that had originally surrounded Martin’s town house, and which was seven young Indian and Anglo-Indian mistresses, includ- different occupations when necessary. In general though,
filled from the Gomti. ing Boulone, his favorite, and Girl Sally, who was only these families became poorer during the nineteenth
thirteen when she entered his household. De Boigne had century. The initial fortunes made by the founders were
three Indian wives, one of whom he abandoned in En- used up by their descendants, so that by the annexation of
gland, and he left the other two poorly provided for in Awadh some were existing on a pittance.
India. On his return to France, Polier left all three of his One such family was that of J. Munro Sinclair, from
wives in Martin’s care. Elizabeth Plowden wrote that Edinburgh. He arrived in Lucknow in 1822 to work for
after a pleasant dinner with Martin, she went into his King Ghazi al-Din Haidar, as “Civil Engineer to his
zenana to see Polier’s family. Few Europeans at the end Majesty,” having been recommended by the Marquis of
of the eighteenth century commented on the habit of Hastings. He was initially on a salary of 1,500 rupees a
keeping Indian mistresses, or marrying Indian women, month and in charge of the nawab’s fireworks, which were
because it was so universal. The bibis of European men spectacular set-pieces that took weeks to prepare. Sinclair
were treated in the same way as upper-class Muslim married and had a large family, described as “East
women, that is, they were kept hidden from view and did Indian.” Three sons served in the nawab’s army. On his
not mingle socially with men (Fig. 2, p. 33). Close relation- death in 1845 he left his house to his daughter Charlotte,
ships with them gave the men insights into local culture but her only income was from a pension of twenty rupees
and customs, as well as language. Both Martin and Polier a month from the nawab. Even this ceased on annexation,
dictated letters in Persian, the court language used for and she had to borrow money to save herself from starva-
formal correspondence until the death of the last nawab tion. Similarly John Sangster, whose father and grand-
in 1887. father had both worked for Asaf al-Daula, ended up
The children of these mixed marriages were described stealing from beggars in the poorhouse.
as “country-born” or “East Indian.” (The term “Anglo- It was, however, the more colorful Europeans that
Indian,” used here for convenience, was not adopted until one usually associates with courtly Lucknow. Some were
the twentieth century.) A considerable number of Anglo- connoisseurs and patrons, both of visiting European
Indian families are recorded in Lucknow. Their names artists and local painters. (Claude Martin, who commis-
indicate the provenance of their founders—Catania, sioned a series of natural history drawings from Indian
Braganza, Duhan, Johannes, Sangster, Sinclair, Rotton, artists, imported thousands of sheets of English draw-
Qui(e)ros, Nazareth, Campagnac, Delmerick, Deverinne, ing paper, and “Chinese crayons” for his painters.)
and more. Unlike the transient European population, Tilly Kettle was the first European artist in India, and
109. F. Frith & Co.; Francis Frith, La MaRtinièRe, 1870s these families lived in the city, generation after genera- significantly, after completing a number of portraits in

58 59 Llewellyn-Jones : Lucknow and EuRopean Society

the south, he traveled to Faizabad. Here, at court, during
the winter from 1771 to 1772 he painted Shuja al-Daula and
his numerous sons, portraying them at full length, as regal
figures (28, p. 229). Kettle’s decision to visit Faizabad
was to have important consequences. If he had not been
successful with his commissions from Shuja al-Daula,
then other Western artists would not have followed him.
As it is, we can re-create something of the city and its
inhabitants from the work of European painters, encour-
aged by Kettle’s example. The fact that some of them,
having hoped for fat commissions from the nawabs found
that actually getting their fee could take years and many
applications did not seem to deter them. At one point, in
the summer of 1786, there were no less than four promi-
nent artists in residence at Lucknow—Ozias Humphry,
Johann Zoffany, Charles Smith, and Thomas Longcroft
(50). These men not only painted the nawabs, their
ministers, and Europeans, but took sketchbooks, pencils,
and probably a camera obscura out into the city, creating
highly detailed images of the palaces, the mosques, the
magnificent gateways, and the river, with its animal-
headed pleasure barges. Captain Robert Smith’s eight-
part panorama, drawn in 1832, near the Daulat Khana
palace, captures the spacious grandeur of this area,
developed by Asaf al-Daula and embellished by his succes-
50. Thomas Longcroft, Gateway to Palace, Lucknow, 1798
sors (53, pp. 142–43).5 Two Englishmen, Robert Home
and George Duncan Beechey, were successively employed
as court artists, and Home not only painted Ghazi al-Din
Haidar but designed the crown for his coronation, his
coronation robes, and his furniture.
In the break-up of the Mughal Empire, exquisite
Indian paintings, illuminated manuscripts, and priceless
books became available for sale and European collectors
in Lucknow snapped them up (127, p. 63; 132, p. 62).
Richard Johnson was appointed Assistant British Resi-
dent in 1781, and although he lived in Lucknow for
only eighteen months, he was able to amass an outstand-
ing collection of Mughal paintings (135, p. 63; 137, 138,
p. 62). The fact that he was nicknamed “Rupee Johnson”
and was a deeply corrupt and arrogant man probably
had a lot to do with it. Polier built up a large collection
of over five hundred Persian and Arabic manuscripts,
and is shown seated with one of them open at his elbow
in the well-known painting by Zoffany, which includes

60 61 Llewellyn-Jones : Lucknow and EuRopean Society

left: 137. Mohan Singh, StoRy of
the Elephants and Rabbits,
c. 1770

Right: 138. Mohan Singh, StoRy

of the Elephants and Rabbits,
c. 1770

Below: 132. Palace GaRden in a

River Landscape, c. 1785

left: 135. Bahadur Singh, PoRtRait of a Mufti, c. 1775

Right: 127. Shah Jahan, c. 1780

62 63 Llewellyn-Jones : Lucknow and EuRopean Society

Claude Martin, John Wombwell, the Company’s accoun- lished by the nawab in a large, comfortable house, with
tant, and the artist himself (Fig. 3, p. 54). A close friend adjoining bungalows, a well, and “an extensive garden
to the Nawab Saadat Ali Khan was the aristocratic planted with the choicest Trees,” which the Colonel had
Englishman Sir Gore Ouseley, who also collected illus- uprooted from the Plowdens’ garden. The lively painting
trated Mughal manuscripts. by Zoffany entitled Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match—
Ouseley was one of the Europeans commissioned by which inspired several copies—shows the relationship
the nawabs to erect their Lucknow houses in “the Euro- (which some think was homosexual) between the two men,
pean taste” and he complied by supervising the construc- at a favorite entertainment (Fig. 38, p. 228; 105, p. 66).
tion of Dilkusha Kothi, south of the city (82). This was a After Mordaunt’s death, from fever in 1790, the nawab
close copy of Seaton Delaval, a house in Northumberland, was said to have cried like a child at his funeral.
on England’s northeast coast, which was designed by the King Nasir al-Din Haidar left himself open to
architect and dramatist Sir John Vanbrugh. Because criticism when he employed George Harris Derusett, the
Dilkusha was based on an English country house, it could “barber of Lucknow,” to manage his social life and then
not easily fulfill the requirements of a Muslim court, the royal household. Nasir al-Din Haidar was the most
where the women needed separate quarters from the men. Anglophile of the nawabs, a weak ruler and a man with
As a result, Dilkusha was modified from its original plan, a playboy reputation. No significant buildings were
but it was never really used, apart from overnight stays erected during his reign, and, symbolically, his own tomb
by the nawab or his European friends. It was almost remains unfinished. But he enjoyed his short life to the
destroyed by some unspecified catastrophe after 1857 and full, orchestrated for a few years by his Irish hairdresser.
is in ruins today. The fact that other similarly commis- Reinventing himself and changing his name from
sioned “European” buildings have been demolished, or so Quigley, Derusett was soon put in charge of the nawab’s
poorly maintained as to become ruinous, shows that pleasure boats, which sailed up and down the Gomti, and
superficial Europeanization in Lucknow, no matter how the bridges which crossed the river.6 He was responsible
convincing it appeared to Europeans, had no deep or for fitting up the pinnace the Sultan of Oude in magnifi-
lasting roots in the make-up of the city. Other European- cent style, with teak planking, velvet drapes, looking-
designed buildings were commissioned from the ubiqui- glasses, and four dozen bottles of brandy. Put in charge
tous Claude Martin (Bibiapur, Barowen, and probably of the nawab’s wardrobe, he established a tailor’s shop
Asafi Kothi), from Captain Marsack (an unidentified where his elaborate European costumes were made. Next
house), from Captain Duncan McLeod (Khurshid Manzil) Derusett was employed as superintendent of the palace,
and from Colonel Polier, who was briefly court architect where he oversaw the French chef, and purchased food
to Asaf al-Daula. and drink for the royal kitchens. Scandalous stories of
82. Samuel Bourne, Dilkusha Kothi, 1855 – 66
There was considerable interaction between some of drunken, debauched parties, orchestrated by the barber,
the nawabs and some favored Europeans, and with it the with the nawab “attired in the dress of an European
opportunity for the latter to exploit the former. (It didn’t lady!” soon reached the British Resident’s ears, but he
seem to work the other way around, apart from some was unable to do more than report the “shocking indecen-
disgruntled employees who said the nawabs owed them cies” to the governor-general. Derusett made money
money.) But at the same time, the nawabs themselves from goods and services bought on the nawab’s behalf,
seemed remarkably open to exploitation. The fondness, and soon learned that the best way to get his bills paid
particularly of Asaf al-Daula, for European trinkets was was to present them when Nasir al-Din Haidar was
legendary. He paid ridiculously high prices for goods that drunk. He was not the kind of European who added luster
were commonplace in the West. He also indulged his to Lucknow society, but he was not untypical in retiring
European favorite, Colonel John Mordaunt, the illegiti- from the court with a fortune. Others had done the same,
mate son of the Earl of Peterborough, who was sent by the though perhaps with more finesse.
Company as an aide-de-camp. Mordaunt was soon estab- To conclude, how fluid were the barriers between

64 65 Llewellyn-Jones : Lucknow and EuRopean Society

European and Indian society in Lucknow? Was there a Ghazi al-Din Haidar. There was also Biddy Timms,
genuine crossover of culture? A copy of a now-vanished an Englishwoman who married Hassan Ali, a professor
painting by Zoffany shows Colonel Polier seated on the of Persian and Hindustani at the Company’s military
veranda of his house. He is wearing a white angarkha academy in Surrey. As Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali she spent
under a gold brocade coat, and a gem-studded turban. twelve years in Lucknow and wrote a fascinating account
His flowing mustache is worn in the style introduced by of Muslim life there called Observations on the Mussul-
the nawabs, of a fashionable Persian gentleman. He is mauns of India. Among Anglo-Indian families it was
watching three dancing girls who seem to be explaining more common to slip from one religion to the other and
the finer points of rhythm to him. A hookah is by his children would sometimes have both Christian and
side, and in the background are female musicians and Muslim names.
servants (106, p. 68). The idea of the “white mughals,” The presence of Europeans in nawabi Lucknow
Europeans who adopted Indian dress and habits, is borne undoubtedly enhanced the city, both physically and cul-
out by a number of portraits and descriptions from turally, while the earlier nawabs themselves led the way
Lucknow. John Wombwell, the Company accountant, is in eagerly embracing the European style. But there was
pictured relaxing in native dress, a welcome change, one a distinct change during the later years of the nawabi
imagines, from his usual restrictive clothes (Fig. 35, period. As the financial demands of the East India
p. 230). As we have seen, Europeans kept harems of Company increased, pressure was put on Awadh’s rulers
women, which they certainly would not have done at home. to reform their administration. Reports on their moral
There was a genuine appreciation of Indian literature, failings were sent to the governor-general in Calcutta,
art, and music by these men, who brought with them, by particularly by Sir William Sleeman, Resident for much
the late eighteenth century, a curiosity about the natural of Wajid Ali Shah’s nine-year reign. The love affair with
world and the flora and fauna around them. the West was over. Wajid Ali Shah deliberately retreated
In return, at least two rulers of Awadh were into a more familiar world of Urdu poetry, Indian dance,
described, or painted, wearing European clothes. Saadat drama, and the arts, although his new Qaisar Bagh
Ali Khan had an English admiral’s uniform, a regimental Palace was recognizably a series of European-inspired
dress, and a Protestant parson’s outfit which he used to vistas. Certainly Lucknow would have been poorer
105. Colonel Mordaunt’s Cockfight, after a Painting
surprise guests. He also had a selection of wigs. Nasir without the input from Europe. But at the same time it
by Johann Zoffany, c. 1800
al-Din Haidar wore the more conventional dress of a might have avoided the tragedy of annexation in 1856
fashionable Regency buck, with tight white trousers and followed by the Uprising a year later.
a fitted blue jacket. From the 1780s, with the building of
the Daulat Khana, the nawabs lived in European-style 1. Bengal Secret Consultations 28 December 1774, India Office Records,
palaces, surrounded by European furniture and paintings British Library, quoted in Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal Friendship: The
Nawabs, the British, and the City of Lucknow (Delhi: Oxford University
and enjoying European luxuries. Some enjoyed listening Press, 1985), 88 – 89.
to western music, played by bandsmen, pianists, and 2. Diary of Mrs. Elizabeth Plowden, in Mss Eur C 149 Misc. Papers of Richard
Chicheley Plowden, India Office Records, British Library.
bagpipers. When they went out they were driven in 3. For an account of Claude Martin’s life, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Very
coaches imported from England. Europeans were invited Ingenious Man: Claude Martin in Early Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford
University Press, 1992); and A Man of the Enlightenment in Eighteenth-
by them to Indian festivals, including the spring celebra- Century India: The Letters of Claude Martin 1766–1800 (Delhi: Permanent
Black, 2003). For Martin’s letter to Lt. Col. Ross, to whom he gave the
tions (Basant) and Eid. The nawabs attended Christmas pistols illustrated, see A Man of the Enlightenment, 98.
parties at the Residency, but this was as far as religious 4. For a recent study of Lucknow’s Anglo-Indian community, see Malcolm
Speirs, The Wasikadars of Awadh (Delhi: Rupa & Co., 2008).
recognition went. There were very few cases of conversion, 5. This panorama, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, Prints and Drawings
and Muslim women in the harems of European men were Department, is reproduced in Lucknow, City of Illusion, ed. Rosie Llewellyn-
Jones (New Delhi: Alkazi Collection of Photography; Munich: Prestel, 2006),
not urged to become Christians. One or two European 38 – 39.

women converted to Islam, notably Mary Angela Short, 6. For more on Derusett, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’s chapter “The Barber of
Lucknow,” in Engaging Scoundrels: True Tales of Old Lucknow (Delhi:
who became Sultan Mariam Begam when she married Oxford University Press, 2000), 65 – 85.

66 67 Llewellyn-Jones : Lucknow and EuRopean Society

T u s h a ra B i n du Gu de

Hybrid Visions: The Cultural

Landscape of Awadh

The cosmopolitan natures of the successive Awadhi capitals of Faizabad and Lucknow, especially the interactions
between their Indian residents and European visitors, have received considerable scholarly and novelistic atten-
tion. Such interactions are fabulously recorded in the arts—in paintings such as Johann Zoffany’s Colonel
Mordaunt’s Cock Match, 1784 – 86, or Colonel Antoine-Louis-Henri Polier Watching a Nautch, 1782 – 88, by an Indian
artist after Zoffany (Fig. 34, p. 228; 106, p. 70) —as well as in various histories, memoirs, and bodies of correspon-
dence. The imagery, impressions, and judgments contained in these sources follow, in large part, the shifting
political realities of the province. Yet the term “hybrid” that is so often used to describe the arts of Awadh, in
particular reference to the Indian assimilation of European styles and influences as well as the European adoption
of Indian lifestyles and pursuits, reflects these realities only partially. Awadh’s arts—though certainly affected by
the encounters between Indian and European artists and patrons—were also shaped by other types of histories,
relationships, and processes.
In this essay I address some of the complexities of artistic production in Faizabad and Lucknow through
a consideration not only of the meeting that took place there between East and West but also of Awadh’s provincial
Mughal history and its ruling dynasty’s own Persian Shia ancestry. Following on the discussion contained in my
introduction to the exhibition, which situates Awadhi art within the spaces of history and memory, I am here
interested in an exploration of Awadh as a place of artistic invention. My approach is informed in many ways by
recent studies concerning the geographical dimensions of art history which are apparent in, for instance, our

68 69 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

references to regional Indian styles and in discussions of Awadh’s extractable revenues were then far less than
artistic centers, peripheries, and the exchanges between those of his previous subedari of Agra—Saadat Khan
them. Such considerations are especially relevant to
managed to control various local rebellions and double the
Awadh. From the mid-eighteenth through the mid-nine- province’s remittances to Delhi. For this achievement
teenth centuries, the region’s distinct cultural contours Muhammad Shah bestowed upon him the title Burhan
were defined—by its various inhabitants and observers— al-Mulk (“Proof of the Realm”).7 Virtually the same
in relation to Delhi, Iran, and Europe. The impact of the likeness of Saadat Khan appears in a roughly contempo-
last named has tended to overshadow the role of imperial raneous Mughal painting depicting the nobleman with
Mughal art and indigenous traditions in the mediation Muhammad Shah, now in the British Library, London, as
of Awadh’s hybrid artistic forms. The importance of both well as in later works that were executed in Faizabad.8
Delhi and Shia Iran to nawabi conceptions of kingship In one such painting from Faizabad, for instance, the
are also reflected in several hybrid Awadhi works. familiar figure of Saadat Khan appears yet again,
Awadh encompassed a cultural region of great although in this instance he is shown seated with his
antiquity but was first designated as a distinct adminis- nephew, and son-in-law, Safdar Jang (5). The exact date
trative province during the thirteenth century under the of the painting is unknown; however, its formal proper-
Delhi Sultanate. It continued to be recognized as such— ties—compositional symmetry, setting, and color pal-
though its exact geographical boundaries are unclear— ette—firmly link it to paintings of Muhammad Shah’s
under successive waves of Muslim rule. The history with
atelier, from which a number of artists are known to have
which this essay is concerned begins with Awadh’s migrated to Awadh following the Persian sack of Delhi in
incorporation, in 1580, into the dominions of the Mughal 1739 and the emperor’s death in 1748. The historical
Emperor Akbar (r. 1556 –1605) and thus into a political interest of this painting lies in the emerging political
relationship that would greatly influence the aspirations configuration that it documents, for Saadat Khan named
and cultural activities of Awadh’s later rulers. Akbar’s
Safdar Jang as his deputy governor and, in doing so,
court historian Abul Fazl described the province in became the first Mughal subedar to designate his own
favorable terms, but Awadh appears to have figured successor. Although this appointment was subject to the
somewhat remotely in the concerns of this emperor and approval of the emperor, it was one of several crucial
his immediate successors. By the late eighteenth century,
steps, as the historian Richard Barnett has shown, in the
however, Awadh had emerged as a prosperous agricul- establishment of regional autonomy by various provincial
tural and trading region as well as an important strategic Mughal governors during the eighteenth century.9 Safdar
asset to an empire then facing threats from aggressive Jang’s own instincts for political survival, by which he
regional powers. It was for these reasons as well that it gained the offices and power to exploit imperial weakness,
would also be drawn into the commercial and expansion- led to the further expansion of Awadhi territory and its
ist designs of the English East India Company. 5
consolidation as an independent dynastic state.
That Awadh was oriented artistically toward the The late-Mughal history of Awadh was paralleled in
Mughals is well known. The political relationship
other provinces where painting schools that were at first
between Awadh and Delhi is given expression in such dependent upon the Mughal idiom went on to develop their
paintings as Muhammad Shah with Courtiers, c. 1730, own distinctive styles. We may, for instance, compare
attributed to the artist Chitarman, in the Bodleian late-eighteenth-century paintings from Awadh with
Top: Fig. 4. Attributed to Chitarman, Muhammad Shah
Library, Oxford (fig. 4). Among the four men surround- contemporaneous works from Murshidabad and Farrukh-
with CouRtieRs; India, c. 1730; opaque watercolor and gold on
paper, page 18 ⁄ x 15 ⁄ in. (46.2 x 38.5 cm), image 16 ⁄ x 13 ⁄
1 8 1 8 1 8 12
ing the centrally seated Mughal emperor is Saadat Khan abad, and easily comprehend their individual stylistic
(41 x 34.4 cm); Bodleian Library MS Douce Or.a.3, fol. 14 r
Burhan al-Mulk, who is identified by an inscription above characteristics. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s
bottom: 5. Saadat Khan BuRhan al-Mulk, and Safdar
Jang, 1750– 60
the fan held across his right shoulder. Saadat Khan was painting of a prince hunting with cheetah (26, p. 72)
appointed governor (subedar) of Awadh in 1722. Although can be dated in the years prior to 1764, as it is inscribed
Page 68: 106. Colonel Antoine-Louis HenRi Polier
Watching a Nautch, c. 1786 – 88 his appointment was initially intended as a rebuke—for on the verso with this date as well as the initials of

70 71 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

Above: 26. PRince Hunting with Cheetah, 1764 or earlier

Right: 25. Attributed to Muhammad Faqirullah Khan,

A PRincess and Her Companions Enjoying a TeRRace
Ambiance, c. 1760 –70

William Fullarton, a Company surgeon who was stationed in Bengal and Bihar between
1744 and 1766. Its style—reflected particularly in the finely stippled faces with sharply
delineated eyes and the short figural proportions—is typical of works produced in
Murshidabad, capital of the eastern provinces of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa, during the
rule there of Mir Qasim Khan (1760 – 63).10 The painting A Princess and Her Companions
Enjoying a Terrace Ambiance (25) belongs to a relatively small group of works from
Farrukhabad, an area of Awadh that was for some time in the eighteenth century under
Indo-Afghan rule. A yellow palette and figural type consisting of rather long-legged
figures with faces marked by full cheeks and sharp noses and chins is common to paint-
ings produced there between 1760 and 1770. In Murshidabad and Farrukhabad, as at
Faizabad and Lucknow, the emergence of regional painting styles can be linked with
strong local patronage and the availability of talented artists. The exchange of visual
vocabularies between Delhi and its provinces as well as among the provinces themselves
was effected by the movement of artists and patrons during these tumultuous years.
Thus, Farrukhabad painting derives largely from the Lucknow work of the imperially
trained artist Faqirullah.11 Delhi-trained Lucknow artists are also thought to have
contributed to the Murshidabad style under Mir Qasim.12
At least one of the reasons that much work remains to be done on these and other
provincial Mughal styles lies with the fact that their distance—in geographical, tempo-
ral, and visual senses—from the Mughal imperial center at the height of its power led to

72 73 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

their early characterization as weak offshoots. No less a scholar than Ananda K.
Coomaraswamy, for instance, proclaimed of late Mughal painting that “nothing of
importance is later than Muhammad Shah and hardly anything of supreme excellence
later than about 1640.” 13 Much the same sentiment was expressed earlier by Percy Brown,
who claimed: “On the break-up of the Mughal court at Delhi, and the transfer of power to
Lucknow and Hyderabad, the Mughal school . . . went to pieces, with the results that
many examples of a degraded art were produced.”14 When, in the late eighteenth century,
Indian painting came to increasingly admit European influences, it was destined to
become a “stagnant reflection” of western art.15
While we no longer accept such judgments, they provide a useful vantage point from
which to examine the arts of Awadh, a region described by Barnett and other scholars as
existing “between empires,” that is, between the declining Mughal power and the rising
British colonial one. The eighteenth century, when these historical changes occurred, was
once viewed as a period of severe disruption and revolutionary change in South Asia.16
It is not difficult to see how this view is reflected in the opinions of Coomaraswamy and
Brown, wherein painting in the Mughal provinces occupies a position inferior to those
normative art forms—Mughal and European—against which it was judged. Much recent
scholarship, however, indicates the historical processes of the eighteenth century to have
been rather more evolutionary in character, with provinces such as Awadh maintaining
important continuities with the Mughal imperium and its forms of rule. It is with this
7. A Royal Encampment Scene, c. 1780 – 85
in mind that we may begin to explore the nature of hybridity in Awadh’s art, for if such
hybridity is considered to be one of its hallmarks, then its sources, precedents, and
deployment bear closer examination.
While regional political independence was built upon the dissolution of imperial
control, the cultural authority of the Mughals was remarkably long-lived.17 Thus, the
emblematic practices of Mughal kingship and authority were re-created in various
successor states. Both Saadat Khan and Safdar Jang considered Delhi to be their
principal place of residence, and neither one erected any permanent buildings in Awadh.18
Later Awadhi rulers, known by their title of nawab, literally “deputy” or “vice-regent/
governor,” increasingly viewed themselves as hereditary regional rulers but were nonethe-
less conscious in their emulation of the Mughals, whom they continued to nominally
recognize as overlords into the early nineteenth century. The British Museum’s painting
A Royal Encampment Scene, dating from about 1780 – 85, imaginatively depicts a vast
camp, the royal enclosure of which is constructed of tents in a red color normally reserved
for imperial use (7).19 Such temporary and movable settlements had been a feature of
Mughal campaigns since the sixteenth century and are variously rendered in imperial
manuscripts such as the Akbarnama (8, 9). Historical sources from the late eighteenth
century indicate that certainly by the time of Asaf al-Daula, the Awadh nawabs had
adopted an imperial manner in both the substance and scale of their regional tours and Left: 8. Jagan (composition) and Asir
(painting), Akbar Is EnteRtained
hunting expeditions. The wealth of the nawabs permitted comparable spectacles—visual by His Foster BRother Azim Khan
at Dipalpur , c. 1590 – 95
demonstrations of dominion—that involved numerous guests, hundreds of transport
Right: 9. Jagan (composition), Sur
elephants and pack animals, thousands of soldiers, and a bewildering number of servants, Das (painting), and Madhav (faces),
entertainers, and staff to supply a party’s every need over a period as long as two or Akbar Is EnteRtained by His
Foster BRother Azim Khan at
three months.20 Dipalpur , c. 1590 – 95

74 75 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

Royal pursuits were among the most common subjects represented by several exuberant terrace scenes, such as
of Indian courtly paintings. What makes A Royal one in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, A Dancer
Encampment Scene unique is the precision with which Balances a Bottle, c. 1770, which can be attributed to the
the artist rendered the scene according to the rules of artist Faizullah or a close follower (21).
single-point perspective. It is one of several paintings In its vision of receding terraces, waterways, and
associated with the patronage of Colonel Antoine-Louis enclosed gardens, the Dancer painting does indeed
Polier, a Swiss-born soldier and engineer who lived in prefigure the treatment in the British Museum Encamp-
India for thirty years, many of which he spent in Awadh. ment Scene and related works. Viewing the turn toward
Comparable scenes, of architectural monuments and a more scientifically rendered perspective solely in terms
courtly gardens, were rendered for Polier by the artist of an increasingly dominant Europeanized aesthetic,
Mihr Chand (fl. 1759 – 86) and his workshop. The British however, obscures our understanding of the many artistic
Museum painting was originally presented by Polier to sources available to Indian painters and the particular
the artist Ozias Humphry. Polier gave an album contain- uses to which they were adapted. The Dublin painting, for
ing similar paintings to Lady Coote, wife of the English instance, derives certain stylistic features from earlier
East India Company officer Sir Eyre Coote (156, p. 6; Mughal paintings that must have been known to artists
184). 21
His own album of such views is today in the working in Awadh.
collection of the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin. Patronage of the arts was one of the most visible ways
Scholars have noted that the paintings appear to repre- in which the nawabs expressed their roles as inheritors
sent a particular development, under strong European of Mughal power, a task greatly facilitated by the influx
influence, from slightly earlier Awadhi works. These are
of talent to Faizabad and Lucknow during the late

Above: 184. AcRobats PeRfoRming on a TightRope

for a Women’s Dancing PaRty, c. 1780 – 85

Left: 21. A Dancer Balances a Bottle, c. 1770

76 77 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

viewpoint, while various figures and activities were
scattered across layered and ever-more-distant hills.24
Much the same approach is taken in A Dancer Balances a
Bottle, where the primary activity occurs across the lower
part of the picture. Although the hilly landscapes of the
Padshahnama have been replaced by neat rows of pavil-
ions and gardens, every receding plane is punctuated by
minutely rendered figures. In the far distance, a for-
tress—a schematic rendering that recalls the images of
Daulatabad or Udgir in the Padshahnama—is besieged
by cannon. We might also consider the compositional
balance evident in the Dublin painting, asserted much
more strongly in the Polier paintings, as late expressions
of the formal symmetry codified in the jharoka (balcony)
scenes of the Padshahnama.
It is, of course, unclear whether the Padshahnama
itself was the direct source for Awadhi works of this type.
Its landscape conventions were developments after the
Flemish “world landscapes” that were adapted for Mughal
painting as early as the late sixteenth century and would
have been available to later Indian painters through a
range of works.25 However, ambitious landscape and archi-
tectural vistas of this type are unknown from the reign of
10. Attributed to Mihr Chand, Khwaja Muin al-Din Chishti,
Muhammad Shah and his immediate successors, suggest- c. 1770
ing that the Awadhi painters of such works were cre-
Figs. 5, 6. Attributed to the Kashmiri Painter, Shah Jahan
Visits the ShRine of Khwaja Muin Al-Din Chishti at atively responding to older models as well as new stimuli
Ajmer ; India, Mughal Empire, c. 1656; opaque watercolor and
gold on paper, left image 14 3⁄ 8 x 10 1⁄ 8 in. (36.6 x 25.8 cm), right
and patronage. The Awadhi interest in imperial painting
image 13 7⁄ 8 x 8 7⁄ 8 in. (35.2 x 22.4 cm); The Royal Collection of the Shah Jahan period has been recognized by Milo also examine the uses to which Awadhi artists applied
RCIN1005025, folio 205B–A
Beach, who notes that such revivals—which occurred in their refinements of such techniques as linear perspective.
other areas as well—were given distinctly local shapes. 26
It should be noted at the outset that these paintings of
Another Faizabad painting of about 1770 in the Chester architectural monuments such as the Red Fort and Jami
Beatty Library, for instance, depicts Khwaja Muin al-Din Masjid at Delhi and the Taj Mahal at Agra (130, 131,
eighteenth century. Paralleling the migrations from Delhi was the outward flow of Chishti, the thirteenth-century Sufi shaikh considered by p. 80) are of a decidedly different sort than the later
imperial manuscripts and paintings, many of which were acquired by the nawabs and the Mughals to be the spiritual source of their authority architectural studies by Indian artists that are usually
other collectors in Awadh. One of the most famous of these acquisitions was the Padshah- (10). The painting clearly continues the tradition of associated with European patronage in India.28 The
nama manuscript, an illustrated history of Shah Jahan’s reign (1628 – 58), which was naturalistic portraiture perfected in Shah Jahan’s time, latter, which also illustrate important Mughal monu-
in the possession of Asaf al-Daula by 1776 –77. The Dublin painting, and several others
although the artist—perhaps Mihr Chand—has seated ments, rarely adopt the high aerial view common to many
like it, display landscape conventions that recall various folios of the Padshahnama in the shaikh beneath an early variation of the scalloped of the Polier paintings. In the Awadhi painting of the
their conceptualization of pictorial space and their attention to distant details. In outdoor archway that is encountered as a framing device in many Jami Masjid, this positioning allowed the artist to provide
scenes, for instance, the Padshahnama artists combined the formal requirements of Awadhi portraits and figure studies. 27
unobstructed frontal views of the most important features
courtly portraiture with the desire for naturalism through their illusionistic rendering of Returning to the British Museum Encampment Scene of the mosque complex: the entrance into its vast court-
landscapes that recede through the middle and upper parts of the pictures, as in the two (7, p. 75) and comparable paintings, such as the architec- yard and the mosque itself. Although differing from
folios illustrating Shah Jahan’s visit to the shrine of Khwaja Muin al-Din Chishti at tural vistas now at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, we traditional Indian paintings that frequently depict
Ajmer (Figs. 5, 6). Walled cities and fortresses were often rendered from a bird’s-eye might consider their relationships to earlier traditions and buildings from multiple vantage points in order to stress

78 79 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

Fig. 7. FoRtification of Shuja Al-Daula at Faizabad; India, Uttar
Pradesh, Faizabad, c. 1774; watercolor on paper, 18 5⁄ 32 x 55 19⁄ 32 in. (46.5 x 142.5 cm);
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Est., Rés. Od. 63-Ft- 6, fol. 23 (Collection Gentil)

their constituent parts and functions, the artist here military adventurer Jean-Baptiste Gentil (45, p. 82; Fig.
achieves a similar goal. Setting the mosque complex
7). The Indian painting belongs to a series of twenty-four
within a receding cityscape is an innovative turn, yet one architectural studies commissioned by Gentil and largely
that is so idealized as to reinforce the structure, symme- focused on Delhi. It shows a frontal, symmetrical view
try, and order of the Jami Masjid. A similar elevated divorced from contextual surroundings. Other paintings
viewing position, in addition to subtle shifts from a strict from the set, which include some ground plans, reveal
linear perspective, allowed the artist of the Taj Mahal similar preferences.31
painting to render the river view of the tomb complex in By the time of Hodges’s visit to Faizabad, Asaf
such a way as to fully reveal the triple-arched and -domed al-Daula had moved his court to the city of Lucknow,
side mosques while presenting the tomb in frontal view. although his mother, Bahu Begam, continued to maintain
Although he appears to have worked either from memory a considerable presence at the former Awadhi capital.
or a secondary source (judging from the general misun- Hodges was clearly impressed by the elegance and scale of
derstanding of the tomb’s upper structures), here again, the palace, describing the public audience hall as richer
symmetry and order—fundamental features of the site’s than its counterpart at Lucknow, a fact he deduced from
plan—are stressed. its decaying decoration. His memoirs describe the palace
Although later Awadhi artists adopted the oblique as a vast and desolate complex within a city containing
views of such monuments favored by European artists the “remains of many handsome buildings.” 32
working in a picturesque mode, paintings reflecting a Hodges was appreciative, often admiring, of Indian
traditionally Indian way of seeing architecture—as architecture and recognized its fundamentally different
described by Giles H. R. Tillotson—continued to be cultural origins from classically inspired European
produced alongside them well into the nineteenth cen- traditions. His various writings also reveal an awareness
tury. The differences between these competing depic-
of contemporaneous European political and intellectual
tions of architecture can be illustrated through a discourses, so that his descriptions, written and visual,
comparison of William Hodges’s drawing of about 1783 translate the Indian built landscape through a language
depicting part of Shuja al-Daula’s palace at Faizabad and of empire, oriental despotism, and picturesque aesthetics.
Top: 130. Attributed to Mihr Chand, Jami Masjid, Delhi, c. 1773 –76
a painting of the same structure, dating from about 1774, Hodges writes, for instance, that at the end of his tour
Bottom: 131. Attributed to Mihr Chand, Taj Mahal, c. 1773 –76 by an Indian architect in the employ of the French to Faizabad: “I could not help viewing with a melancholy

80 81 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

concern the miserable appearance of all the territories Geoff Quilley observes that it also highlighted a build-
which were under the absolute direction of Mussulman ing’s grandeur—note how Shuja al-Daula’s palace ascends
tyrants.” The text accompanying his aquatints of the
from the banks, its roof chattris silhouetted against the
Faizabad palace describes the structure raised by Shuja sky—while drawing attention to their “elegiac ruination
al-Daula as “certainly the most splendid monument of and abandonment.” 35
the arts in Hindostan at the time: it occupies a large Not all European landscape artists visiting India
tract of ground, and is in many parts very beautiful.” He depicted Awadhi monuments in the same manner as
adds, however: Hodges. The various paintings and aquatints of Thomas
and William Daniell, who traveled through India between
The great buildings in Hindostan raised by the Mogul chiefs, their 1786 and 1794, reveal similar aesthetic concerns, although
palaces in particular, are subject to a revolution not known in other
their works from Faizabad and Lucknow—which they
countries; for it is a principle among the great men of that country
visited in 1789 —are less insistent in representing its
to leave the house of their fathers to ruin and decay, and to establish
buildings as ruins (48; 49, pp. 124–25; Fig. 8). They were
one for themselves, bearing their own name; as, in the present
instance, the present Nabob of Oud, Asoph ul Dowlah, on the demise followed by other amateur and professional artists whose
of his father, left Fizabad, and fixed the Government at Lucknow, visual descriptions of Lucknow evoke the grandeur of a
where he has raised a monument of barbarous magnificence.34 city that had then become a magnet for fortune-seekers of
all nationalities. Their impact upon Indian artists in
Accordingly, Hodges’s drawing of the Faizabad Awadh, however, appears to have been minimal. As late as
palace emphasizes its ruinous state. Vegetal growth the reign of Wajid Ali Shah, for instance, Indian art-
appears on the chattri at the left edge of the drawing, ists—and presumably their Indian patrons as well—pre-
while a large piece of the fortified embankment appears to ferred a vision of architecture that revealed a building as
topple away at the right. The diagonal composition, completely as possible rather than from a single point of
offering an oblique view of the building from the river, view. The circa 1850 – 56 painting of Awadh’s last ruler
was employed by Hodges in several of his drawings. This carried in procession through his palace complex of the
conventionally picturesque approach allowed the artist to Qaisar Bagh reveals the persistence of this Indian way
de-emphasize the symmetry of much Indian architecture. of seeing (fig. 9).
45. William Hodges, A View of PaRt of the Palace
of the Late Nawab Shuja al-Daula at Faizabad,
c. 1783

Fig. 9. Wajid Ali Shah of

48. Thomas Daniell and William Daniell, Gate of the Fig. 8. Thomas Daniell (England, 1749 –1840) and William
Awadh in the QaisaR bagh;
Lal Bagh at Faizabad, 1801 Daniell (England, 1769 –1837), The Punj Mahalla Gate,
India, c. 1850 – 56; opaque
Lucknow, from ORiental SceneRy, PaRt 3, plate 3;
watercolor and gold on paper,
England, 1801; aquatint in color on paper, 16 1⁄2 x 23 5⁄ 8 in. (42 x
27 3⁄ 8 x 37 1⁄2 in. (69.5 x 95.3 cm);
60 cm); The British Library, London, X432 /3(5)
Private collection

82 83 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

54A. Lucknow fRom the Gomti, 1826

An interesting comparison—which again highlights the different concerns of Indian

and European artists and patrons while also addressing Lucknow’s hybrid architecture
and its Shia history—can be drawn from two extraordinary panoramic landscapes of
Lucknow. One of these, dating from 1826 or earlier, was presumably made for the same
British visitor whose handwritten notes identifying the buildings accompanied the scroll
into the collection of the Yale Center for British Art.36 He describes the structure recog-
nizable as the Shah Najaf as the “New Imam Barah—built by his present Majesty”
(54A). The Shah Najaf Imambara was commissioned by Ghazi al-Din Haidar. In the Yale
panorama, the main shrine is depicted within its boundary walls; the gilded and fes- Top: 54B, C. Lucknow fRom the
Gomti, 1826
tooned dome is clearly visible beyond the main entrance gateway. The artist employed
European-style perspective in his depiction of this and several other buildings, many left: 164. Felice Beato, BARa
Chattar Manzil with the King’s
presented obliquely as they must have appeared from the Gomti River. The scroll is, in FISH-SHAPED Boat, 1858

fact, a fairly accurate topographical representation of Lucknow as viewed from the Gomti
and a valuable guide to buildings that have since disappeared. To the left of the Shah
Najaf, for instance, is the small shrine—few traces of which now remain—known as the
Qadam Rasul, which was erected by Ghazi al-Din to house a venerated impression of the
Prophet Muhammad’s footprints.
The scroll unrolls from right to left and is inscribed with various place names. Begin-
ning with the stone bridge, the complex of religious buildings near the Macchi Bhawan
Palace are identified as the Shah Pir Muhammad Masjid, the old Jami Masjid, and the
Bara Imambara (54B). The central portion of the scroll is particularly interesting in
depicting the riverine buildings that would eventually become incorporated into the Bara
Chattar Manzil Palace complex. The Farhat Bakhsh, Major General Claude Martin’s
former home, which was purchased by Saadat Ali Khan, is clearly depicted. To its right is
a European-style “folly” that was mirrored by a similar structure erected on the opposite
bank of the river. In between these two buildings, in the middle of the river, stood an
octagonal pavilion known only from late-nineteenth-century photographs which show it
reduced to a single story (54, 164).37 Other notable structures appearing in the scroll

84 85 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

54D. Lucknow fRom the Gomti, 1826

Top: 163. Felice Beato, PanoRama of Lucknow,

Taken fRom the BARa ImambaRa (detail), 1858
include the British Residency and the Moti Mahal Palace, completed during Ghazi
Bottom: Fig. 10. Felice Beato (Greece, 1832 –1909),
al-Din’s reign. A domed structure rising behind one of the palace building’s walls—and Two-paRt PanoRama of the Husainabad

now long since gone—may be the famous “moti-” or “pearl-”like dome for which this royal ImambaRa (detail); India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow,
1858; Albumen prints, 9 1⁄2 x 22 3⁄ 8 in. (24 x 56.7 cm); The
complex was known (54D). Behind the last structure of the Moti Mahal stands the
Alkazi Collection of Photography

Khurshid Manzil, the European-style house with moat and towers built by Saadat Ali
Khan; three towers are visible in this scroll.
The artist of the Yale scroll attempted to depict an accurate view of the city for his
European patron. This concern, in addition to the style of the painting, is typical of the
many “Company-school” works—so-called for their obvious adaptations to European
visual tastes—that depict Indian architectural monuments. The style, of course, came to
Muhammad faqirullah khan, a princess and her compan-
be utilized in a variety of paintings for Indian patrons as well. It is for one such patron ions enjoying a terrace ambiance, circa 1760–70, EX.2361.177

that a panorama of about 1848 now in the British Library was likely to have been made,
for its visual concerns and pictorial techniques are somewhat different from those in the
Yale panorama.39
This later panorama depicts a royal procession of Muhammad Ali Shah, the primary
figures of which are unfinished but visible through their faint pencil outlines. The
procession unfolds across several sheets of paper pasted together and presents the short
journey from the Husainabad Imambara complex to the Bara Imambara. That the artist
attempted to represent the architecture along this avenue accurately can be seen by
comparison with Felice Beato’s 1858 panoramic photographs showing both the Husaina-
bad Imambara and the view from the Bara Imambara complex (fig. 10, 163). In both
of these, the low-lying structures, including the enclosed building just outside the
Husainabad Bazaar gateway—with its corner towers reminiscent of Saadat Ali Khan’s
Dilkusha Kothi and the west facade towers of Ghazi al-Din’s Darshan Bilas—can be
seen (55H, p. 88). While these secondary buildings are depicted as if in passing, the artist
has taken a completely different approach to the illustration of the Shia monuments.
Their depictions are informed by European techniques of perspective—evident in the
oblique views of various buildings and gateways. In showing the various parts of each
complex as if experiencing them individually, however, the artist was also conditioned by

86 87 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

55. Unfinished PanoRama of
Lucknow fRom the Reign of
Muhammad Ali Shah, c. 1848

55E 55D 55C 55B 55A

55H 55G 55F

more traditional, painterly ways of depicting architecture the reflecting pool, the imambara, and the jawab, the
in India. The procession begins in the forecourt of the building placed opposite the tomb for the sake of architec-
63. John Edward Saché, Husainabad
Bazaar Gateway, c. 1867
Husainabad Imambara, an interior view of its west gate tural symmetry (55B–E). Somewhat abruptly—and
visible in the distance (55A). The south gate of the fore- perhaps indicating a missing section of the scroll, which
court, through which one enters the main area of the may have included an exiting view of the south gate—the
complex, appears next. This is followed by a complete east gate of the forecourt appears (55F). This is followed
image of the interior court as taken in by an observer by a view of its exuberant east facade, the image of which
having just passed through the south gate and scanning is familiar to us from photographs dating from the later
the court from west to east. It includes the mosque nineteenth century (55G, 63). The buildings of the Bara
located in the northwest corner, the tomb of Zinat Algiya, Imambara are depicted in similar fashion. Both the outer

88 89 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

55J 55I

55N 55M 55L 55K

and inner facades of the great Rumi Darwaza are shown (55I, J), as well as the monu- Muslims by their insistence that the descendants of Ali, the institutionalization of religious authority, whether
mental gateways marking the second and third courts (55K, L). Finally, the Asafi Masjid the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, were his rightful through the leading of Friday congregational prayers or
and the Imambara are revealed, belying the fact that their immense scales prevent such successors. Twelver Shias hold the view that Ali, as the the declaration of jihad by any person or by the state.
an inclusive view from being captured in photographs assuming a similar viewing first Imam, was followed by eleven descendants. The third Shias in India were largely outnumbered by Sunni
position (55M, N). 40
Imam, Husain, who was killed in the year 680, is espe- Muslims, but Iranian nobility professing the faith were
Many imambaras (Urdu, “House of the Imam”) were built in Lucknow during the cially revered, while the twelfth and last Imam is believed nevertheless able to rise through the ranks of the Mughal
reign of the nawabs and speak to the Twelver or Imami Shia orientation of Awadh’s by Shias to have disappeared into a mystical realm from administration, as did Saadat Khan. While the establish-
Muslim elites. We must recall that Saadat Khan originally came to India from Nishapur, which he will return at some future date. As such, many ment of a Shia state was not a factor in his or his immedi-
Iran, where the ruling Safavid dynasty had propagated Twelver Shiism in the establish- orthodox Shias from the late ninth century onward ate successors’ early bids for regional independence, their
ment of their own state. Shia beliefs are generally distinguished from those of Sunni insisted that the absence of the Hidden Imam precluded consolidation of authority was built upon wresting control

90 91 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

This identity, which was rooted in the Awadhi rulers’ refers to the name of the battlefield in Iraq where
ancestral ties to Shia Safavid Iran, was assiduously Husain—the third Imam— was slain, and such struc-
maintained by the nawabs through their marriage tures further underscore the Shia orientation of Luck-
alliances and administrative appointments. It was also
now’s Muslim nobility. The karbalas at Lucknow were
expressed through architectural monuments that repli- used for burials as well as for the interring of taziyas—
cated important Shia shrines in Sunni Iraq. One of these, model replicas of Husain’s tomb—at the end of the
the Shah Najaf Imambara of Ghazi al-Din Haidar—men- Muharram mourning procession.46 From the late eigh-
tioned above in the context of the Yale panoramic scroll— teenth through mid-nineteenth centuries, Awadhi support
was intended to replicate the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, for the Iraqi shrine cities and their clergies—following
though it bears little resemblance to the model but for its upon the practice of Safavid monarchs—was also
single dome and square plan. The Kazmain Karbala,
expressed through generous donations of gifts and money
erected by a nobleman in the service of Muhammad Ali from Lucknow’s nobility and rulers.47
Shah, is a copy of the sixteenth-century Al-Kadhimiya While the cultural identity and religious affiliation of
Masjid in Baghdad, a two-domed structure housing the the nawabs were directly addressed through the built
tombs of the seventh and ninth Imams (69). “Karbala” environment of Lucknow, the sovereignty of the Awadhi

Fig. 1 1. The MuhaRRam Festival: Asaf al-Daula, Nawab

of Awadh, Listening at Night to the Maulvi Reading
fRom the ScRiptuRes; India, 1795; watercolor on paper, 16 1 ⁄ 2
x 21 1⁄2 in. (42 x 54.5 cm); The British Library Add.Or.3230

of Awadh from local elites, both Sunni and Hindu.41 Increasing nawabi wealth and power
through the latter half of the eighteenth century attracted many additional Shias to the
region, as well as religious converts. Shias, however, never constituted more than a small
percentage of Awadh’s urban population.42
Structures accommodating the public mourning rituals of Muharram, the month in
which the martyrdom of Imam Husain is commemorated, had been erected in India since
the sixteenth century. Lucknow’s Bara Imambara, built by Asaf al-Daula between 1784
and 1791, remains the largest monument of its kind, its particular configuration and
form revealing the nawab’s assertion of political autonomy and religious piety. The latter
was also commemorated in several Company-style paintings depicting Asaf al-Daula’s
personal participation in the mourning rituals held at his complex (fig. 11). Hussein
Keshani has noted that the Bara Imambara’s integration into the administrative center
of the Macchi Bhawan Palace, the Asafi Masjid’s visual parallels to Delhi’s Jami Masjid,
the synthesis of both Mughal and vernacular architectural forms in the imambara
building, and the liberal deployment throughout of the fish emblem that was adopted as
the Awadhi royal insignia, all point to the importance of the complex in visually affirm-
ing Lucknow as Asaf al-Daula’s new capital.43 The construction of the Asafi Masjid was
integral to this effort as it was built in response to pressure from Asaf’s court and Usuli
theologians to establish a Shia Friday congregational mosque. Thus, the Bara Imambara 69. Darogah Abbas Ali, Kazmain KaRbala, from The
Lucknow Album: Containing a SeRies of Fifty
complex was also an assertion of the Awadh regime’s cultural and religious identity. PhotogRaphic Views of Lucknow, 1874

92 93 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

rulers was also proclaimed in other meaningful ways. The nawabi interest in collecting
European artworks and objects, for instance, was noted disparagingly by many contem-
poraneous observers. Natasha Eaton has suggested that the acquisition of European
items on such a magnificent scale was, however, an act of resistance as such activities
boldly proclaimed the nawabs’ control of their state’s financial resources. These collec-
tions were also a traditional prerogative of Indian kings, whether Hindu or Muslim,
demonstrating their access to, and possession of, worldly goods and rarities. The works of
British portrait artists were incorporated into indigenous rituals of kingship; they were
given away as gifts, and were also presented alongside the many exotic and ordinary
wares that filled the royal display spaces known as aina khanas (glass houses).48
From the late eighteenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, the political power of
Awadh’s nawabs was increasingly threatened by the English East India Company. Yet,
various assertions of sovereignty continued to be made. Eventually, the rituals and
emblems associated with European kingship came to be superficially inscribed upon a
fundamentally Mughal- and Shia-oriented Awadhi throne. A remarkable painting by
Robert Home, court artist at Lucknow from 1814 to 1837, commemorates the 1819 corona-
tion of Ghazi al-Din Haidar as the padshah, or king, of Awadh (fig. 12). It captures the
visible trappings of this unprecedented proclamation of sovereignty, which drew its
authoritative symbols from Mughal and European traditions, and based its claims of
legitimacy upon the Awadh dynasty’s Shia ancestry. 49 Home was responsible for design-
ing much of the coronation paraphernalia, including the impressive gem-studded golden
throne, surmounted by an umbrella, upon which Ghazi al-Din sits in the painting. The
opulence of the throne, umbrella, and canopy—all constructed of precious materials—
was perhaps intended to evoke the famous Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan, which had
been seized in Delhi as plunder by Nadir Shah.50 As can be seen in the painting, however, Hazrat Abbas. Its completion was punctuated by a British
Ghazi al-Din’s crown and clothing were European in origin, reflecting his efforts to also gun salute, the playing of “God Save the King,” and the
situate his sovereign claims within a widening sphere of British dominion. The British, Mughal courtly custom of exchanging articles of tribute
in fact, encouraged Ghazi al-Din’s coronation as they wished to undermine continuing and honor.51
Mughal claims to power in northern India. The Awadh rulers had, up to this point, A painting on three panels in the Victoria and Albert
always nominally acknowledged their subordination to the Mughal throne, issuing coins Museum depicting Ghazi al-Din in procession through
bearing the name of the reigning emperor and having his name read in the Friday Lucknow with a number of British and Indian guests,
Left: 2. Muhammad Azam, Nasir al-din Haidar , c. 1830
mosque services, among other things. By declaring himself padshah, Ghazi al-Din family members, and attendants may have been intended
Right: Fig. 12. Robert Home, Ghazi Al-Din Haidar, King
directly challenged the traditional authority of his, by then, largely powerless overlord. to record one aspect of the coronation day’s events (63, of Awadh, Receiving TRibute; India, c. 1820; oil on canvas,
His sovereignty could not simply be asserted symbolically, but had to be substantively pp. 96–97). Later images of Ghazi al-Din as well as of 95 x 61 1⁄2 in. (241.3 x 156.2 cm); The Royal Collection, on loan
to Victoria Memorial Hall, RCIN408019
legitimated. This was achieved through demonstrating that his family’s Shia genealogy his successors repeat much of the regal imagery first
gave them a claim to power equal to that of the Mughal dynasty. Tracing their descent, in captured in Robert Home’s painting. An oil portrait of
part, from the seventh Imam, Musa al-Kazim, the Awadhi rulers viewed themselves as Awadh’s first king, painted around 1830 by the Indian
the true rulers of the Muslim community. Their authority rested with the Imams whose artist Muhammad Azam, was likely based upon an earlier
teachings could be interpreted by the Shia theologians known as mujtahid. Accordingly, painting by Home and depicts the king in his distinctive
Ghazi al-Din’s coronation included the participation of an appointed mujtahid—who coronation crown (36, p. 15). A similar crown and ermine-
placed the European-style crown upon his head—and occurred on October ninth, the day trimmed robe with jeweled collar are included in Muham-
Shias believe Muhammad appointed Ali as his successor and the first Imam. The cere- mad Azam’s portrait of Nasir al-Din Haidar, also
mony—which included the British Resident and numerous Company officials—was thought to have been based on an as yet unidentified
preceded by a procession to Lucknow’s most important Shia shrine, the Dargah of European model (2).

94 95 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

56. PRocession of Ghazi al-Din Haidar thRough the
StReets of Lucknow, c. 1820

96 97 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

The appeal of the coronation regalia and emblems and
their importance to Awadhi conceptions of kingship in
subsequent reigns is also illustrated through two manu-
scripts associated with the patronage of the region’s last
king, Wajid Ali Shah. The pages of Wajid Ali Shah’s
Divan, a collection of his poetry dated 1849 – 50 and now
in the Khalili collection, London, is adorned with the
king’s distinctive coat of arms, which was a variation of
the one designed for Ghazi al-Din Haidar.52 The latter
was the first of its kind for an Indian ruler and appeared
on the coins and commemorative medals struck in Ghazi
al-Din’s name and in direct effrontery to the Mughal
emperor. The Divan also contains on its opening page a
portrait of Wajid Ali Shah, wearing the now familiar
European crown and robes and seated upon the corona-
tion throne (39). In this instance the portrayal has been
interpreted through the lens of traditional South Asian
manuscript painting. While the impact of European
artistic styles is expressed through the frontal portrait,
treatment of space, and slight modeling, the painting
differs from European works in its more direct emphasis
on Wajid Ali Shah’s kingly nature as indicated, for
instance, by his nimbus. A similar depiction appears in
the Ishqnamah, another collection of poetry written by
Wajid Ali Shah and dated to the same year as his Divan.
The Ishqnamah details the life and loves of the king,
whose coronation in the presence of the British Resident
is depicted in one of its later folios. The manuscript also
contains paintings recording the succession leading to
40. Wajid Ali Shah as a PRince with SaRfaRaz Mahal
Wajid Ali Shah’s coronation, as he was descended from and a Female Attendant, from the Isqhnamah,
Muhammad Ali Shah, the brother of Ghazi al-Din dated 1849/50 (AH 1266), folio 263v

Haidar. Accordingly, and in keeping with Mughal tradi-

tion whereby the emperors’ Timurid genealogy and links
to their predecessors were recorded in many a painting, script provides a fascinating glimpse of Awadhi royal
the Ishqnamah contains scenes of Wajid Ali Shah’s tastes and prerogatives in the mid-nineteenth century.
investiture as a prince by his grandfather and his desig- Several of the images depict Wajid Ali Shah, dressed in
nation as heir-apparent by his father, Amjad Ali Shah. rich Lucknowi costume, ensconced within rooms filled
Episodes from Wajid Ali Shah’s life as a king are distin- with European furniture and paintings (40). Some depict
guished in the manuscript images by the presence of the him in settings that reveal the Europeanized aesthetic of
European crown on the ruler’s head. A few paintings Lucknow’s palace architecture. And others recall the
speak to the continuing Shia presence at court, as in a courtly scenes familiar from earlier painting traditions,
folio depicting Wajid Ali Shah granting several petitioners the king leaning against a bolster while seated on a
39. Wajid Ali Shah leave to travel to Karbala and one in which he bestows carpet with his consort, or appearing on an appropriately
EnthRoned, from a divan,
dated 1849 – 50 honorific robes upon recent Shia converts. The manu-
decorated outdoor terrace.

98 99 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

Despite its many extraordinary paintings which 1. See Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Toward a Geography of Art (Chicago: 20. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, Engaging Scoundrels: True Tales of Old Lucknow 37. For additional photographs, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, ed., Lucknow: City of
University of Chicago Press, 2004); and Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann and (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), 8 – 9. Abu Talib describes some Illusion (New York: Alkazi Collection of Photography; Munich: Prestel,
attest to the blending of courtly artistic traditions and Elizabeth Pilliod, eds., Time and Place: The Geohistory of Art (Hants, UK: of dangers of these expeditions as well as their toll on local villages. [Abu 2006), figs. 122 and 123.
Ashgate, 2005). Talib, History of Asafu’d Daulah, Nawab Wazir of Oudh, Being a Translation 38. Banmali Tandan, The Architecture of Lucknow and Its Dependencies,
precedents with nineteenth-century Lucknowi visual and of “Tahfzihu’l Ghafilin,” A Contemporary Record of Events Connected with his
2. Richard B. Barnett, North India Between Empires: Awadh, the Mughals, and 1722–1856: A Descriptive Inventory and an Analysis of Nawabi Types (New
royal culture, Mildred and W. G. Archer described the the British 1720–1801 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Administration, trans. W. Hoey (1885; Lucknow: Pustak Kendra, 1971), Delhi: Vikas, 2001), 90 – 91.
Press, 1980), 18 –19; Michael H. Fisher, A Clash of Cultures: Awadh, the 36 – 38, 57.]
39. Mildred Archer has noted a watermark of 1846 on the paper used for the
Ishqnamah manuscript quite disparagingly in a 1955 British and the Mughals (New Delhi: Manohar, 1987), 28 –29. 21 . Joachim K. Bautze, ed., Interaction of Cultures: Indian and Western scroll. [Company Drawings in the India Office Library (London: Her
publication: 3. The Mughal administrative configuration of the province was maintained in Painting, 1780–1910, The Ehrenfeld Collection (Alexandria, VA: Art Services Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1972), 164 – 65, cat. 129].
large part until the twentieth century. [Barnett, North India Between International, 1998), 253. Eight of the ten paintings in the album, now in the
40. For a discussion of the view of these two structures in this scroll and its
Empires, 19 –20; Saiyid Zaheer Husain Jafri, Studies in the Anatomy of a collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, depict architectural
evidence for the early appearance of the monuments, before the late-
The paintings reveal the tawdry Europeanized palace to which Transformation: Awadh from Mughal to Colonial Rule (New Delhi: Gyan, or landscape views.
nineteenth-century construction of their conjoined platform, see Hussein
1998), 30 – 31.] 22 . Raffael Dedo Gadebusch, “Celestial Gardens: Mughal Miniatures from an Keshani, “Architecture and the Twelver Shi’i Tradition: The Great
the journals and memoirs constantly refer. We see the garish stucco Eighteenth-Century Album,” Orientations 31:9 (2000): 72.
4. Abu’l-Fazl Allami, A-in-i-Akbari, Vol. 2, trans. H. S. Jarrett (1927; Delhi: Imambara Complex of Lucknow,” Muqarnas 23 (2006): 219 – 50.
building with its shoddy woodwork and frescoes, its carpets, Low Price, 2001), 181– 90. Jafri notes (Studies, 17) that through the 23. The manuscript was presented by Asaf al-Daula to the governor-general of 41 . Juan R. I. Cole, Roots of North Indian Shi’ism in Iran and Iraq (Berkeley and
furniture and wall-lamps in the worst British taste. The rooms seventeenth century, for instance, few high-ranking Mughal noblemen held Bengal, Sir John Shore (Lord Teignmouth), who in 1799 presented it to Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), 36 – 44.
posts in Awadh and no Mughal monuments were erected there. George III. [Milo Cleveland Beach and Ebba Koch, King of the World: The
are decorated with Indian portraits and British sporting prints, 42 . Keith Guy Hjortshoj, “Kerbala in Context: A Study of Muharram in
5. Rudrangshu Mukherjee, “Trade and Empire in Awadh, 1765 –1804,” Past & Padshahnama, An Imperial Mughal Manuscript from the Royal Library,
Lucknow, India,” Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 1977, 68 –79.
and the ruler of Oudh, now a king with a golden halo, is portrayed Present 94 (1982): 85 –102. Windsor Castle (London: Azimuth, 1997), 13, 158.]
43. Keshani, “Architecture and the Twelver Shi’i Tradition,” 227– 33, 237– 42.
6. Visual expressions of the political relationship between the emperors and 24. Ebba Koch, “The Hierarchical Principles of Shah-Jahani Painting,” in
throughout his regal routine avidly seeking with monotonous Beach and Koch, King of the World, 137– 41. 44. Michael H. Fisher, “Political Marriage Alliances at the Shi’i Court of
provincial governors are found in architecture, painting, decorative arts, and
regularity the tedious company of unhappy women. Awadh,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 25:4 (1983): 593 – 616.
textiles, as discussed in the various essays in this volume. 25. Ibid., 138.
45. Najaf was one of the cities visited by Sayyid Dildar Ali Nasirabadi, who
The style of the painting is even more revealing. . . . 7. Barnett, North India Between Empires, 25 –26. 26. Milo Cleveland Beach, “The Padshahnama and Mughal Historical
played an important role in the establishment of Shia theological scholarship
8. In the British Library painting of c. 1725 (Johnson album 4, no. 4), which is Manuscripts,” in Beach and Koch, King of the World, 125 –26.
The original Lucknow manner which had still persisted under in Awadh. [Cole, The Roots of North Indian Shi’ism, 61– 66.]
unfinished, Saadat Khan holds a fan in his right hand, as in the Bodleian 27. See, for instance, the San Diego Museum of Art’s c. 1775 – 80 portrait of
Asaf-ud-Daula is now dead. . . . In this volume the pleasures of the 46. For a general discussion of the imambara and karbala complexes at
example, although his left hand grasps a document. [Toby Falk and Mildred Shuja al-Daula (1990.413) [Edwin Binney, 3rd, Indian Miniature Painting
Lucknow, and their roles in Muharram rituals, see Neeta Das, “Lucknow’s
zenana, its feasts, music, dancing, and embracings, formerly Archer, Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library (London: Sotheby from the Collection of Edwin Binney, 3rd: The Mughal and Deccani Schools
Imambaras and Karbalas,” in Lucknow Then and Now, ed. Rosie Llewellyn-
Parke Bernet; Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1981), 108 – 9, 421, cat. 163.] A (Portland: Portland Art Museum, 1973), 125, cat. 101]; the Chester Beatty
portrayed with voluptuous line and fevered colour, are now so feebly Jones (Mumbai: Marg, 2003), 90 –102; and Peter Chelkowski, “Monumental
portrait of Saadat Khan with an attendant, in the Chester Beatty Library, Library’s slightly later portrait of Shuja al-Daula, c. 1780 (64.21) [Leach,
Grief: The Bara Imambara,” in Llewellyn-Jones, Lucknow: City of Illusion,
rendered that dignity is lost and nothing remains but a sense of Dublin (Ms. 69.7), attributed to an artist working in Faizabad, c. 1770, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings 2:699, cat. 6.343]; and the Boston
nearly replicates the stance of the above-mentioned works, although the fan Museum of Fine Art’s c. 1773 portrait of a woman (2001.136) [Joan
all-pervading squalor.54 has been replaced with a sword [Linda York Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Cummins, Indian Painting: From Cave Temples to the Colonial Period 47. Juan R. I. Cole, “‘Indian Money’ and the Shi’i Shrine Cities of Iraq,
Paintings from the Chester Beatty Library (London: Scorpion Cavendish, (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2006), 205, pl. 113]. 1786 –1850,” Middle Eastern Studies 22:4 (1986): 461– 80.
1995), 2:693 – 94, cat. 6.333]. A drawing of Saadat Khan in the Museum of 28. The painting depicting the Red Fort at Delhi (MIK I 5005, fol. 11) is 48. Natasha Eaton, “Critical Cosmopolitanism: Gifting and Collecting Art at
We have returned, it seems, to the subject with which Fine Arts, Boston (14.861), is remarkably similar to the Dublin work and illustrated in Gadebusch, “Celestial Gardens,” 69, fig. 1. A similar painting is Lucknow, 1775 – 97,” in Art and the British Empire, ed. Tim Barringer, Geoff
may precede it in date, as the latter reveals a cursory treatment of shadows in the collection of the British Library (Add.Or.948) [Falk and Archer, Quilley, and Douglas Fordham (Manchester, UK: Manchester University
this essay began, the measure of Awadh’s art by Mughal that appears in provincial Mughal paintings in the mid-1760s [Ananda K. Press, 2007), 189 –204.
Indian Miniatures, 160 and 446, cat. 343]. A later copy is in the Royal
and European standards and the need for a more compre- Coomaraswamy, Catalogue of the Indian Collections in the Museum of Fine Ontario Museum, Toronto (924.12.143) [Milo C. Beach, Reflections of India: 49. Michael H. Fisher, “The Imperial Coronation of 1819: Awadh, the British,
Arts, Boston, Part VI, Mughal Painting (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Paintings from the 16th to the 19th Century (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, and the Mughals,” Modern Asian Studies 19:2 (1985): 239 –77.
hensive understanding of its hybrid visual culture. As the University Press, 1930), 66, cat. CXLIX, pl. LVIII; J. P. Losty, “Towards a 1979), 32, cat. 31]. 50. Ibid., 260.
New Naturalism: Portraiture in Murshidabad and Avadh, 1750 – 80,” in After
Ishqnamah and the other paintings discussed in this essay the Great Mughals: Painting in Delhi and the Regional Courts in the 18th and
29. For a discussion of the differences between Indian and European approaches 51 . Ibid., 255 – 57, 261– 65.
to the depiction of architectural monuments in late-eighteenth- and
indicate, the cultural interactions which were brought 19th Centuries, ed. Barbara Schmitz (Mumbai: Marg, 2002), 38, 44 – 45].
early-nineteenth-century India, see G. H. R. Tillotson, “Painting and
52 . For a discussion of this manuscript, see Stephen Vernoit, Occidentalism:
9. Barnett, North India Between Empires, 21, 27. Precedents for Saadat Khan’s Islamic Art in the 19th Century, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic
Understanding Mughal Architecture,” in G. H. R. Tillotson, ed., Paradigms
together in the creation of a unique Awadhi aesthetic can- autonomous governance had been established by his predecessors in the Art, 23 (New York: Nour Foundation in association with Azimuth Editions
of Indian Architecture: Space and Time in Representation and Design
region who appointed their own administrators and also began to fundamen- and Oxford University Press, 1997), 134 – 35, cat. 76. The coat of arms is
not be discussed solely in terms of a stylistic shift from (Richmond, Surrey, UK: Curzon, 1998), 59 –79.
discussed in Fisher, “The Imperial Coronation,” 255; and, in the present
tally alter the ownership rights of land revenues. [John F. Richards, The
30. Ibid.
an imperial Mughal-derived style to a heavily European- Mughal Empire, The New Cambridge History of India I.5 (Cambridge: volume, in Stephen Markel’s essay.
Cambridge University Press, 1993), 275 –76.] 31 . One painting of the series, inscribed “Malab [Mahtab] Bague. Jardin que fit 53. For a brief description of the manuscript and its contents, see Muhammad
ized one. Many artistic precedents and new influences faire Alemgir dans l’intérieur du palais pour ses femmes à Dely,” attempts Isa Waley, “Islamic Manuscript in the British Royal Collection,” Manuscripts
10. For discussions of various aspects of the Murshidabad painting style and its
an aerial view while utilizing a rudimentary perspective to render the of the Middle East 6 (1992): 5 – 40.
were mediated by a court and clientele whose cultural development, see Robert Skelton, “Murshidabad Painting,” Marg 10.1 (1956):
receding side walls of the enclosed garden. The main architectural elements
10 –22. 54. Mildred and W. G. Archer, Indian Painting for the British, 1770–1880
identities were far more complex than the terms “provin- 11 . See, e.g., Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings, 2:685 – 87, 706.
of the garden are depicted frontally while the garden and central pool are
(London: Oxford University Press, 1955), 62 – 63. The Archers mistakenly
depicted from a bird’s-eye perspective, a combination of views typical of
identify the date and subject of the manuscript, calling it an 1826 visual
cial Mughal” or “Company style” might suggest. As a 12 . Skelton, “Murshidabad Painting,” 18. many Indian paintings. This painting and a few others from the series are
record of Ghazi al-Din Haidar’s reign.
13. Coomaraswamy, Catalogue, 13. illustrated in Jean-Marie Lafont, Chitra: Cities and Monuments of Eigh-
Shia dynasty ruling over a largely Sunni and Hindu teenth-Century India from French Archives (New Delhi: Oxford University
14. Percy Brown, Indian Painting Under the Mughals, A.D. 1550 to A.D. 1750
population, the rulers of Awadh cultivated an image of (Oxford: Clarendon, 1924), 178 –79.
Press, 2001), pls. 46 – 50.
32 . William Hodges, Travels in India During the Years 1780, 1781, 1782, and
rule that reflected their Mughal inheritance and their own 15. Coomaraswamy, Catalogue, 11. Coomaraswamy was, in fact, quoting Percy
1783 (London: the author, 1793), 104.
Brown’s condemnation of Indian artists copying European paintings and
distinctive religious heritage. Eventually they came to also techniques (Brown, Indian Painting, 179). 33. Ibid., 107.
34. William Hodges, Select Views in India Drawn on the Spot in the Years 1780,
incorporate the symbolic language of European kingship. 16. P. J. Marshall, “Introduction,” The Eighteenth Century in Indian History:
1781, 1782, and 1783 (London: n.p., 1785 – 88).
Evolution or Revolution, ed. P. J. Marshall (New Delhi: Oxford University
The pictorial languages and styles which were employed Press, 2003), 1– 52. 35. Geoff Quilley and John Bonehill, eds., William Hodges, 1744–1797: The Art of
17. Barnett, North India Between Empires, 40. Exploration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 158.
by Awadhi artists from the late eighteenth through the
18. Ibid., 34, 43n1. 36. It was previously in the collection of the book collector Major John Roland
nineteenth centuries likewise reflect the adaptation of 19. Stuart Cary Welch, India: Art and Culture 1300–1900 (New York: Metropoli-
Abbey. [Life in England in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770–1860, Architec-
ture, Drawing Books, Art Collections, Magazines, Navy and Army, Panora-
various influences to a distinctly Indian vision. tan Museum of Art, 1985), 252 – 56.
mas, etc., from the Library of J. R. Abbey (London: Curwen, 1953), cat. 500.]

100 101 Gude : The CultuRAl Landscape of Awadh

Car l a Pet i ev i c h

Innovations Pious and Impious:

Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

When the nawab of Awadh, Asaf al-Daula, “ran away from home” in 1775 because of strong differences
between himself and his mother and grandmother, the court (darbar) and culture (tahzib) that he established
in Lucknow were to become the stuff of legend. This description of Faizabad in the 1760s suits the development
of Lucknow as well:

Shuja’ al-dawla, Bahu Begam and Sadr-al-Nisa [Asaf al-Daula’s parents and grandmother] developed a distinguished court culture
in Awadh, particularly in their capital of the time, Faizabad. Awadh’s economic, cultural and political efflorescence made it the
premier “successor-state” to the Mughal Empire in north India. The Awadh court poured its wealth into patronage of almost all the
high arts—particularly architecture, dance, music, painting, poetry and Shi’i religious scholarship and ritual performances.1

Detailed information on the court at Faizabad is extremely limited. By contrast we know a great deal about
Lucknow. Of all the high arts into which wealth was poured we are particularly concerned here with the expres-
sive forms of literature and, to a lesser extent, performance genres. Indeed, the two are not really separate.

Lucknow in English, Lucknow in Urdu

English discussions of Lucknow have focused on Awadh’s political encounter with the British, which increased
dramatically from the middle of the eighteenth century till the annexation of Awadh in 1856. These narratives
generally trace the shift of political power away from Indian rulers and toward the British, for in them the

102 103 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

British are telling their own story. The extensive cultural interactions and exchange From Delhi to Lucknow

between Indian and European actors at the Lucknow court are often told as the stories of
The Asaf al-Daula of Urdu built his new capital as a cultural center (markaz) to rival
the nawabs’ fascination for all things European,2 though of course the fascination was
Mughal Delhi—with little or no regard for British opinion—for the Mughals had set the
mutual. Who can say whether the Occident was more exotic, or the Orient? 3 The voyeur-
standard for Indo-Muslim culture. Thus, rivaling them and emulating them, the Awadh
ism ran in both directions.
nobility intermarried with Mughal nobility, including the emperor’s family.8 Alongside the
One of the most notorious (and entertaining) works in this connection is the English-
artists seeking asylum from the disruptions of Delhi in the latter half of the eighteenth
man William Knighton’s account of the court of King Nasir al-Din Haidar.4 Historians
century came Mughal nobility of all kinds, too.9 The nawabs were eager to host such
view the work as largely fictitious,5 but in the 1855 preface to its second edition Knighton
Mughal princes as Sulaiman Shikoh, who proved to be excellent bargaining chips in the
attests to its utter facticity. I present his apologia in detail, for it encapsulates very well
perennial negotiations that took place between recalcitrant servants and their erstwhile
the gist of Lucknow as it appears in English sources:
(and still nominal) imperial overlords.
For their part, the refugee princes enjoyed substantial allowances and were expected
I have adhered simply to the truth, and have endeavored solely to describe the inner life of the palace as
I found it. Much there was that was strange—much there was that was horrible about that life; I witnessed
to behave like kings, as it perpetuated their own aura of majesty. Poets as well were
many scenes which I could not describe without offending conventional propriety; but, in all that the accustomed to leading quasi-nomadic lives in search of patronage, and these erstwhile
reader will find recorded, exaggeration has been strictly guarded against . . . this book has not been Dihlavis (residents of Delhi) were delighted to continue on, in Lucknow, as clients of
written with any political object. That Oude is one of the most miserably-governed countries under refugee Mughal royals. They could count on taking recourse in the Awadh rulers should
heaven, is no secret; and that it would be a blessing to its numerous inhabitants were the Indian govern- their primary patrons’ circumstances diminish. As for the displaced Mughals, their role
ment to do for it what it has so well done for the Punjab, every one will admit. I have not written a as patrons ameliorated their status as clients of former minions.
political disquisition but merely a personal narrative; and therefore the state of the country is but
There were, in other words, compelling political reasons to encourage lavishness, and
incidentally alluded to in the following pages.
to make it the central characteristic of the “vibrant, distinctive Lucknowi aesthetic”
My task is done.6
which this exhibition showcases. It lent force to the city’s growing reputation as “the
place to be.”
Knighton’s “faction” makes for more entertaining reading than the drier accounts of
revenue collection and troop movements, to be sure. But the Lucknow of the English
Poetry: Arabic to Persian to Urdu
language is by and large a very different place from the Lucknow of Urdu, which is the
present focus. The Lucknow of Urdu—and by this we mean not just the language and Poetry was the form in which the Quran came down to the Prophet Muhammad and for
literature of Urdu but the entire culture connected with it—this Lucknow is a city in this reason it has been especially valued in the Islamicate. Arabic, the language of the
glorious cultural efflorescence, featuring all the achievements in art, architecture, and Quran, remained the premier language of scientific knowledge, or ilm. However, over time
literature described in the opening quotation. the preeminent language of literature (adab) came to be Persian. Its importance in India
The philosophy of rulership is significant here. Indo-Muslim rulers engaged in con- never disappeared, even during periods which saw great developments in regional lan-
spicuous consumption as a deliberate policy. Knighton suggests that this sort of opulence guages.10 In Lucknow Persian continued to be held in high esteem. To ascribe knowledge
offended conventional sensibilities; but whose? The British understood it as a poor admin- of Persian and Arabic to anyone, but especially to a poet, was to designate that person
istrative choice on the part of the nawabs. English language sources reflect a British learned; conversely, to suggest that someone was deficient in either was to diminish their
understanding of “responsible rulership” that was more oriented toward fiscal policies of intellectual stature, no matter what their achievement in Urdu.11
military spending and revenue collection. Such policies would, of course, have benefited Thus, while Urdu poetry self-consciously emulated Persian models, conscious
the British far more than the people of Awadh, which the nawabs (and the Mughals before attempts were also made to elevate it to the same level of sophistication. The literati paid
them) certainly understood. Indians trained by the British also tend to be dismissive of
great attention to the incorporation of Persian lexical items into Urdu and to the ascrip-
the very nawabs (and, later, kings) who appear in Urdu sources as heroic patrons of the tion of gender to Persian, Arabic, and Turkish nouns.12 This process, known as islah-i
arts. The British wished to see Indian rulers collect land revenues and turn them over to zaban (literally “correction of language”), was understood to be a necessary part of the
the British to pay off war indemnities, or to support garrisons of British soldiers in process of elevating Urdu to the requisite level as a language of belles lettres. The rela-
Indian cities. But Asaf al-Daula and his successors were well aware that lavish cultural tionship between the two was ambivalent, admiring, and competitive, as we see in the
patronage created political authority in addition to stimulating the economy of Awadh. following verse by the Urdu master Mushafi (Ghulam Hamdani “Mushafi,” 1750 –1824):
Thus in Urdu we have the very famous and popular saying “Jis ko na de maula, us ko de
Asaf al-Daula” (He to whom God does not give, to him will Asaf al-Daula give); whereas Mushafi, put Persian on the shelf:
Page 102: 22. Layla and Majnun, and
Now is the time for Hindavi [Urdu].
KhusRau and ShiRin (detail), c. 1775 English sources tell us about Asaf’s corpulence, effeminacy, and general unfitness to rule.

104 105 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

Mushafi farsi ko taq pe rakh within the Islamicate, and appealed not only to non-Shias but to non-Muslims as well.
Ab hai ashaar-e Hindavi ka rivaj The tragedy could be felt by all, but the heroism of Husain and his followers inspired all
Lucknowis, who had inherited—but did not much perpetuate—a martial tradition.21 In
Urdu poets in Lucknow experimented with many forms of vernacular expression, the lines below, excerpted from one of Anis’s best-loved marsiyas, the dawn of Husain’s
including the largely non-Muslim devotional poetry of Awadhi and the idiom of secluded doomsday breaks, and he calls his followers to arms:
women (see below). Such engagement beyond the realm of Indo-Muslim courts was
following a practice that had long been in place in India.13 In Lucknow the most (in) When the sun had passed its nightly journey
famous such expression was known as rekhti (about which more later). Let us turn first, and dropped the dawn’s veil to reveal her radiant face,
however, to the most revered of Lucknow’s cultural innovations. The Lord of the goblet-shaped sky beheld the heavens and
turning to his companions, the Noble One cried,

Piety, Shia Imaginary, and Marsiya

“Our time has come! Give praise to God,
Arise and fulfill your duties to Dawn.
The nawabs were very conscious of their Safavid Iranian heritage and new developments Yes, warriors! This is our day of trial and strife,
in art marked this legacy especially in celebrations of Shiism. Various aspects of Muhar- from here will flow the blood of Muhammad’s line!”
ram celebration were elaborated to new degrees. King Nasir al-Din Haidar extended
Muharram celebrations from ten to thirty days, inventing new rituals to commemorate While the grandeur and pathos of Anis’s language is largely lost in translation, the
the birth of all Shiism’s imams.14 Matam processions drew admiring crowds from all over following lines evoke the desperate condition of Husain’s clan, surrounded as they are by
the city to empathize with the self-flagellators, and to offer them water as they made their the enemy army and cut off from water in the heat of the desert summer:
way along the procession route in the hot sun.
Baqir lies crumpled somewhere on the ground,
Patrons encouraged the compositions of marsiya, elegiac poetry on the betrayal and
Sakina lies in a faint somewhere else;
martyrdom of Imam Husain and his followers at Karbala (in 680). Karbala is arguably
This is the summer—this heat and this thirst—
the central event in Shiism,15 for it marked the point at which the Muslim community the moon-faced children cry themselves into fretful sleep.
divided and the descendants of Ali became a permanent (and persecuted) minority. Where can the famished women convey them to safety?
Marsiyas were typically recited in gatherings (majalis) during the mourning month of What fault of theirs has brought upon them
Muharram, and served to reinforce Shia communal identity as much as any other ritual. this incessant storm of arrows—
Put baldly, marsiyas are recited to induce weeping in their audience. To shed tears is (surely it cannot be) the fault of the young ones,
part and parcel of a ritual enacted for the purpose of obtaining religious virtue.16 The parched as they are, pining for but a cool breeze?

ability to transport the elegy’s audience to a state of tears testifies to the marsiya-poet’s
(and the reciter’s) skill. To attain this state through empathy and identification with the Urdu as a Language of Erudition and Elaboration: Lakhnawiyat

martyrs is a sign of virtue rather than resignation.17 And it was Lucknowi poets of the Patrons prized versatility highly, and the sense of possibility seems to have been limitless.
nineteenth century who set the standard by which mourning elegies are measured ever Poets were encouraged to work within the full range of “classical” genres;22 but they were
since. They were known to employ a “somewhat maverick use of symbols as influenced by particularly prolific in the lyric ghazal form. They began to incorporate Persian construc-
their environs on the subcontinent. Such usages were especially encouraged by the rulers tions and a great deal of Persian vocabulary into their Urdu ghazals, always with an eye
of . . . Awadh.” 18
to infusing the new literature with greater elegance and refinement. This refinement,
The two greatest names in marsiya-goi (marsiya composition) were those of the delicacy of sensibility, elaboration, and versatility are all part and parcel of that distinc-
contemporaries and rivals Mir Babar Ali “Anis” (1802 –1874) and Mirza Salamat Ali tive quality people call Lakhnawiyat, or “Lucknow-ness.”23
“Dabir” (1803 –1875). Hyder observes that the history of Urdu literature “simply cannot be One example of the elaboration favored by poetic masters came in the number of
written” without mention of these two masters. Both poets bore noble literary pedigrees,
verses (known as shers) that they might compose for a single ghazal. The length of lyric
which was also important in this sociocultural milieu. Both were prolific and much-
poems grew to twenty-five or more, whereas pre-nineteenth-century ghazals had tended to
celebrated in the Lucknow of their time, but posterity has favored Anis with greater run to five, seven, or nine shers.24 The length of poetic lines also grew, so that more
longevity and popularity. His marsiyas are valued for their combination of emotional complicated meters were favored over shorter ones.
verisimilitude and their elegance of language. Their battlefield scenes are thought to have At the same time, Lakhnawiyat’s elegance of expression centered around nazakat, or
raised the elegy to epic proportions. For an embattled community such as the Shias this delicacy. An example of nazuk khayali (delicacy of thought) in imagery can be seen in the
was tremendously powerful. The great story of Shiism transcended its minority position following sher by the great Lucknow ustad, Khwaja Haidar Ali Atish (d. 1838):

106 107 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

How futile, cally, plenty of Lucknowis are actually happy to embrace the label of decadence, though
my breath rising up from my breast they might use another term for the oft-invoked British label of effeminacy.27 They would
only to stick to my lips: not do so if their beloved city’s so-called decadent tehzib were not based on nazakat.
It’s no good to tarry
Lucknowi politesse has been amply lampooned in anecdotes and twentieth-century litera-
when one’s goal remains remote.
ture such as Munshi Premchand’s famous short story, “The Chess Players” (Shatranj ke
A ke sine se labon par dam atakta hai abas khilari), which was made into a lush film by Satyajit Ray in 1977. In North India and
Therna achha nahin jab ho irada dur ka 25 Pakistan just about everyone knows the joke relating how two Lucknowi gentlemen took
so much time insisting that the other board a train first that it eventually departed,
The delicacy here is in the image rather than in refined vocabulary. The poet uses the
leaving them both behind on the railway platform. But there is always an overlay in such
narrator-lover’s sigh to symbolize his dire state overall, but the tone is restrained. The
parody, for even non-Lucknowis admire refinement and good manners.
sigh fails to achieve full expression, dying on his lips. It conveys both desire and lack of
fulfillment, which is the state of the lover himself at his own death. The ghazal audience Delhi vs. Lucknow
understands that to die while still striving for fulfillment in love is the ultimate achieve-
ment of the lover (ashiq). Thus, failure subtly becomes success. Such appreciation was quite muted, however, during the late eighteenth century, as
The poet Shaikh Imam Bakhsh “Nasikh” (d. 1838), Atish’s contemporary and rival, émigrés expressed a preference for their abandoned home (Delhi) over Lucknow. We can
was known as “the Imam of Lakhnawiyat.” A good example of Lakhnawiyat in Nasikh’s see it in the following nostalgic rubai (quatrain) by the émigré poet Mushafi, one of the
poetry is: great ustads of the early generation of refugees:

My breast is the eastern horizon Lord, you’ve robbed me of my city

Whence the wounded sun of Separation rises: Brought and sat me in this wilderness:

The dawn of Doomsday breaks What can there be between me and these Lakhnavis?

Through the rend in my collar. Dear God, what have you done to me?

Mira sina hai mashriq aftab-i dagh-i hijran ka Yarab shahr apna yun chhuraya tu ne

Tulu-i subh-i mahshar chak hai mere gariban ka Virane main mujh ko la bithaya tu ne
Main aur kahan yih Lakhnau ki khilqat
Ae vae kya kiya khudaya tu ne 28
The elegance of this expression lies in its euphony, its cadence, its Perso-Arabic vocabu-
lary, and Persianized phrasing. The achievement of the verse lies in its bundling of
There were also less delicate expressions of contempt, and the most famous source of
imagery on top of all that. While the working of the language and its effect can’t really be
these was the great Delhi ustad Mir Taqi “Mir” (1722 –1810). Though he spent the last
translated, the imagery can be explicated. Night is the high time of both Separation’s
thirty years of his life in Lucknow he never really reconciled himself to his loss of Delhi.
pain and the anxious anticipation of union. Dawn is the time of both disappointment and
There exists an anecdote about him that is so famous as to be almost cliché. It features
release. Nasikh has managed to layer them both into an image of simultaneous agony
Mir requesting that a fellow traveler (a Lucknowi) on a stagecoach not speak to him lest
and triumphant catharsis.26
his language be compromised during the course of the exchange. And note the contrast in
tenor from Mushafi’s rubai (above) when Mir remarks nostalgically on the move from
Lakhnawiyat as ExcesS
Delhi to Lucknow:
One person’s refinement can be another’s excess, and this has been the source of detrac-
tors’ criticism of Lakhnawiyat. In Urdu literary criticism (all of which postdates Luck- Far better than Lucknow the ruins of Delhi:
now’s political and cultural demise in 1856), this perceived overelaboration was called Would that I had died back there

“paying homage to language” (riayat-i lafzi), but it carried the sense of “indulgence in than let my madness lead me here!

verbiage” and suggested that elaboration was taken to extremes well beyond good taste. Kharaba Dilli ka dah-chand bahtar Lakhnau se tha
The critique was extended to Lucknow’s culture overall. It is perhaps the first word we see Wahin ae kash mar jata sarasima na ata yan 29
when critics speak of Lucknow’s decadence, and it is not an accident that many of these
critics are themselves identified with Delhi. Perhaps Mir’s most devastating critique comes in an equally famous dismissal of the
This was not the case in its time, as the reader will have surmised from the foregoing Lucknowi poet Jurat’s ghazals, which he calls “not poetry, but descriptions of kissing and
discussion, when there was no sense of exaggeration having outer limits. Perhaps ironi- licking” (chumachati).

108 109 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

Urdu as a Language of Play, Mockery, Invention: Rekhti narrated in a grammatically feminine voice; had this ventriloquism really been the diction
of tawaifs, then perhaps the idiom of rekhti should have been called “tawaifi zaban” 34
Among all the literary innovations in Lucknow perhaps the most notorious was a new
rather than “begamati zaban.” As it happens, extant Urdu poetry of eighteenth- and
style in which Jurat sometimes composed, called rekhti.30 It was deliberately transgressive
nineteenth-century courtesans was narrated in the normative, masculine voice of rekhta
of established poetic norms, and Mir’s devastating comment about chumachati might
(the contemporaneous term for Urdu ghazal). Even tawaifs did not compose in tawaifi
logically have been occasioned by a recitation of rekhti.31 Certainly its identity has come
zaban; apparently only their patrons did! And was there no difference between the idiom
close to “chumachati” in popular imagination. As we saw in the earlier expression by
of courtesans and that of their social rivals, respectably married women?
Atish, ghazal poetry took itself very seriously, and poets sincerely subscribed to the notion
Rekhti self-consciously presents itself as a parody, the anti-ghazal. Its tone is largely
that the loftiness of their ideas and expression was ennobling. Though written almost
playful, mocking a literary tradition that takes itself very seriously.35 Its geographic
exclusively in ghazal form, rekhti parodied the ghazal by deliberately discoursing on very
world sets its themes: the travails of burdensome husbands; the annoyances and quotidian
different themes. Outrageous in diction, rekhti pushed the boundaries of what could be
spats between housewives and their domestic servants; the rivalries among co-wives; and
expressed in lyric form. Whereas the creation of images was at the core of the normative
the lascivious shenanigans of illicit liaisons—including within the zenana itself—form
ghazal, rekhti was all about the idiom in which it was expressed. Largely playful in tone,
its core.36 The normative ghazal features an always-grammatically-male narrator and
rekhti poets were at pains, it often seemed, to flaunt its un-loftiness. With apologies,
revolves around his emotional universe: the largely internalized and metaphysical strug-
again, for what is lost in translation, here is an example from the oeuvre of Saadat Yar
gles of human longing for the divine; or at least the ennobling sacrifice of impossible
Khan “Rangin” (1756 –1834 /35):
human love.37 The contrast between the two ghazal styles is striking.
Don’t flood me with desirous words, Insha Allah Khan “Insha” (1756 –1818) was another extremely versatile poet in
keep your distance, Nurse! Lucknow.38 A close friend and rival of Rangin, Insha could also be playful and irreverent
Fibs will only blacken your face, and his wicked wit often got him into trouble.39 He, too, completed a diwan-i rekhti
old woman. (collection of rekhti poems) in answer to Rangin’s. They are the only two full diwans of
For one, your ugly face gives me the creeps rekhti that date from the first third of the nineteenth century. The following ghazal
old hag, don’t stare at me wide-eyed like that! displays Insha’s versatility and treats a range of themes, not least the homoerotic, whose
undisguised presence in rekhti was probably the reason the whole corpus of poetry was
Nurse, at your hands I’ve been cut to the quick:
I’d feed you to the vultures if I could.
suppressed in the twentieth century: 40

From your spreading and squelching of rumors, old nurse, Since I’ve been facing the lane of desire
may God make your mouth ulcerate! I’m obliged to chant the name of Ali,
remover of obstacles.
What are you muttering about?
just wait till tomorrow morning— When my heart faded
old woman, I shall beat you to a pulp! I couldn’t help but recall
the withering of a bud not yet in bloom.
Well, you’ve gone and made enemies of all my friends:
what else do you have in store for me, old nurse? Don’t ask me about her fingers’ tenderness:
They’ve a smoothness like the tips of mung bean shoots.41
When you don’t so much as say a word to him,
why do you keep mentioning Rangin’s name, old nurse? Don’t try to put one over on me.
you spent the night out, dear—
Rangin is credited with inventing rekhti as a poetic voice. That is arguable,32 but is You’re skulking about all wrinkled and disheveled!
certainly consistent with both his nom de plume (takhallus), which was “Colorful,” and the
I can’t bear what I’ve had to suffer at your hands:
“anything goes” milieu of Lucknow at the turn of the nineteenth century. Its distinctive whatever you do is done haphazardly!
idiom is often called begamati zaban (the language of respectable ladies) because most of
Girlfriend, the way I ran around yesterday,
the events it depicts are narrated by women of the zenana (women’s quarters of elite
I can’t tell you the state of my shins!
houses). Rekhti is probably as much a parodic approximation as it is the actual language
women really spoke. Rangin said that he had picked up the idiomatic expressions of Why not go make offerings at the Prophet’s feet?
courtesans (tawaifs) during the course of a misspent youth; and that he invented rekhti as Don’t you, too, depend on the help of Lord Shiv?

a form of tribute born of admiration for their pithy wit.33 Rekhti was male-authored poetry

110 111 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

Who but you on God’s earth, Insha, Please God, let me see her don the bridal veil!
can still this restless, troubled heart? what matters it to me to see her settled
after I’m gone?
By far the most prolific of rekhti poets was Mir Yar Ali Khan “Jan Sahib” (1818?–1897?),
I tell you, Nabi Bakhsh is a bad son-in-law:
who is known exclusively as a composer of rekhti. He published three diwans perhaps half Please God, guard my daughter’s honor
a century later than Rangin and Insha. He seems to have started out in Lucknow and, when I’m gone.
after 1856, found patronage from the nawab of Rampur.42 In the opening sher below he
Sir, my very soul
invokes the special term, dogana, which is only employed by one woman when addressing
will be wounded in the grave
another, her sweetheart: should my co-wife show ire to the children
when I’m gone.48
My dear one, I swear I’ll give my life for you,
my sweet, simple, artless dogana!
In another ingenious utterance in the pioneering and authoritative Ab-i Hayat,
Play me with open jawari, my sweetheart: Azad draws a line connecting music, courtesans, rekhti, and the (so-called) characteristic
why not give full throat to this sitar! 43
effeminacy of Lakhnawiyat:
My Khizru’s well is neither sweet nor saline:
It’s clear that luxury and enjoyment and the company of musicians and dancing girls produce the same
its water is neither heavy nor light.44
emotional effect in such unclean matters as manure does in the growth of plants. Accordingly, rekhti
Can I express to you how much you bore me? made less progress among the cheerful starvelings of Delhi, and substantially more among those settled in
Go, get lost, leave my house, my dear! Lucknow—except with regard to style and dress. The volume of Jan Sahib is present as an example of it.

Shall I set fire to your tricks, you wretch? In this connection, the invention of rekhti should be understood as one cause of the effeminacy and lack of

OK, you win, I give up! ambition and cowardice that grew up among the common people. The riddles and magic spells that
Sayyid Insha composed in rekhti are not devoid of amusement.49
May your eyes and knees never give out on you: 45

don’t swear false oaths, my dear! One might note that neither are Azad’s audacious pronouncements devoid of amusement,
She drank and got fractious, the wretch. either!
My rival swallowed a dagger and died, my sweet! The Delhi-Lucknow rivalry raged on, but not all Dihlavis were so dismissive of
That miserable Jan Sahib, too, writes poetry;
Lucknow’s poets as Mir was of Jurat, or as Azad of Insha and Rangin. Even the great
why not compose a verse yourself, Mirza Asadullah Khan “Ghalib” (1797–1869), the Delhi ustad par excellence, acknowledged
my artful dogana? the importance of Nasikh in Urdu poetic tradition (admittedly while paying ultimate
tribute to Mir, who was both a Dihlavi and a Lucknowi, if we go by where he lived):
Rekhti has pretty much been savaged in Urdu literary criticism beginning with
Urdu’s earliest literary history, the Ab-i Hayat (1880).46 Though a Dihlavi, its author Ghalib, I keep faith with the words of Nasikh:
He who does not follow Mir is not one of us.
Muhammad Husain Azad’s manner of expression is no less flowery than that associated
with the quality of Lakhnawiyat when he offers the following assessment: Ghalib apna yeh aqidah hai baqaul-e Nasikh,
ap be bahra hai jo muteqad-e Mir nahin
Miyan Rangin prepared the newest bouquets and displayed them before the people of the mushaira—that
is, from out of Rekhtah he produced rekhti. We would certainly have said that the romantic poetry of Nasikh, keen to locate himself within this tradition, had said:
India had returned to its roots. But since previous poetry was founded on truth, and rekhti is meant only
for laughter and joking among friends, we cannot call it anything but buffoonery. . . . Although the Nasikh, there can be no doubt about Mir’s mastery:
original invention was that of Miyan Rangin, even greater feminine skills were shown by Sayyid Insha.47 He who is not his follower is cut off,
Lost even to himself.
It is possible that Azad had not read enough rekhti to appreciate its array of tone; and
Shubha Nasikh nahin kuch Mir ki ustadi men,
that he had only a slight acquaintance with the work of Jan Sahib, who seems often to
ap be bahra hai jo muteqad-e Mir nahin 50
communicate a genuine sympathy for women’s experience through his representations:

112 113 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

The foregoing examples remind us that the Delhi-Lucknow divide was not entirely The Indarsabha set a new standard for popular drama in North India. The work fuses Hindu and Muslim
straightforward. It happened that the particular conditions and resources necessary to elements of plot, meter, and language in a form more indicative of its Indian and Awadhi origins than

cultivate this style coalesced in Lucknow between about 1775 and 1856.51 But there was anything European. . . . Replete with pageantry, fantasy and romance, [it] was a multimedia piece
incorporating narrative, poetry, dance and music within the visually opulent setting of Indra’s heaven.
an active contemporaneous literary scene going on in Delhi: it just happened to be within
[Indra], this Hindu icon, with [his] popular symbolic relevance to India’s Muslim kings, is wedded [here]
the walls of the Red Fort where the British had essentially imprisoned the Mughal
to a story of Islamic origin. The paris and devs belong to the dastan story-telling tradition imported from
emperor; and where resources, rather than aesthetic orientation, were less extravagant.
Persia. Specific motifs seem to be imitated from several Urdu romances [masnawis], including Mir
Hasan’s Sihr-al Bayan and Gulzar-i Nasim.54
Wajid Ali Shah and Drama

We may know more about Wajid Ali Shah than any other nawabi patron. The last (and As in the case of kathak dance and thumri, drama became an extraordinarily popular
ultimately deposed) king of Awadh, he was an accomplished Urdu poet who wrote under expressive form in Indo-Muslim culture during the later nineteenth and the twentieth
the nom de plume of “Akhtar” (Star). Wajid Ali was also a lavish patron of the arts. centuries.55 And as in the case of those other two art forms, there was a strong connection
Treated in very similar fashion to Asaf al-Daula by British historiographers and their with tawaifs, some of whom populated Wajid Ali Shah’s parikhana.
Indian pupils, his court is depicted as one of heedless decadence in both historiography
and tale.52 In Urdu, as I have argued above, the difference in treatment is noticeable. Tawaifs

Drama was not much patronized at earlier Muslim courts, but Lucknow is known for Courtesans—those remarkable people (mostly women), who are often far more learned
its remarkable engagement with indigenous forms of expression, as many other scholars than women of good repute, and on whom the passage of traditional arts has historically
have discussed. The texts of most thumris (see Peter Manuel’s essay in this volume) and
depended—existed wherever there was patronage.56 As long as a secondary literature
a great deal of kathak dance concerned stories about the Hindu god Krishna in his guise has existed, writers and filmmakers have been particularly fond of emphasizing the
as a romantic hero. Kathryn Hansen writes: connection between Lucknow and courtesans (tawaifs).57 Recall that in 1880 Azad drew a
causal relation between courtesans and rekhti; and rekhti and “one cause of the effemi-
In the theatrical realm, the Nawab encouraged the Radha-Krishna themes found in other courts. nacy and lack of ambition and cowardice that grew up among the common people.” This is
Attracted to song and dance from childhood, he established a rahaskhana (drama hall) where the amorous
repeated almost verbatim in a 2002 article 58 and in essence as recently as 2009,59 where
exploits of Krishna and his female devotees were enacted, and he maintained a parikhana (harem) for the
Lucknowi culture is characterized not by the term Lakhnawiyat but by “tawaif bazi”
ample provision of female artists. Hearsay has it that Wajid Ali himself participated in these private
(frequenting courtesans).
sports in the role of Krishna. He also penned a skit, Radha kanhaiya ka qissa [The Tale of Radha and
Krishna], first played in Huzur Bagh in 1843. Upon ascending the throne he adapted several Persian-
style romances for the stage and sponsored performances of them in Qaisar Bagh. Memoirs and Novels

Most of what we “know” about this connection comes in the form of fiction, which is not to
Furthermore, the most famous early Urdu drama—claimed by some to be the first
say that the connection did not exist. British public health records attest to the presence
ever—was also based on a Hindu theme. The Indar Sabha (1853) by Agha Hasan Amanat
of commercialized trade in female company from at least the third quarter of the nine-
was first staged in Lucknow. As Hansen has noted, Wajid Ali himself is said to have
teenth century, though they do not distinguish between those who might have shaped the
appeared in it as the Hindu god-king Indra, with the women of his parikhana (literally
distinctive culture of Lucknow and those who merely traded sex for money.60 Land
“fairy house”) playing the roles of Indra’s women. Hansen tells of a controversy concern-
revenue records attest to the prosperity of at least the most successful courtesans, who
ing whether or not the Indar Sabha was a European-influenced work:
invested heavily in real estate.61
The perceived connections between courtesans, Lakhnawiyat, and Shia identity
Given the absence of antecedents for theatre in the Indo-Islamic tradition, several Urdu literary historians
have opined that the Indarsabha was based on Western opera, introduced into Lucknow’s court by
remain strong. Scholars have suggested that most of Lucknow’s tawaifs were Shia.62
visiting European musicians. John Pemble notes that European music was in general not popular at Certainly legend tells of women of the kotha (courtesan’s quarters) standing in the street
court, and he concludes that operatic influence “does seem far-fetched.” From another perspective, Hindi to offer water to Muharram mourners as they processed by; or feeding poor Shias on the
literary historians have linked the Indarsabha to the Indian folk traditions, claiming Amanat’s play as tenth day, Ashura; or holding majalis, the gatherings in which marsiyas or soz were
a vital bridge between ancient Sanskrit drama and a more recent regional theatre. recited.63 (There were doubtless good incentives to convert to Shiism when one was
seeking support from a patron class that emulated a Shia royal family.)
This debate is of interest to contemporary scholars who argue for a long history of While British revenue records have proved the most reliable to historians for recon-
composite “Hindu-Muslim” expressive culture in North India, and the Indar Sabha offers structing nineteenth-century Lucknow’s social history, by far the most oft-quoted source
them fertile ground. To quote Hansen again: on its cultural history is that of Abdul Halim Sharar (1860 –1926). The author of Guzishta

114 115 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

Lakhnau (lit. “Bygone Lucknow”),64 Sharar was born in 1856, the year Awadh was 1. K. S. Santha, Begums of Awadh, cited by many, including Michael H. Fisher, Shamsar Rahman Faruqi, Ab-i Hayat: Shaping the Canon of Urdu Poetry
“Women and the Feminine in the Court and High Culture of Awadh, (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), 420.
annexed by the British. Guzishta Lakhnau was written as a series of journalistic essays 1722 –1856,” in Women in the Medieval Islamic World, ed. Gavin R. Hambly 21 . See Hyder, Reliving Karbala: “Readers of elegiac poetry helped create a
(New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 489 – 513. Shi’i-tinged traditional culture in a society where, among the popular
ultimately compiled into book form around 1920.65 A rich and evocative source, it is still
2. See Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’s essay in this volume. classes, religious communal identity was still weak or at least not exclusivist
not quite contemporaneous with the period it describes. Yet what it describes is the 3. See William Knighton, The Private Life of an Eastern King. Compiled for a in tone.” Naim, too, has made this point in discussing one of Anis’s most
Member of the Household of His Late Majesty King Nuseer-u-Deen, King of famous marsiyas [Naim, “The Art of the Urdu Marsiya”].
Lucknow of Urdu, the Lucknow Sharar wanted—and wanted us—to remember.66
Oude, 2nd ed. (London: Hope and Co., 1855). 22 . Generally considered to be the lyric ghazal and rubai (quatrain), and the
The second quintessential source on Lucknow and its courtesan culture (tawaif bazi, 4. Ibid. narrative forms masnawi, marsiya (elegy), and qasida. This was called
Persian tartib, and was easily recognized by stringing together a series of
as Adrian McNeil calls it) is an early-twentieth-century Urdu novel by the writer and 5. See Fisher, “Women and the Feminine in the Court and High Culture of
nouns using the Persian grammatical form of izafat. See the ghazal verse by
Nasikh below (mira sina hai...) for an example. Such izafat constructions
polymath Mirza Hadi “Ruswa.” The Urdu novel’s title is merely the heroine’s name, 6. Knighton, The Private Life of an Eastern King, preface, iv. replaced the use of postpositions in standard Urdu grammar.
Umrao Jan “Ada” (1905); in its first and best-known English translation it became The 7. See Richard B. Barnett, North India Between Empires: Awadh, the Mughals 23. See Carla Petievich, Assembly of Rivals: Delhi, Lucknow, and the Urdu
and the British, 1720–1801 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of Ghazal (New Delhi: Manohar, 1992), and Abul Lais Siddiqi, Lakhna’u ka
Courtesan of Lucknow, as if to underline the connection of the city with the profession.67 California Press, 1981). Dabistan-i sha’iri, 3rd ed. (Lahore: Urdu Markaz, 1967). Sayyid Abdullah
The story is framed by a character impersonating the author, who purports to be an old 8. Fisher, “Women and the Feminine in the Court and High Culture of also discusses Lakhnawiyat in his essay, “Nasikh ki mansukh sha’iri,” in Wali
Awadh.” se Iqbal tak, 3rd ed. (Lahore: Maktaba Khayaban-i Adab, 1966), 224.
“friend” of a retired courtesan named Umrao Jan. Both of them are poets (his takhallus 9. See the essay by Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam in this volume. 24. Petievich, When Men Speak as Women.
is Ruswa, “the disgraced”; hers is Ada, “grace”),68 which is how their friendship is acci- 10. See especially Muzaffar Alam, “The Pursuit of Persian: Language in 25. Khwaja Haidar Ali Atish, Kulliyat-i Atish, ed. Z. A. Siddiqi (Allahabad:
Mughal Politics,” Modern Asian Studies 32:2 (May 1998): 317– 49, for the Ram Narayan Lal Beni Madhav, 1972), vol. 1, ghazal 58, v. 7.
dentally renewed. Ruswa induces Ada to tell her life story, which also serves to evoke importance of Persian; Allison Busch, “Hidden in Plain View: Brajbhasha 26. Kulliyat-i Shaikh Imam Bakhsh Nasikh (Lucknow: Nawal Kishore, n.d.), 1st
bygone Lucknow.69 A tremendously popular work, Umrao Jan has shaped the image Poets at the Mughal Court,” Modern Asian Studies 44:2 (2010): 267– 309, for diwan, ghazal 11, v. 1. Here the sense is “my heart is so scarred by this
Brajbhasha; Carla Petievich, When Men Speak as Women: Vocal Masquerade separation that it is like a burning sun trapped within my bosom.” When
of Lucknow and tawaifs for all of South Asia (201, p. 48). The tropes it introduces are in Indo-Muslim Poetry (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007), for Dakani; dawn finally arrives, the beloved has not come as promised, and the lover can
and Sumit Guha, “Transitions and Translations: Regional Power and bear the pain no more. It is as though his wounded heart explodes, bursting
taken up repeatedly in a whole subgenre of “tawaif films.” 70 Saleem Kidwai has pointed Vernacular Identity in the Dakhan, 1500 –1800,” Comparative Studies of from his body and emerging like the sun over the eastern horizon. The other
out how close the relationship continues to be between poets and the tawaifs who render South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 24:2 (2004): 23 – 31, for Marathi and major image in this verse is that of the chak-i gariban, the tear in his collar
Persian. that the afflicted lover makes as he is driven to distraction. Nasikh draws
their work musically.71 Thus it is entirely appropriate to doff our hats to the role played by 11 . This is a common discursive ploy of Azad in Ab-i Hayat (see note 46 below) together the bursting heart and the rend in the lover’s collar, equating that
and one of the ways in which he plays favorites among the writers he moment of afflicted ecstasy with the sun emerging over the morning horizon
Lucknowi tawaifs in developing and sustaining extant classical music and dance forms.
discusses. in a catharsis. The night is over, the suffering has reached its peak until the
12 . Arabic nouns bore gender; but Persian did not, and this was the language next night, and the lover achieves temporary relief, knowing that the process
plumbed most deeply to enrich Urdu poetry’s lexical expanse. will be repeated again the next night.
13. Cf. Kumkum Chatterjee, “Cultural Flows and Cosmopolitanism in Mughal 27. Cf. Veena Talwar Oldenburg, ed., Shaam-e Awadh: Writings on Lucknow
India: The Bishnupur Kingdom,” Indian Economic and Social History (Delhi: Penguin India, 2007), 273, who speaks of “growing up in a Lucknow
In summary, royal and noble patronage of many arts in Lucknow proved to have a long- Review 46:2 (2009): 147– 82, who speaks of a regional cosmopolitanism on the so sweetly corrupt.”
lasting impact on the expressive culture of North India, even into present times. Extant part of Bengali rulers; Guha, “Transitions and Translations,” in connection 28. Nur Naqvi, ed., Kulliyat-i Mushafi (Delhi: Majlis-i Isha’at-i Adab, 1967),
with the Peshwas of Maharashtra; and Busch, “Hidden in Plain View.” Ruth vol. 1, 346, rubai no. 28.
evidence indicates that literary activity during the period of Lucknow’s heyday expanded Vanita, “Married among Their Companions: Female Homoerotic Relations in 29. Mir Taqi Mir, Kulliyat-i Mir (Allahabad: Ram Narayan Lal Beni Madho,
Nineteenth-Century Urdu Rekhti Poetry in India,” Journal of Women’s 1972), 4th diwan, vol. 1, 597, ghazal no. 1357, v. 2.
largely in the direction of established indigenous and existing Islamicate cultures.72 From History 16:1 (2004): 12 – 53, draws particular attention to the free borrowing
30. Jurat’s poetic output was by no means confined to this style, however.
the very serious marsiya to the more playful rekhti; from the very self-serious linguistic of non-elite modes of expression in discussing rekhti poetry; and Syed Akbar
31 . In the past decade several scholars have written about rekhti. See Carla
Hyder, Reliving Karbala: Martyrdom in South Asian Memory (New York:
developments in islah-i zaban and Urdu ghazal to the spectacle of the Indar Sabha and its Oxford University Press, 2006), writes about the softness of communal Petievich, When Men Speak as Women; Petievich, “Gender Politics and the
boundaries in his work on marsiya. Urdu Ghazal: Exploratory Observations on Rekhta vs. Rekhti,” Indian
parody in the Bandar Sabha (Monkey Court),73 Lakhnawi expressive culture did as much Economic and Social History Review 38:3 (July–September): 223 – 48;
14. See Hyder, Reliving Karbala; Fisher, “Women and the Feminine in the Court
Petievich, “Doganas and Zanakhis: The Invention and Subsequent Erasure
to contribute to the legend of nawabi Awadh as did its architectural achievements. and High Culture of Awadh”; and Knighton, The Private Life of an Eastern
of Urdu Poetry’s ‘Lesbian’ Voice,” in Queering India: Same-Sex Love and
Eroticism in Indian Culture and Society, ed. Ruth Vanita (New York:
15. The argument would involve the importance of Muhammad’s revelations and Routledge, 2002), 47– 60; Naim, “Transvestic Words: The Rekhti in Urdu,”
the formation of Islam itself. It cannot be superseded in importance for in In Urdu Texts and Contexts, 42 – 66, Vanita, “Married among Their
Muslims, but it is Karbala that truly cemented Shiism. Companions”; and Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai, Same-Sex Love in India:
16. C. M. Naim, “The Art of the Urdu Marsiya,” in Urdu Texts and Contexts: The Readings from Literature and History (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000).
Selected Essays of C. M. Naim (New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004), 1–18. 32 . It may be, rather, that Rangin coined the term rekhti. His work in this style
17. For an eloquent, learned, and full treatment of the Urdu marsiya, see Hyder, is strikingly reminiscent of that of the Dakani court poet Hashmi Bijapuri
Reliving Karbala, from which much of this discussion is drawn. (d. 1697), whose diwan predates Rangin’s Diwan-i Angekhta by more than a
18. Ibid., 30. century. A less credible theory enjoyed some currency in Urdu literary
criticism several decades ago that Insha Allah Khan Insha had in fact been
19. Ibid.
the inventor of rekhti. This seems to have originated from the prejudice that
20. Anis was the grandson of Mir Hasan Dihlawi, a great masnawi poet who had since Insha was ultimately a better poet than Rangin, he must have been the
migrated to Lucknow from the former Awadhi capital of Faizabad and who is genius behind this poetic innovation. The literature on this debate does not
sometimes included as one of the “Four Pillars of Urdu.” Cf. Annemarie address the more serious “problem” of Hashmi Bijapuri. Cf. Andalib
Schimmel, Classical Urdu Literature from the Beginning to Iqbal (Wiesbaden: Shadani, “Rekhta ka mujid” [The Inventor of Rekhti], in Tahqiq ki raushni
Otto Harrassowitz, 1975); Ahmed Ali, The Golden Tradition (New York: men (Lahore: Shaikh Ghulam Ali and Sons, 1963), 91–104.
Columbia University Press, 1973); and Ralph Russell and Khurshidul Islam,
33. See Sabir Ali Khan, Sa’adat Yar Khan Rangin (Karachi: Anjuman Taraqqi-i
Three Mughal Poets: Mir, Sauda, Mir Hasan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Urdu, Pakistan, 1952). Margrit Pernau has aptly suggested that the diction
University Press, 1969). Dabir was born in Delhi and moved to Lucknow
of rekhti would be better called tawaifi zuban than begumati zuban [personal
early on, where he became the pupil of a great marsiya-go (marsiya
communication, May 2006]. Courtesans could never be begams, nor vice
composer), Mir Muzaffar Husain Zamir. See Frances Pritchett with
versa, as they represented competing social spheres. Furthermore, tawaifs

116 117 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

are valued for the refinement of manners and expression that clearly welfare, these verses show how rekhti’s content can be quite different from 64. Oldenburg, in Shaam-e Awadh, has translated it “The Lucknow that Was.”
distinguish them from more commonplace prostitutes, and they do so for normative lyric poetry. But it is rather strong to call them “buffoonery.” 65. The title of the translation by E. S. Harcourt and Fakhr Husain of Sharar’s
their elite male clients. Begams were also expected to display refinement if 49. Pritchett, Ab-i Hayat, 223. Guzishta Lakhnau, first published in 1975, Lucknow, the Last Phase of an
they ever met outsiders, which was rare. It is possible that Rangin was Oriental Culture, gives a much more faithful rendering of the original Urdu
50. As I have argued before (Assembly of Rivals, 183) the distinctive style
welcomed into the kotha (courtesan’s quarters) as a friend and not a client, (Mashriqi tamaddun ka akhiri namuna). There is every reason to credit the
called Lakhnawiyat might just as accurately describe most of northern
but many women have gone on record to explain that nonpaying male sincerity of Sharar’s reportage; and customs and cultural practices do not
Indo-Muslim culture in the nineteenth century, including Delhi. Thanks
company was discouraged. Cf. Veena Talwar Oldenburg, “Lifestyle as die out the instant political change occurs, so it is entirely likely that Sharar
to Frances Pritchett and Syed Akbar Hyder for reminding me of this
Resistance: The Case of the Courtesans of Lucknow,” Feminist Studies 16:2 witnessed in childhood some of what he reported on. But one does notice that
(1990): 259 – 87. Guzishta Lakhnau, by 1920, has already taken on the characteristic tone of
51 . This is why an English translation of Abdul Halim Sharar’s famous work,
34. Cf. Mah-Laqa Bai “Chanda” et al. in Carla Petievich, “Baharistan-i naz vs. nostalgia that dominates talk of Lucknow.
Guzishta Lakhnau (lit. “Bygone Lucknow”) is titled “Lucknow: The Last
Tazkirah-i rekhti,” in A Wilderness of Possibilities: Urdu Studies in 66. For other fond treatments of the Lucknow we love to evoke, see Oldenburg,
Phase of an Oriental Culture” (see note 65 below).
Transnational Perspective, ed. Kathryn Hansen and David Lelyveld (Delhi: Shaam-e Awadh; and Amaresh Mishra, Lucknow: Fire of Grace: The Story of
Oxford University Press, 2005), 223 – 50. 52 . I refer here to the 1977 film Shatranj ke khilari by Satyajit Ray, which was
Its Revolution, Renaissance, and Its Aftermath (New Delhi: HarperCollins
based on the famous Urdu and Hindi short story of the same title by Munshi
35. Though misogynistic to a great degree, it is not entirely so. India, 1998).
36. It is this last theme that inspired the title of Vanita’s essay on rekhti, 67. Khushwant Singh and M. A. Husaini, trans., The Courtesan of Lucknow
53. Cf. Petievich, When Men Speak as Women; and Vanita, “Married among
“Married among Their Companions.” (Delhi: Hind Pocket Books, 1961). It is interesting to consider how closely,
Their Companions,” for two recent discussions.
37. There are tropes about the garden, the lane outside the beloved’s house, the and ambivalently, courtesan culture is associated with economies of surplus
54. Kathryn Hansen, Grounds for Play: The Nautanki Theatre of North India and conspicuous consumption. McNeil recently argued (not counterintui-
gatherings inside her home, etc., but when rekhta speaks of the inhabitants of
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), all quotes tively) that an increase in tawaif bazi should be read as the by-product of
such conventional loci it is only to underline the narrator’s condition as a
from 75 –77. Hansen summarizes Indar Sabha’s plot as follows: “The events economic need on the part of disenfranchised women. Whether or not he is
forlorn lover. Rekhta does not speak of household affairs or the mundane
take place in the court of the mythic Indra, king of the gods, who sits in state right, his theory will do little to detract from the soft, lustrous focus of
concerns of life.
encircled by fairies. Sabz Pari (emerald fairy) has been smitten by love for Lucknowi culture that is held so dear, and will likely make little impact on
38. Insha’s oeuvre contains mostly normative rekhta ghazals and it is for this Gulfam (rose-hued), an earthly prince. Through the intervention of Kala the legend of the city.
work that he is held in high esteem within the Urdu literary tradition. Devi (black genie), she smuggles Gulfam into Indra’s heaven. Displeased at
68. Ada means “Grace, beauty; elegance; graceful manner on carriage; charm,
39. He was obliged to flee Lucknow at one point, after having taking a bit too this infraction, Indra casts Gulfam into a well and clips the wings of Sabz
fascination; blandishment; amorous signs and gestures, coquetry...” (Platts,
much liberty with Nawab Saadat Ali Khan. Pari. The pari, however, is undaunted, and, singing irresistible songs in the
A Dictionary, 31), all of which are entirely appropriate for a courtesan-poet.
40. The range here includes the first verse’s piety, a wistfulness in the second disguise of a jogin (female mendicant), eventually earns her lover’s release.
Indra grants his blessings to the couple, and the lovers are reunited.” The 69. Much has been written on this novel and there is no need to add to that
that is reminiscent of a normative rekhta ghazal, followed by a salacious and
reference to Gulzar-i Nasim could be to either of two famous Lucknowi literature here.
raciness of tone in the following three shers. The seventh verse speaks of
propitiating both the Prophet and Lord Shiva, and the poem concludes with a masnawis of the nineteenth century, that of Nawab Mirza “Shauq” or that of 70. One notable attempt to deal historiographically with tawaifs and Lucknowi
more normative, self-aggrandizing signature verse to close the ghazal. Daya Shankar “Nasim.” culture from the perspective of women’s participation and the impact of the
55. Again, see Kathryn Hansen’s numerous publications on the subject. feminine is Fisher, “Women and the Feminine in the Court and High
41 . According to Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language
Culture of Awadh.” Other attempts at historiographical analysis of the
(2nd ed., 1942), the mung bean—rather than the commonly encountered 56. As my own research has concerned mostly the work of published poet-
Lucknow legend in the realm of literature have similarly failed to halt the
mung lentil—is a bushy annual that bears the pods near the tips of slender courtesans, I rely for much of the following discussion on the ethnographic
juggernaut of cherished conventional wisdom. Cf. Ali Jawad Zaidi, Do adabi
branches. Thus, the beloved’s figures are long and slender like the bean, and and ethnomusicological work of others, especially of Saleem Kidwai, “The
iskul (Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Urdu Akademi, 1974); and Petievich,
the whiteness of her nails are like, perhaps, the pods at the end. I am Singing Ladies Find a Voice,” Seminar no. 540 (2004): unpaginated; Amelia
Assembly of Rivals.
indebted to C. M. Naim for discussion of this verse. Maciszewski, “Tawa’if, Tourism, and Tales: The Problematics of Twenty-
First-Century Musical Patronage of North India’s Courtesans,” in The Cour- 71 . Kidwai, “The Singing Ladies Find a Voice.” See also Mallika Pukhraj,
42 . The nawab of Rampur was able to purchase a huge chunk of the legendary
tesan’s Arts, ed. Martha Feldman and Bonnie Gordon (New York: Oxford Bezubani zuban na ho jaye (unpublished), edited and translated into English
nawabi library following Awadh’s annexation in 1856 by the British. His
University Press, 2006), 332 – 52; Peter Manuel, Thumri in Historical and by Saleem Kidwai as Song Sung True: A Memoir (New Delhi: Kali for
descendants and the Government of India share custody of that remarkable
Stylistic Perspectives (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1990); Adrian McNeil, Women, 2003). Kidwai foregrounds the importance of professional singers’
collection to this day, housed in the Raza Library at Rampur. See, for
“Tawa’if, Military Musicians, and Shi’a Ideology in Pre-Rebellion Lucknow,” studied distance from the term tawaif since the late nineteenth century, by
example, Barbara Schmitz and Ziyaud-Din A. Desai, Mughal and Persian
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 32:1 (2009): 46 – 62; Daniel M. which time it had come to carry more social opprobrium than cultural cachet.
Paintings and Illustrated Manuscripts in the Raza Library, Rampur (New
Neuman, The Life of Music in North India: The Organization of an Artistic Even in contemporary India many a middle-class family arranges for its
Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts; Rampur: Rampur Raza
Tradition (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1980); and Regula daughters to be instructed in these arts, though there are those who dismiss
Library; and New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2006).
Burckhardt Qureshi, “Female Agency and Patrilineal Constraints: Situating kathak especially as degraded because of its development at a “decadent”
43. Jawari is the bridge on a sitar. The editor of Jan Sahib’s diwan writes (not court by women of ill repute. Conversely, it has enjoyed a renaissance outside
Courtesans in Twentieth-Century India,” in Feldman and Gordon, eds.,
quite technically accurately) that jawari is the name of a run[ner] (dauRa) of India in the past half century because of its usefulness in reconstructing a
The Courtesan’s Arts, 312 – 331.
which is bound to the top of a sitar or tamboura by which its voice opens and glorious Muslim cultural history.
closes. Clearly the image here is of the dogana playing the narrator “like a 57. The term derives from tauf, which means “circle/ing.” In addition to two film
versions of Umrao Jan (1982, 2006) there is the perennial favorite, Pakeezah 72 . There is a great deal more extant evidence of interaction with Europeans in
sitar.” There are two general kinds of jawari settings, known as band jawari
(1972), among numerous others. the form of visual culture, of course.
(closed), which is thought to elicit softer, rounder notes with fewer piercing
vibrations; and khuli jawari, which is thought to give rise to more open, 58. See Simonetta Casci, “Lucknow Nawabs: Architecture and Identity,” 73. This play by Bharatendu Harishchandra is referred to in Hansen, Grounds
raucous, piercing, or shrill sounds. I am indebted to Kathryn Hansen, sitar Economic and Political Weekly, Sept. 7, 2002: “the observance of purdah for Play, 77.
adept, for technical help in elucidating this verse. remained strict, yet wives, concubines and courtesans had an effeminate
44. Khwaja Khizr is the name of a prophet skilled in divination who is said to influence on the male identity, now a far cry from the ideal of the male
have discovered and drunk of the fountain of life; hence he is considered as warrior of the Mughal period.” Casci does not offer documentation in support
the saint of waters [John T. Platts, A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, of this described process.
and English (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 494]. Thus, the narrator 59. McNeil, “Tawaif, Military Musicians, and Shi’a Ideology.”
remarks on the delightful “waters” as she dips into her Khizru’s “well.” 60. But see Kokila Dang, “Prostitutes, Patrons, and the State: Nineteenth-
45. Literally “may your eyes never extend beyond your knees.” Century Awadh,” Social Scientist 21:9 –11 (September–November 1993):
46. Azad, a Delhi writer, published Ab-i Hayat in 1880. It remains a work of 173 – 96.
extraordinary authority in Urdu letters. See Pritchett, Ab-i Hayat (note 20 61 . See Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow; and Oldenburg, “Lifestyle
above). as Resistance: The Case of the Courtesans of Lucknow,” 140. See also
47. Ibid., 209. Projesh Banerji, Dance in Thumri (New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1986).
48. Petievich, When Men Speak as Women, 326 –27. The concerns expressed above 62 . One did not need to be Shia in order to participate or support the Muharram
are for others rather than oneself (which would be standard in rekhta, processors in this way—it was something Lucknowis of all stripes were wont
wherein the narrator is obsessed with his own condition). They are also of a to do. Lucknow’s courtesans probably came from an extensive range of
temporal nature, rather than treating of the soul’s longing for the divine as is ethnicities and caste backgrounds.
the ideal in rekhta. In voicing a mother’s preoccupation for her children’s 63. See Mirza Hadi Ruswa, Umrao Jan Ada, trans. David Matthews (New Delhi:
Rupa & Co., 1996), 69.

118 119 Petievich : Expressive Culture in Nawabi Lucknow

Cat h e ri n e As h er

Lucknow’s Architectural Heritage

The city of Lucknow and its surrounding territory of Awadh is extraordinarily rich in its built environment,
reflecting a wealthy court and its elite. The nawabs of Awadh perceived themselves as the cultural successors of
the Mughal dynasty in India (r. 1526 –1858), and this is partly reflected in their architecture. But over time, a
reliance on Mughal prototypes diminished as the nawabs sought their own innovative forms, which in some mea-
sure were shaped by European models. Europeans likened the architecture of Awadh to fantasies based on the
enchanting Arabian Nights; they also considered it the epitome of decadence and bad taste. These reactions reflect
the time at which they were expressed. For example, visitors to the royal court of Awadh early in the regime’s life
(c. 1722 –c. 1797) tended to be more impressed than later visitors who came once notions of European authority,
and in particular that of the British, had become firmly embedded. This sense of British entitlement led to the
annexation of Awadh by the English East India Company in 1856. Our concern here is the appearance of the built
landscape of Awadh, especially Lucknow, before this critical date.

Establishing Nawabi Authority in Awadh

The nawabs of Awadh were initially appointed in the eighteenth century as governors of this agriculturally rich
and economically vibrant province of the Mughal Empire. However, as Mughal power waned, the nawabs were able
to assert an increasing level of independence until Awadh became a kingdom in its own right. It is perhaps not
surprising that the first significant monument built by the nawabs of Awadh was not in Awadh itself but in the
Mughal capital of Delhi. It is the tomb of Safdar Jang, who was essentially a semi-independent ruler of Awadh
but continued to see himself as a vassal of the Delhi-based Mughals, and he paid tribute to them on an annual
basis. His ties to the Mughals were expressed by his final resting place. Safdar Jang’s domed tomb is set in a

120 121 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

could not be manipulated. Although European renderings now’s Shia nawabs. However, Asaf al-Daula’s concern was
of these buildings usually indicate that the stucco was left not so much with providing religious institutions as with
plain, there is some evidence that polychrome was applied, building within a large fortified palace complex, known as
which would have given the architecture of Awadh an the Macchi Bhawan, on the riverbank. Little remains of
extraordinarily exuberant air. the palace, but a pencil-and-watercolor illustration by the
In 1775, when Shuja al-Daula was succeeded by his uncle and nephew team of Thomas and William Daniell
son and heir apparent, Asaf al-Daula, the court was (49, pp. 124–25) indicates that it was probably similar to
shifted from Faizabad to Lucknow. It was located more the palace complex at Faizabad. The rendition shows
centrally within the province of Awadh, and the city, massive exterior walls, which would have enclosed mul-
situated on the Gomti River, was already a market center tiple buildings and gardens. Since at least the twelfth
of considerable importance. The most notable monument century, manuals intended for Muslim rulers had stated
of pre-nawabi Lucknow was a Sunni mosque (masjid) that kings must build grand walled palaces to indicate
built by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658 –1707), their strength and to impress their supporters as well as
which stands on a high hill dominating the landscape their enemies. This was important, as the Mughals had
overlooking the river. It may have played a role in inspir- taken some of the nawab’s territory, as had the British,
ing the many buildings intended for worship by Luck- who would in the long run pose the greater threat.

6. Mausoleum of Safdar Jang, Delhi, c. 1820 –22

Page 120: 59. Samuel Bourne, View of the BaRa

ImambaRa Complex, 1864 – 65

Mughal-style garden and is the last large-scale tomb built in Delhi; the tradition of
structural tombs does continue in Awadh. Safdar Jang’s tomb is modeled on the late-
sixteenth-century mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Humayun (r. 1530 – 40; 1555 – 56),
also in Delhi, especially in its use of red sandstone and white marble trim, and it antici-
pates much of what we will observe in the architecture of Lucknow with its exuberant
cusped arches and dominant floral design (6).
Faizabad, located about ninety miles east of Lucknow, was the capital of Awadh from
1765 to 1775, during the rule of Nawab Shuja al-Daula, under whose patronage numerous
grand edifices were erected. Few buildings, however, remain from this time, although
William Hodges, an English artist, and others left us impressions of the palace and the
entrance to a walled royal garden, the Lal Bagh (45, 48, p. 82). Palaces in early modern
South Asia were not a single large building but a series of pavilions with gardens, often
enclosed with high walls to protect the inhabitants from prying eyes. Walled gardens,
used for royal outings, also could be some distance from the palace, as was the Lal Bagh.
The gate leading to it, with elaborate ornament rendered in stucco, is likely an indication
of the once-lush garden that lay inside. Awadh was far from the quarries that provided
red sandstone and marble for Mughal monuments, as well as Safdar Jang’s tomb. Thus
buildings with a brick core were covered with stucco, which could be sculpted with numer-
52. William Carpenter, StReet Scene with Gateway and
ous designs, including floral forms, cuspings, and even royal emblems, in ways that stone Mosque (GANJ AND TRIPOLIA GATEWAY), 1856

122 123 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

49. Thomas Daniell and William Daniell, The Palace of Nawab Shuja
al-Daula fRom the River Gomti (THE MACcHI BHAwAN), 1789

124 125 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

Asaf al-Daula and the City of Imambaras

Under Asaf al-Daula’s leadership, the uniqueness of Awadhi culture was further refined
and became increasingly distinct from that of Mughal Delhi. Awadhi poetry was now
more often written in Urdu than Persian. The Persian poetry of eighteenth-century
Mughal Delhi had lamented the stagnation and demise of that capital, while the Urdu
verse of the Lucknow court was light-hearted and celebrated love and the female form.
Awadhi cuisine became renowned for its richness, which was imagined to surpass that of
the Mughal table. So, too, architecture under Asaf al-Daula surpassed earlier structures
in terms of scale, ornament, and even building type.
The nawabs of Awadh were originally from Iran, whose population was predominately
Shia. While there are various sects within Shia Islam, all Shia believe that the wrongful
death of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Husain at the Battle of Karbala in 680 was
a travesty on the part of the Sunni Umayyads, then holders of political authority.1 For the
Shia, Husain is seen as the ultimate martyr and a significant spiritual force. All Shia
believers annually commemorate Husain’s murder, which falls on the tenth day of the
month of Muharram, although exactly how this is done varies within the Islamic world.
In Lucknow, Husain’s martyrdom is commemorated over a multiple-day period that
includes the recitation of poetry focusing on themes of mourning, the procession of
models of Husain’s tomb called taziya, and men in ritual procession who engage in self-
flagellation in remembrance of the martyr. Women gather in a separate venue and focus
on the recitation of poetry, often weeping profusely over the tragedy of Husain’s death.
Much of Asaf al-Daula’s patronage was directed at the ritual of mourning Husain by
constructing imambaras. These are buildings intended for the storage of taziya and other
paraphernalia associated with commemorative events during Muharram, but especially
for the recitation of poetry mourning Husain. Imambaras (also known as Husainiya)
were relatively new to the South Asian landscape and are a South Asian innovation, not a
57. Charles Shepherd and Arthur Robertson, Distant View
form taken from Iran. They probably first were built in the late sixteenth century in of the Bara ImamBara Complex, 1862

Hyderabad, in the Deccan, by a Shia ruler there, also of Iranian descent, although it is
not clear if there is a direct link between these structures in the Deccan and those in
Lucknow. In any event, Asaf al-Daula’s Bara Imambara (also known as the Asafi Imam-
bara) is by far the largest ever built anywhere (57; 58, 61, p. 129; 59, p. 120; 62, p. 128).
The Bara Imambara, possibly constructed as a famine relief project, appears to date
between 1784 and 1791. Originally this colossal complex, consisting of three courtyards
and buildings that enclose them, was attached to the no-longer-extant Macchi Bhawan
palace complex. The imambara was entered by gateways on the east and west; only the
west one, known as the Rumi Darwaza, survives. The elaborate gate is among the most
exuberant of all the buildings in Lucknow. Its triple arched entrance is surmounted by
large finials that give the gateway a distinctive air. Typical of the Awadh nawabs’ archi-
tecture, the gate was highly creative, characterized by a sense of dynamic articulation
never expressed in the more orderly structures of the Mughals. This entrance, once
paired with the nearly identical one on the east side, surely was intended as a triumphal
arch not dissimilar to the one at the Mughal emperor’s palace at Fatehpur Sikri. Also
part of the complex was the imambara itself, a huge free-standing mosque and a deep
step-well whose cool chambers could be used for residential purposes during the hot

126 127 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

Top: 58. Samuel Bourne, THE Rumi DaRwaza AND THE FIRST
COURTYARD OF the BaRa ImambaRa COMPLEX , 1864 – 65

Bottom: 61. Felice Beato, The Southwest VIEW of the

BaRa ImambaRa, 1858

Left: FIG. 13. Charles Shepherd and Arthur Robertson (England,

active 1862 – 63); Asafi Masjid in the BaRa ImambaRa
COMPLEX ; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, 1862; albumen print,
25.2 x 37.5 cm; The Alkazi Collection of Photography

128 129 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

Left: 65. Samuel Bourne, The Husainabad ImambaRa,
1865 – 66

Right: 66. Samuel Bourne, TOMB OF ZINAT ALGIYA IN

the Husainabad ImambaRa COMPLEX , 1865 – 66

68. Shah Najaf ImambaRa, 1880

weather. At the time of the imambara’s construction, it Husainabad Imambara is situated is unusual for
had the largest vaulted hall that ever spanned an uninter- a Muslim religious setting. There European-inspired
rupted space. The Bara Imambara is decorated with fully statues of tunic-clad females and animals are found, not
three-dimensional floral motifs rendered in stucco and uncommon in secular architecture, but unique in this
pairs of curved fish, the house of Awadh’s royal emblem. religious context. The building itself is an elegant struc-
The complex and its decor were clearly intended to flaunt ture with cusped entrance arches and a lacelike domed
the Shia nawabs’ increasing wealth and to indicate a parapet. Inside the compound is a tomb modeled on the
shifting power balance vis-à-vis the Mughal court. It also Taj Mahal (1632 – 43), although its spatial tensions and
was aimed at Europeans, who were both an increasing emphasis on height recall the aesthetics of eighteenth-
presence in Lucknow and a growing potential threat to and nineteenth-century Mughal architecture (66).
Awadhi sovereignty. Another imambara, called the Shah Najaf, built by King
In Awadh there were twenty-one recorded imambaras, Ghazi al-Din Haidar, was intended as a replica of the
ten of which were built by ruling monarchs and the rest burial site of the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali,
by the elite. These imambaras are much smaller versions
and was used as the ruler’s own tomb (68). The Shah
of the Bara Imambara, for example the Husainabad Najaf appears austere from the exterior, although its
67. Charles Shepherd and Arthur Robertson, THE JAWAB Imambara, built about 1837, not far from the larger one interior is ornately embellished with European glass
abad ImambaRa COMPLEX , 1862 (63, p. 88; 65; 66; 67). 3
The garden and pool in which the chandeliers and a profusion of stucco adornment.

130 131 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

European-Style Architecture in Lucknow

Europeans had ventured to South Asia in considerable numbers since the late sixteenth
century. Some came in official capacities, but many came either as traders promoting
their own interests and/or as mercenary soldiers, the most ambitious of whom were able
to make significant fortunes. A case in point is the Frenchman Claude Martin, who
arrived in mid-eighteenth-century India as a common solider; he settled in nawabi
Lucknow and eventually, owing to his remarkable abilities as well as good luck, became
extraordinarily wealthy.4 He was rich enough to lend sizable sums of money to Nawab
Asaf al-Daula. Martin’s most notable architectural contribution is his own sumptuous
dwelling, which he called Constantia (107, p. 30; 108; 109, p. 58). He and his Indian
consorts lived in this immense mansion on the bank of the Gomti. Martin’s will provided
for his own tomb within the dwelling and for the founding of boys’ schools not only in
Lucknow but also in Calcutta and in Lyon, France. The Lucknow school still operates in
the very mansion he bequeathed, Constantia, which came to be known as La Martinière.
He also provided for his Indian consorts’ welfare.
In eighteenth-century India, European men felt it was perfectly acceptable to have
long-term relationships with Indian women. Many of these arrangements ended abruptly,
even though children were involved, when the men departed permanently for Europe, but

above: 108. Charles Shepherd and Arthur Robertson,

La MaRtinièRe and the Lath, c. 1862

Right: Fig. 14. Francis Frith, La MaRtinièRe and the Lath

(detail); India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, 1870s; albumen print,
6 1⁄4 x 8 1⁄4 in. (16 x 21 cm); The Alkazi Collection of Photography

132 133 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

Martin insured the financial stability of his favorites, in particular Boulone. Her square-
plan, domed tomb still stands on the Constantia estate, although in a ruined condition.
Martin’s mansion proved a significant influence on many of the royal buildings of
Lucknow. While Constantia had ancillary service structures, it was built in the European
manner as an enormous single structure with multiple rooms and stories. At the apex are
arches that from a distance appear as the outline of a dome in silhouette. This particular
form was later emulated in some of the pavilions of the Qaisar Bagh Palace built in the
mid-nineteenth century by the nawabs. Constantia’s roof’s parapet is embellished with
stucco sculptures of classical gods, goddesses, and lions, a reference to Martin’s birth-
place of Lyon. Today many are damaged.
Awadh’s nawabs were perhaps not as smitten by European architecture for their own
uses as they were by European objects of art and furnishings. Their palaces were replete
with European goods that ranged from chairs to mechanical “toys,” 5 which for a Muslim
monarch would fall into the category of luxury objects. They would not be seen as indica-
tions of avarice and decadence, as EuroAmerican observers tend to critique the desire
for such objects. All the same, the Awadhi nawabs did build a number of western-style
pavilions, most of which are in a ruined condition today, largely for the use of their Euro-
pean residents and guests. A structure known as the Dilkusha (Heart Pleasing), greatly
damaged in the Uprising of 1857– 58, is one such building (82, p. 64). Early photographs
indicate its appearance. Designed in about 1805 by Sir Gore Ouseley, a self-made archi-

tect from England’s elite, this Lucknowi country house was modeled on an eighteenth-
century English one. The exterior porch featured classical Corinthian columns; the highly
symmetrical arrangement of the entire complex conformed to an Islamic desire for
balance in architectural layout. Dilkusha, built at some distance from the main palace
yet still on the riverbank, had multiple functions: it was a starting point for ceremonial
processions, a hunting lodge, and a guesthouse for Europeans.
In addition to pavilions built in the European style, often a distance from the
nawab’s administrative headquarters, were palace complexes that combined European-
style porticoes, windows, and other features with Indian-style domes and typical nawabi
stucco ornament. Notable was the Chattar Manzil, once part of a large multipavilion com-
plex, which was built not far from the British Residency. Its construction began about
1803. Its only surviving structure has been greatly altered over the years and today is the
Central Drug Research Institute. A photograph by Shepherd and Robertson dating to
1862, among others, indicates the combination of European and Indian styles on the
exterior of this complex that captured the imagination of European visitors (73). A
watercolor by a Lucknowi artist, today in the Khalili collection, London, of the palace’s
throne room indicates that the interior with its cusped arches and painted ceiling con-
formed closely to the idiom established under the Mughals and then adapted to Lucknowi
taste under the rulers of Awadh (37, pp. 136–37). The last ruler of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah,
built his own palace estate known as the Qaisar Bagh, not far from the Chattar Manzil. Top: 73. Charles Shepherd and Arthur
Robertson, BARa Chattar Manzil
Once a vast complex, very little remains of this palace, which was largely destroyed in the AND FARHAT BAKHSH, VIEW fRom
the South, 1862
Uprising. European photographers documented its ruin in detail, possibly a statement of
European superiority over what was seen as a symbol of nawabi decadence (74, 77, p. 138; Bottom: 72. Samuel Bourne,
75, p. 139; 162, pp. 154–55). Chattar Manzil, 1864 – 65

134 135 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

37. The Audience Chamber of the Kings of Awadh,
1850 –99

136 137 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

Top: 74. Samuel Bourne, West
Gateway of the Qaisar Bagh Top: 75. Samuel Bourne, View
Palace, 1864 – 65 in the Qaisar Bagh PALACE ,
1864 – 65
Bottom: 77. Samuel Bourne, Qaisar
Bagh, VineRy and Buildings, Bottom: 79. Samuel Bourne, Qaisar
1864 – 65 Pasand, 1864 – 65

138 139 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

Among Lucknow’s most famous—or perhaps infa- Ali Shah, built a temple dedicated to the monkey god
mous—European-style complexes is the British Residency, Hanuman. She built it after a dream revealing a buried
where during the six-month siege in 1857– 58 British men, image of the god and her subsequent delivery of a long-
women, and children were trapped, and most of them died awaited child thanks to the deity’s blessing.9
before the Residency’s liberation. Photographed fre- During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the
quently by professional and amateur photographers after economy of Awadh prospered largely due to the richness
it was largely destroyed in the Uprising (169), buildings on of the soil, which allowed for the bountiful production of
the thirty-three-acre complex had been rarely recorded crops, especially grain. Tikait Rai, a Hindu minister to
before this time. A watercolor by the Indian artist Sita
Nawab Asaf al-Daula, founded towns in the hinterlands
Ram, who worked specially for British patrons, indicates of Awadh and provided them with temples.10 The decor on
sober buildings constructed in a Georgian style, a far Taikat Rai’s temple in the market town of Taikatnagar,
cry from the exuberance of much contemporary nawabi as well as others of the nawabi period, bears stucco floral
architecture. The complex was commenced in 1773, when
motifs and cusped arches similar to that on Lucknow’s
169. Samuel Bourne, Ruins of the Residency, 1864 – 65
Nawab Shuja al-Daula agreed to have a British agent at Islamic architecture, such as palaces and imambaras.
court, although it would be interesting to know the extent They also bear images of Hindu deities that would not, of
of the nawab’s enthusiasm, especially had he been able to course, be found on Muslim religious architecture. This
foresee the disastrous events of the 1856 British annexa- Hindu minister also built a tank for the storage of water
tion, ending nawabi rule in Awadh. in Lucknow, a service to the general population.11 Maha-
raja Balkishen, a Hindu minister to King Wajid Ali
Diversity in Awadh Shah, Lucknow’s last ruler, provided a substantial market
town, which he named Maharajaganj after himself. It
Literature pertaining to the nawabi period in Awadh included a fine temple, an impressive bridge, and ornate
tends to focus on the nawabs themselves, the colorful gateways leading to the market, of which one still survives.
Europeans residing in the city, and to a lesser extent the Less is known about the Jains of Lucknow, but local
nawabi elite; it mostly ignores the role of the large popula- tradition claims that in the early twentieth century there
tion in Awadhi society who were not Muslims. The most were about four hundred Jain families living in Luck-
visible architecture in the city of Lucknow belonged to the now’s Chowk area. Few remain today. This same tradition
royal family and the elite, also Shia, and obviously indicates that Nawab Asaf al-Daula invited Jains from
attracts the most attention, but Awadh’s population of other parts of North India to settle in the city, following
other faiths also built in the city and in the surrounding much earlier traditions in which Jains were invited to
countryside. The Hindu and Jain temples of Awadh tend Muslim courts to serve as bankers, moneylenders, jewel-
to be relatively small especially, when compared with Asaf ers, and merchants. By the end of nawabi rule at least
al-Daula’s huge imambara. This should not be seen as an fourteen Jain temples graced the streets of Lucknow,12
indication of these communities’ relationship to the although only nine survive and most have been rebuilt.
nawabi elite; rather, their small sizes reflect the norm for One of the finest of these Jain temples is in a neighbor-
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century temples found hood known as Sahedetganj, not far from Chowk, and is
throughout North India, including Benares (Varanasi), richly embellished with floral stucco patterns, which have
one of the holiest cities for Hindus. A typical temple is been particularly well maintained.
included in Robert Smith’s photographic panorama of A survey of the architecture of the various faith com-
Lucknow (53, pp. 142–43), and similar temples, dating to munities shows that decor on all building types is similar.
the nineteenth century, with their tall spirelike super- Thus the architecture of Awadh must not be thought of as
structures are still seen today on the banks of the Gomti. being unique to Muslim patrons; rather, it reflects a style
In a neighborhood of Lucknow known as Aliganj, the that bespeaks the sophisticated exuberance of the period
Muslim Queen Begam Rabia, wife of King Muhammad which was embraced universally by the elite.

140 141 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

53. Captain Robert Smith, PanoRama of Lucknow, 1832

1. See Peter Chelkowski, “Monumental Grief: The Bara Imambara,” in 6. Neeta Das, “The ‘Country Houses’ of Lucknow,” in Jones, Lucknow: City of
Lucknow: City of Illusion, ed. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (Delhi: Alkazi Illusion, 180 – 91.
Collection of Photography; New York: Prestel, 2006), 101– 33; and Hussein 7. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, “The Residency and the River,” in Llewellyn-Jones,
Keshani, “Architecture and the Twelver Shi’i Tradition: The Great Lucknow: City of Illusion, 192 – 99.
Imambara Complex of Lucknow,” Muqarnas 23 (2006), 219 – 50, for historical
8. For Sita Ram’s illustration, see Llewellyn-Jones, “The Residency and the
information about the Shia tradition and the Bara Imambara.
River,” 195.
2. Banmali Tandan, The Architecture of Lucknow and Its Dependencies,
9. Philip Lutgendorf, Hanuman’s Tale: Messages of a Divine Monkey (New York:
1722 –1856 (New Delhi: Vikas, 2001), 30.
Oxford University Press, 2007), 244 – 45.
3. See Tandan, The Architecture of Lucknow, 30 – 43.
10. Tandan, The Architecture of Lucknow, 69, ill. 11.
4. For a detailed account, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Very Ingenious Man:
11 . Tandan, The Architecture of Lucknow, 70, ill. 12.
Claude Martin in Early Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford University Press,
1992). 12 . Puran Chand Nahar, Jaina Inscriptions (Containing Index of Places,
Glossary of Names of Acharyas, etc.), Part II (Calcutta: Viswavinode Press,
5. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, Engaging Scoundrels: True Tales of Old Lucknow
1927), 114 – 45.
(New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000), 30 – 40.

142 143 Asher : Lucknow’s ARchitectuRal HeRitage

So p h i e G o r d o n

“A Sacred Interest”: The Role of

Photography in the “City of Mourning”

Photography arrived in India only a few months after the daguerreotype and the calotype processes had been
revealed to the public in France and Britain for the first time in 1839. Initially, at least, the daguerreotype was
the more successful medium in India. The unique, positive image that was created on a sheet of highly polished
silver-plated copper was sharp, clear, and apparently permanent. The prints created from paper negatives (called
calotypes) were, in contrast, rough, grainy, and likely to fade. With chemical and technological advances, however,
the calotype process had by 1850 superseded the daguerreotype almost everywhere. The greatest single advantage
of the process was the ability to print multiple positive prints from a single negative. This allowed photographic
images to be sold, published, and distributed widely across India and the rest of the world, disseminating not only
aesthetically pleasing pictures but also information and knowledge in an easily accessible format.
Photography in Lucknow follows a distinct trajectory, unlike any other location in South Asia. The events
of 1857– 58 ensured that Lucknow became one of the most photographed cities in the country, possibly surpassed
in the nineteenth century only by Calcutta, the imperial capital. Before 1857, however, there had been little
demand for photographs, principally because Lucknow offered little of archaeological interest that would attract
the attention of European antiquarians, the primary market. What interest there was came from the British and
Indian elites living within the city. The architect and a functionary of the Husainabad Imambara, Ahmad Ali
Khan, who took up photography in the 1850s, produced many portraits to satisfy this demand, as well as photo-
graphing some of the royal palaces and religious buildings.

144 145 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

Page 144: 71. G. W. Lawrie and Company, BaRa Chattar
Manzil FRom the Gomti River , 1895

Fig. 15. Alexis de la Grange, Two-PaRt PanoRama Showing

the Stone BRidge, AuRangzeb Mosque, Rumi DaRwaza,
and BaRa ImambaRa Complex; India, Uttar Pradesh,
Lucknow, 1850 – 51; albumen print, 12 3⁄4 x 14 1⁄ 8 in. (32.3 x 35.9 x
2.8 cm); Canadian Centre for Architecture

146 147 Gordon

GoRdon : The Role
Role of
of Photography
Occasionally a traveler reaching the city would produce a view as part of a series
of pictures depicting various locations across India, in the tradition of earlier artist-
explorers such as Thomas and William Daniell or William Hodges. In 1850 – 51, the
French aristocrat Baron Alexis de la Grange journeyed across India, photographing
a number of important architectural and cultural sites. He made what are probably the
earliest surviving photographs of Lucknow: a view of the Asafi Masjid, and a two-part
panoramic view encompassing the river Gomti on the left and the processional route
that emerges from the Rumi Darwaza on the right (fig. 15, pp. 146–47).
Following the Uprising, however, there was an unprecedented demand for images of
Lucknow showing the sites where the fighting had occurred. Initially the photographs
depicted the scarred city and the extent of the destruction; later, the views showed how
Lucknow was transformed into a colonial city following the widespread demolition and
rebuilding programs. The majority of the images concentrated on those spots where
particular scenes of British heroism or conflict had taken place in 1857, although occa-
sionally an alternative view of the city and its culture emerges.

Early Photography in Lucknow: Ahmad Ali Khan Left: 41. Ahmad Ali Khan, Wajid Ali Shah, King of Oudh,
c. 1855

While most early photographic activity in India occurred in the great imperial metropo- Right: 42. Ahmad Ali Khan, Mumtaz Alam Nawab
Qaisar Mahal Sahiba of Awadh, c. 1855
lises of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, there is evidence that photography reached
Lucknow surprisingly early. The art historian P. C. Mookherjee, writing in 1883, stated
that photography was already flourishing in the city in 1850 after a British member of
the army taught the necessary skills to Ahmad Ali Khan, the darogah of the Husainabad
Imambara.1 Using Khan’s nickname “Chotay Miya,” Mookherjee also describes Khan as
the architect of both the Husainabad and the Qaisar Bagh complexes, two of the most
theatrical constructions in the city. Mookherjee then continued: “his portrait taking was surprising access to the women of this Muslim court,
very creditable and his architectural views were in high demand.” 2
suggest that Khan must have been of a relatively high
Khan was known to take photographs of sitters upon request, and various British social status. An account written much later states that
individuals took advantage of this in order to send portraits back to their families. The he was appointed as an official court photographer:
Reverend Henry Polehampton wrote to his mother in England about his experiences “Through Ali Naki Khan, the corrupt Prime Minister,
attempting to obtain a portrait from Khan: “He is the only man in the station who does he was appointed Court Photographer, and the King,
daguerreotypes and everybody wants them, so he is becoming an important person. . . . Wajid Ali Shah, permitted him to take, under the strict-
He is a gentleman, and does not take pay; so one has no hold on him.” 3
est injunctions of secrecy, the likenesses of his Queen
Two albums in the British Library, formerly in the possession of The Times war and the ladies of the Royal Harem.” 5
correspondent William Russell, display the range of work that Khan produced before May A set of formal photographs of the king and his
1857. The albums function as a poignant record of the city prior to the changes that were begam exist in the British Library; elaborately painted
about to take place. They also provide an opportunity to examine how the city was borders incorporating symbols of the Awadhi court have
perceived by one high-status individual. The albums include over one hundred portraits of been added to each. In the king’s portrait, a delicate
prominent members of both the European and Indian communities, as well as a series of gold-leaf nimbus has been applied to the photograph,
architectural studies, concentrating particularly on the Chattar Manzil complex and the surrounding the royal head in an attempt to evoke the
Husainabad Imambara. Among the portraits of the Europeans is one of the photographer tradition of Mughal painting (41).6 In contrast, a photo- Fig. 16. Ahmad Ali Khan, Wajid Ali Shah with His Queen
John Dannenberg, who worked in the city before 1857.4 graph showing Wajid Ali Shah with Begam Akhtar Mahal Begum Akhtar Mahal Sahiba and Their Daughter
(copy of lost photograph), c. 1885; India, Uttar Pradesh,
Khan’s portraits include both formal and informal portraits of King Wajid Ali Shah Sahiba and one of his daughters presents us with an Lucknow. For source, see note 5, p. 163.

and the royal family (41, 42, fig. 16). These remarkable studies, which demonstrate a informal, domestic picture of the ruler, without any of the

148 149 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

symbols of royalty, seated on a European-style sofa associated with the Prophet’s grandson Husain are
(fig. 16, p. 149). Although known today through an early commemorated annually in the month of Muharram in
publication, this photograph would not have been taken imambaras around the city. In Lucknow, processions
for public consumption. The majority of Ahmad Ali move through the city from one religious site to another,
Khan’s photographs would never have been seen outside partially following the path taken by the royal proces-
the circle of those who commissioned them had it not been sional route that passes through the Rumi Darwaza and
for the 1857 Uprising and the resulting looting of prop- the Husainabad gateway. These public spaces were
erty. A number of Khan’s negatives and albums passed frequently described in religious terms, emphasizing the
into the hands of British army officers and consequently associations with the Muharram performances.8 The
made their way back to Britain, where some of the images Husainabad Imambara, as an important Shia complex,
were subsequently published. 7
thus occupies a central position in the religious life of the
Khan’s architectural views present a valuable record city, which is reflected through Khan’s photography. It
of Lucknow as it was prior to the Uprising. It is difficult also serves as the burial site for its royal patron, King
to read these images without imposing upon them the Muhammad Ali Shah. Although the majority of Muslims
knowledge of what is to come, yet although they do serve in the city were Sunnis, the nawabs were Shias of Persian
as important historical documents of buildings that were origin, and the public processions and commemorations
subsequently destroyed, the photographs also function as served to define the Shia community, binding it closely to
an impression of the pre-Uprising city in the mind of one the identity of the city.
of its more prominent citizens. Khan’s views concentrate These two identities, royal and Shia, were to be
on the seat of royal power—the Chattar Manzil—and the comprehensively overwritten after 1857. Even Ahmad Ali
most important religious structure in the city—the Khan, who continued to photograph at least until about
Husainabad Imambara. By concentrating on these two 1862, shifted his gaze to acknowledge the new power in
structures, Khan highlights two different, but overlap- the city: the British and their memories of “the Mutiny.”
ping, possible conceptual maps for the original, nawabi
city (fig. 17, 70). Photography during the UprisinG, 1857–58
Most of Khan’s photographs of the Chattar Manzil,
the home of the nawabs for almost fifty years, depict the Following the outbreak of the conflict in Lucknow in May
complex viewed from the riverside. Earlier artists had 1857, Ahmad Ali Khan joined his fellow countrymen and
documented the city from the river, and this continued to fought against the British. P. C. Mookherjee wrote that
be a familiar viewpoint into the 1850s. Navigating the city Khan subsequently “lost his fortune and name, and died a
via the river was the easiest and quickest way to move miserable man.” 9 It is not known exactly what Khan’s fate
long distances, and it would have been a viewpoint was, but he did in fact manage to rehabilitate himself
familiar to the royal family and members of court. after the Uprising to the extent of joining the Bengal
When the palace does not appear in the frame, it is Photographic Society in 1862. “Mahamedoodolah Ahmud
usually because the photographer was standing on the Ali Khan, alias Chota Meah” was proposed at a meeting
rooftop of the Chattar Manzil, amidst its chattris. In in Calcutta on 29 July 1862.10 The members of the society
doing so, Khan placed himself and the palace at the were most probably unaware that in February 1858 they
source of the outward gaze, looking over the city from the had viewed at a society meeting some photographs that
heart of the royal seat of power. He placed the nawab at “were taken by the Darogah who has since gone over to
Top: Fig. 17. Ahmad Ali Khan (fl. c.
1850s– 60s), View fRom the the center of the vision, thus emphasizing the nawab’s role the rebels.” 11
Chattar Manzil; India, c. 1856;
albumen print; The Alkazi Collection as the center of power. No photographs taken during the conflict can be
of Photography
Khan also photographed the Husainabad Imambara attributed to Khan. Some members of the British mili-
Bottom: 70. Samuel Bourne, View from many different viewpoints. Lucknow was, and still tary, however, took photographs in late 1857 and early
of the Chattar Manzil Palace
Complex, 1864 – 65 is, an important Shia center, and the mourning rituals 1858; officers often had the means and the time to learn

150 151 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

the new technology for their own amusement, while for others, such as the Royal Engi-
neers, photography was part of their training in Britain.12 Dr. Patrick Fitzgerald of the
Indian Medical Service was probably the first photographer to work during the conflict.
He arrived in the outskirts of Lucknow in December 1857 and photographed at La
Martinière (Constantia) and at the Alam Bagh, where he was stationed with the Madras
Fusiliers.13 In early 1858, Captain John Milliken and Lance Corporal Jones, both of the
Royal Engineers, arrived in Lucknow and each produced a handful of views showing
various buildings while they were occupied by the British troops, including the Sikander
Bagh (Secundra Bagh), Musa Bagh, and Dilkusha Kothi.14 The work of both men was
purely documentary, capturing the chaos of the city as events were still unfolding,
although the technical limitations of photography at the time made it impossible to
photograph any scenes of the fighting; this was in fact usually left to the imagination of
graphic artists. The work by these military photographers makes an interesting compari-
son with the highly polished and often staged work of the commercial photographer
Felice Beato, who arrived in India in early 1858.
Beato (1832 –1909), described as “a native of Corfu,” 15 was a commercial photographer
who began his career working in Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East. His first experi-
ence of war photography was covering the Crimean conflict in Russia in 1855 – 56. Beato
arrived in Calcutta on February 13, 1858, and only a few days later attended a meeting of
the Bengal Photographic Society, where he exhibited his work from the Crimea and
Istanbul.16 He was followed to Calcutta by his brother Antonio in July.17 The expedition
167. Felice Beato, Baillie GuaRd Gate, 1858
had evidently been carefully planned in advance; Felice had traveled from Greece with
hundreds of glass-plate negatives pre-prepared so he was able to leave for the trouble
spots to begin work almost immediately.18 Felice traveled on to Kanpur first, then
Lucknow, Delhi, and other North Indian cities, while Antonio later established a studio and in the annual exhibition of the Bengal Photographic one that was entirely focused on Lucknow as the location
where the negatives would be printed up and sold. Society, the photographs were also shown in London at of the Uprising (164, p. 85; 165, p. 156; 167). It moved from
The first of Beato’s several visits to Lucknow took place at the beginning of April the end of 1858 at the exhibition of the London Photo- east to west along the route taken by the relieving British
1858, just a few weeks after the British had finally regained control of the city. Beato graphic Society. A contemporaneous reviewer noted that troops, stopping at various sites on the way to highlight
followed in the wake of the troops as they proceeded through the city, mapping out a “these admirable views give us, in fact, the pictorial the places where events that had significance for the
route with his camera that began on the eastern edge of Lucknow at Dilkusha and romance of this terrible war. They are necessary, as our British had taken place, such as the storming of the
La Martinière, and ended in the west at Musa Bagh. This took the photographer along contemporaries say, to an understanding of war now, and Sikander Bagh and the subsequent hand-to-hand fighting.
the grand processional route that passed through the Rumi Darwaza, and toward the will be indispensable to future historians.” 20
One particular image of the interior of the Sikander Bagh
British Residency. By August, a few months later, the newspaper The Englishman was The photographs were popular, and were purchased has become Beato’s most notoriously staged scene, as it
carrying advertisements for the photographs: by soldiers and British people living in India, many of has been proven beyond doubt that he arranged the
whom would have been directly affected by the Uprising. 21
skeletons in the courtyard in order to obtain the most
We have the pleasure to inform our readers that M. Beato’s views of Lucknow of the principal sites Beato also licensed his photographs for sale in 1861– 62 affecting image (166, p. 157).22 When for sale with Hering,
there, taken since the siege, have just been brought to Calcutta. Mr Beato intends publishing them at through the British photographer and print-seller Henry each photograph was given a title that placed it within
once, and copies may be seen at No. 37 Cossitollah [Beato’s studio]. 19 Hering, so the photographs were widely seen over a num- the larger narrative of the Uprising. Thus a view of La
ber of years. The photographs were used by artists such Martinière became “The Martiniere School. First Attack
Beato produced over sixty images of the city, as well as two remarkable panoramas as Egron Lundgren in the preparation of their own work of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857; Second Attack,
that amply demonstrate his technical skills: a sequence of eight views taken from one of and even as the basis for stained-glass memorial windows 2nd March, Lucknow.”23 The building becomes the
the minarets of the mosque in the Bara Imambara (163, pp. 154–55), and a six-part in the parish church of Stratfield Mortimer in England. backdrop to aid the act of remembering the conflict. The
panoramic sequence taken from the roof of the Roshan al-Daula Kothi in the Qaisar The narrative that Beato created through his royal city through which religious mourners had pro-
Bagh complex (162, pp. 154–55). In addition to being displayed at the gallery in Calcutta photographs presented a new conceptual map of the city: cessed now became a site of a different kind of mourning

152 153 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

162. Felice Beato, PanoRama of Lucknow, Taken fRom
the Qaisar Bagh Palace, 1858

163. Felice Beato, PanoRama of Lucknow, Taken fRom

the BARa ImambaRa, 1858

154 155 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

and pilgrimage—that of the British tourist recalling the fate of his compatriots and the
sacrifices that they made for imperial ambition.
The route outlined by Beato’s photographs was to be repeated by subsequent photog-
raphers as well as in countless guidebooks to Lucknow over subsequent decades. Beato’s
photographs were also the first steps in the collective myth-making process in which
stories of British heroism during the Uprising were recalled and held up as examples to
inspire others, while tales of Indian duplicity would serve as warnings to future gen-
erations. This persistent remembrance of the Uprising altered completely the British
perception of Lucknow and indeed of India.

Above: 165. Felice Beato, Ruins of the BatteRy in

the Residency Compound, 1858

Right: 166. Felice Beato, InteRior of the Sikander

Bagh, after the SLAUGHTER OF 2,000 REBELS BY THE

156 157 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

Photography after the Uprising

In 1858 – 59, immediately after the end of the conflict, a handful of other photographers
came to Lucknow, although none produced work that had the same impact as Beato’s.
The photographers captured many of the same locations that Beato had photographed,
but gradually the buildings were being either pulled down or repaired. Photography shows
the extent of the demolitions: large areas around the Qaisar Bagh and Chattar Manzil
were cleared completely (70, p. 150). The images also show how Lucknow was tidied up,
“improved” and re-created as a picturesque and peaceful colonial town. Only the Resi-
dency remained as a shell, an untouchable relic preserved forever in the British mind.24
The husband and wife partnership of Major Robert and Harriet Tytler made a small
number of views of the city (78, 81). The Tytlers had taken up photography in February
1858 in Delhi, where over the course of several months, Robert Tytler had received advice
from the commercial photographers Charles Shepherd and Felice Beato as well as the
amateur Dr. John Murray. By March 1859, the Tytlers had produced about 500 negatives
of views in North India, including Lucknow, many of which closely followed Beato’s
compositions. First the negatives, and then the positive prints were shown at meetings of
the Bengal Photographic Society. A reviewer noted: “The collection is unquestionably the
finest ever exhibited in Calcutta; it embraces every scene of the mutiny of 1857, from the
cavalry lines at Meerut to the Residency at Lucknow.” 25
Also in Lucknow in 1859 was John Dannenberg, whose appearance in the city before
1857 has already been noted. Dannenberg was absent during the conflict, but returned to
the city in mid-1859 and prepared a series of views which were displayed in Calcutta in
February 1860. The Bengal Hurkaru noted they were “a very superior collection of views
taken by the collodion albumen process at Lucknow.”26 Years later, in 1892, Dannenberg
reprinted a handful of his Lucknow photographs and published them in an album titled
Mutiny Memorials alongside doctored copies of Beato’s work. He presented the album as
Top: 78. Possibly by Robert Christopher Tytler and
his own work, and it was accompanied by a printed leaflet quoting rich, fulsome reviews Harriet Christina Tytler, Qaisar Pasand,
from the newspapers: c. 1858 – 59

Left: 81. Robert Christopher Tytler and Harriet

If . . . places have the adumbrations of human souls still inhabiting their precincts as a sort of delicious Christina Tytler, VIEW of the UPPER PORTION of
the Qaisar Pasand, 1858
spiritual aroma of self-sacrifice pervading the localities where noble life and beautiful human love were
shed in profusion for a nation’s cause, then this album of Mutiny memorials will remain a sort of incence
to the heroic dead in pictorial form.27

The album, despite containing poor-quality copies of Beato’s photographs, sold well
and demonstrates the continued appetite of images of the sites associated with the
Uprising. This appetite had been fed by a succession of commercial photographers who
worked in Lucknow from the 1860s onward. The short-lived partnership of Shepherd and
Robertson (Charles Shepherd had worked with Robert Tytler in Delhi) produced in about
1862 a number of important architectural views (57, p. 127; 73, p. 135; 108, p. 132; Fig. 13,
p. 128) that were subsequently incorporated into the Bourne and Shepherd stock. Samuel
Bourne arrived in Lucknow in December 1864 and remained for a few weeks, photograph-
ing all aspects of the city. His views of Hazratganj depict yet another image of Lucknow:
the peaceful commercial center, with wide, empty streets and picturesque trees, carefully

158 159 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

His book The Lucknow Album was published in 1874
in Calcutta, and contains fifty albumen prints accompa-
nied by descriptive text. The book is concerned almost
entirely with the events of 1857, and uses highly emotional
language with strong religious overtones, emphasizing
the role of Lucknow as a pilgrimage site for the British:

[T]his album will bear a sacred interest, and many a tear will fall
at the contemplation of some well-remembered spot, over which
a sort of holy radiance will appear to linger as the book is sorrow-
fully closed.28

The order of the photographs follows that established by

Beato, beginning in the east of the city with the Alam
Bagh, and moving in a westerly direction. The text
encourages the visitor to pause for reflection at various
locations, employing biblical metaphors, as well as some-
times Classical associations, to heighten emotions.
Into this landscape of Christian mourning, three
photographs have been included that recall Lucknow’s
Islamic associations. The shrine known as Dargah
Hazrat Abbas, the Kasmain Karbala, and the Talkatora
Fig. 18. Samuel Bourne, HazRatganj; India, Uttar Pradesh,
Karbala are the last three images in the book (69, also
Lucknow, 1864 – 65; albumen print, 7 1⁄2 x 12 5⁄ 8 in. (19 x 32 cm);
p. 93). This breaks the east-west progression, and their
The British Library, Photo 577/(49)
sudden appearance hints that Abbas Ali may possess a 69. Darogah Abbas Ali, TalkatoRa Karbala (top) and
Dargah HazRat Abbas (bottom), from The Lucknow
different conceptual map of the city that looks back to the Album: Containing a SeRies of Fifty PhotogRaphic
Views of Lucknow, 1874
period when Lucknow was described in religious terms
avoiding any reference to the Uprising (fig. 18). Similar views were taken by John and linked to the Muharram processions. Simply by incor-
Edward Saché, who had established a photographic studio in nearby Nainital in 1867. porating the images, Abbas Ali was moving outside the
Saché took his first views of Lucknow in about 1867, but it was not until 1871 that he set boundaries of the dominant European understanding
up a permanent studio on Hazratganj. The photographer G. W. Lawrie began his career of the city.
in Saché’s studio before setting up his own establishment, first in Nainital and in 1882 in Abbas Ali’s conception of the city is extended further
Lucknow. Lawrie and Company eventually became the most important studio in the city with the book The Beauties of Lucknow, also published
at the end of the nineteenth century (71, p. 144). in 1874 (200, p. 162). It contains twenty-four portraits of
All of these photographers concentrated on one site above all others: the British women with descriptive text, and was aimed at an Indian
Residency, which was the one view of Lucknow that every British visitor had to acquire clientele. The book, which exists in two editions, one in
for his photograph album. The image, often with the Union Jack flying on the tower, English and one in Urdu, states in the preface that its
became an iconic representation of the British perception of Lucknow. patrons are “the nobility and gentry of Oudh.”29 The
photographs show a few of the women in theatrical
Darogah Abbas Ali costumes for a version of the Indar Sabha, a dramatic
production popularly attributed to the Lucknow-based
Although British photographers were largely responsible for the dominant vision of the poet Amanat Ali, written in 1853. The play incorporated
post-1857 city, one photographer—Abbas Ali—produced a range of work in the 1860s–70s many of the different musical, literary, and dramatic
that acknowledges both the British and the Indian cities. styles that were popular at the court of Wajid Ali Shah

160 161 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

1. Khan is listed in the Bengal Directory for 1856 under the heading, 26. The Bengal Hurkaru, March 2, 1860.
“Respectable Native Inhabitants” as “Ahmud Ally Khan, Darogah of 27. Rare Photographic Memorials of the Mutiny, printed leaflet with the album
Hoosunabad.” Darogah can imply various positions of authority, depending Mutiny Memorials, 1892, 4; the British Library, Photo 254 /1.
on the context. Here it probably means a superintendent—someone with
28. Abbas Ali, The Lucknow Album (Calcutta: G. H. Rouse, Baptist Mission
responsibility for the structure and running of the building, but not the
Press, 1874), 2.
religious ceremonies.
29. The Beauties of Lucknow, Consisting of ... the most Celebrated and Popular
2. P. C. Mookherjee, Pictorial Lucknow (Lucknow 1883; reprint New Delhi and
Living Histrionic Singers, Dancing Girls, and Actresses of the Oudh Court
Chennai: Asian Educational Services, 2003), 183.
and of Lucknow (Calcutta: Calcutta Central Press, 1874), preface. No
3. Edward and Thomas Polehampton, eds., A Memoir, Letters and Diary of the author’s name is provided on the title page, but the work is attributed to
Rev. Henry S. Polehampton (London: Richard Bentley, 1858), 141– 42. Abbas Ali by P. C. Mookherjee in Pictorial Lucknow, 183.
Although Polehampton mentions daguerreotypes, all the work by Khan to
30. Kathryn Hansen, “The Indar Sabha Phenomenon: Public Theatre and
have survived employs either the calotype or wet collodion process.
Consumption in Greater India (1853 –1956),” in Pleasure and the Nation: The
4. A “Mutiny” album in the National Media Museum, Bradford, contains about History, Politics and Consumption of Public Culture in India, ed. Rachel
five pre-1857 views of Lucknow which may be attributable to Dannenberg. Dwyer and Christopher Pinney (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000),
Views include the Lal Barahdari, the Roshan al-Daula Kothi, the Chini 76 –114, quote on 82.
bazaar, and a view of the Jilau Khana in the Qaisar Bagh which also appears
31 . The Beauties of Lucknow, preface.
in Dannenberg’s 1892 album, Mutiny Memorials.
5. W. L. Low, Lieutenant-Colonel Gould Hunter-Weston of Hunterston ... one of
the defenders of Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny 1857–8, a Biographical
Sketch (Selkirk: Scottish Chronicle Offices, 1914), xi.
6. Further portraits of the royal women can be found in the “Warner Album” in
The Alkazi Collection of Photography (ACP 2001.18.0001).
7. Low, Lieutenant-Colonel Gould Hunter-Weston.
8. Rebecca M. Brown, “Abject to Object: Colonialism Presented through the
Imagery of Muharram,” RES 43 (Spring 2003), 203 –17.
9. Mookherjee, Pictorial Lucknow, 183.
10. Journal of the Bengal Photographic Society 1:2 (September 1862), 39 – 40.
11 . The Bengal Hurkaru and India Gazette, February 23, 1858.
12 . The Royal Engineers introduced photography to the curriculum in 1856; the
Addiscombe Military Academy, where the officers for the English East India
Company were trained, began teaching photography in the mid-1850s.
13. Examples survive in the British Library (Photo 591) and in the Alkazi
Collection of Photography. Fitzgerald displayed some of his Lucknow views
at the Madras Photographic Society in December 1860.
14. Examples of Milliken’s work survive in the Canadian Centre for Architec-
200. Darogah Abbas Ali, Gummoon Jan, Dancing GiRl
(left) and Lall-PuRRee, of the Indar Sabha (right), from
ture, Montreal. Jones’s photographs can be found in the National Army
The Beauties of Lucknow, 1874
Museum, London.
15. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, ed., Lucknow: City of Illusion (London: Alkazi
Collection of Photography; Munich: Prestel, 2006), 249.
16. The Bengal Hurkaru, February 23, 1858.
17. Antonio Beato remained in Calcutta until December 1859, when he left for
18. Beato was using glass-plate negatives, about 10 x 12 inches, prepared in
and, while the origins of the Indar Sabha are still debated, what was important in the advance; his contemporaries in India, such as Dr. John Murray and Robert
1870s was that the audience “believed they were beholding a direct link to the Awadh and Harriet Tytler, were using calotypes. Years later, Beato gave a talk in
London about his work. The British Journal of Photography reported the
court and its sumptuous ambience.” 30 The photographs function as glimpses of this lecture, stated “his Indian views ... had all been taken upon plates previously
prepared at Athens.” British Journal of Photography, February 26, 1886, 136.
now-extinct court, particularly given the traditional reading of the Indar Sabha as a 19. The Englishman, August 27, 1858.
metaphor for the court of Wajid Ali Shah. 20. Journal of the London Photographic Society, February 22, 1859, 185.
As an Indian publication for an Indian (male) audience, the book evokes a melancholy 21 . Beato’s photographs of sites affected by the Uprising are relatively easy to
locate in institutions. His work of other sites, including Amritsar, Agra, and
longing for the past glories of Lucknow, a “Lucknow immemorable for the Oriental Sarnath and his ethnographic portraits of “Indian types,” is much rarer.
22 . John Fraser, “Beato’s Photograph of the Interior of the Sikandarbagh at
magnificence of the entertainments” at the pre-1857 court.31 It also suggests how an
Lucknow,” Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research, 59:237 (1981),
Indian audience may have read the architectural photographs of the city: not as sites 51– 55.
23. Hering published a list of Beato’s photographs for sale, A Magnificent
linked to the Uprising, but as representations of the city’s rich cultural past. While the Collection of Photographic Views and Panoramas Taken by Signor F. Beato
Uprising undoubtedly remains a watershed in the photographic depiction of the city, During the Indian Mutiny in 1857–58, and the Late War in China, London,
1862. The titles link the majority of the views directly to the Uprising.
Lucknow has always been a city of mourning, whether through Shia religious associa- 24. The chronology of the photographers’ visits to Lucknow can be ascertained
tions, the sites of 1857 conflict, or a longing for a lost cultural heritage. The British vision by examining the architectural evidence in the images. The changes were
rapid, with drastic alterations happening within weeks. Others who
of the city was predominant in photographic images from the nineteenth century, but the photographed in Lucknow in the late 1850s–early 1860s, but not discussed
here, include the professional photographers Oscar Mallitte and Edmund
work of Abbas Ali reminds us of the multivariant ways that the city was conceptualized David Lyon, and the amateur Donald Horne Macfarlane.
by its inhabitants and its visitors. 25. The Englishman, May 28, 1859.

162 163 GoRdon : The Role of Photography

M ali n i roy

Origins of the Late Mughal Painting

Tradition in Awadh

While the affiliation between the Mughals and the province of Awadh began as early as the late sixteenth century
when Akbar incorporated the province as part of the Mughal Empire, it is curious that a painting tradition in
either a local vernacular or in a substyle of the Mughal tradition did not appear till the mid-eighteenth century
during the rule of the provincial ruler Nawab Shuja al-Daula. With Delhi in turmoil, some artists belonging to the
imperial atelier, which had burgeoned under the supervision of Muhammad Shah (r. 1719 – 48) in the earlier part of
the century, redirected their attention toward soliciting patronage from provincial rulers, courtiers, and European
officers in the cities of Faizabad and Lucknow. Subsequently the Awadhi substyle, a derivative of the later Mughal
painting tradition, emerged.
Several key artists including Mir Kalan Khan (fl. c. 1734 –70) and Nidha Mal (fl. c. 1735 –75) are known to
have relocated to the provincial Mughal court from Delhi. As these artists disseminated their knowledge of the
later Mughal style to the rising generation of artists, the emerging Awadhi style was strongly locked into the
Mughal idiom. By the mid-1760s, the painterly style would gradually shift into a distinctive substyle; by reflecting
on European models, artists became increasingly conscious of “imparting volume to their figures and spatial depth
to their compositions.” 1 In point of fact, artists were keen to break away from the Mughal mind-set and improve
preexisting compositional formats in order to include realistic landscape settings. Specifically, the widespread use
of aerial perspective to create distant landscape vistas in the backgrounds, complete with mountain ranges and
small rounded bushes, would become a trademark of Awadhi painting. From the outset, artists painted a few

164 165 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

portraits of Shuja al-Daula as well as of unidentified collections, further clues on nawabi patronage may yet
courtiers, ragamala paintings (visualizations of the
come to light.
musical modes), and terrace scenes of princes and prin- A small number of portraits of Shuja al-Daula, which
cesses enjoying entertainments. Of course, for the art can be assigned to the first half of his rule (1754 – 64), are
historian it is a challenge to differentiate between suggestive of sporadic patronage. In general, the lack of
paintings produced at Awadh and Delhi during this inscriptions, dates, and artists’ attributions make it
intermediate phase. difficult to determine the precise chronology of produc-
By the 1770s, the Awadhi substyle entered into a new tion. Additionally, although most portraits are not
phase. The arrival of British and French officers to the inscribed with the sitter’s identity, through the common
region brought forth momentous change; the diffusion of physiognomy and costume drawn by artists one can
European culture culminated in a dynamic milieu that differentiate between portraits of Shuja al-Daula, Asaf
would affect all aspects of nawabi culture and the fine al-Daula, and unidentified Awadhi noblemen. In the first
arts. As European officers lavished their attention on years of his rule, Shuja al-Daula is pictured as a relatively
local artists, the Awadhi painting tradition effloresced slender man with a distinctive mustache. An early por-
into its most productive phase. Artists such as Mihr trait picturing Shuja al-Daula standing on a terrace
Chand (fl. 1759 – 86), Nevasi Lal (fl. c. 1760 –75), Mohan accompanied by two attendants followed the classic
Singh (fl. c. 1763 – 82), and Gobind Singh (fl. 1775 – 82) Mughal model of a terrace portrait (Fig. 19). Presented in
were commissioned to produce portraits of Shuja al-Daula strict profile, he holds a pink flower in his left hand and a
and Mughal emperors, ragamala paintings, and illustra- hookah mouthpiece in the other. His attendant holds the
tions to literary texts. With European officers acquiring a base of the hookah. Even though the sitter’s identity is not
multitude of loose paintings, illustrated manuscripts as provided, through the distinctive attire of the green khilat
well as albums containing Awadhi examples, which have (ceremonial robe) trimmed with fur and the turban with a
since found their way into private and public collections, a decorative crescent-shaped band, commonly worn by
considerable amount of information on the Awadhi Awadhi nobles, the sitter’s identity is disclosed. Only the
tradition is revealed. nawab of Awadh would be pictured in this particular
Although it would be conventional to propose Shuja garment. A second portrait of Shuja al-Daula (fig. 20),
al-Daula as the leading patron of the later Mughal which can be dated no earlier than 1759, is inscribed
painting tradition in Awadh, in fact, there is substantial “Wazir al-Mamalik navvab Shuja al-Dawla Bahadur.”4
evidence that points to European patronage as the Again, following Mughal convention, the nawab is pic-
principal force that encouraged local artists to flourish tured standing outdoors and elegantly dressed in a
particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century. floor-length white jama, accentuated by select pieces of
Scarcely any paintings can be directly linked to nawabi jewelry including a feathered aigrette on his turban. In
12. Style of Mir Kalan Khan, EuRopean Woman Seated on
a TeRRace Smoking a Venetian-Style Water Pipe, c. patronage; very few paintings are marked with seals or this study, the nawab has put on weight; rather than a
1760 –75
inscriptions that would suggest that they once belonged to neat mustache, Shuja al-Daula’s facial hair has developed.
Page 164: 15. Attributed to Mir Kalan Khan, A PRincess
Visiting a FoRest ShRine at Night, c. 1760
the collection of the nawab of Awadh. One known example The portly figure, drooping mustache, and slight growth
is found on the reverse of a mid-eighteenth-century on his cheeks would appear in other studies of the nawab.
portrait, European Woman Seated on a Terrace Smoking a In addition to portraits of Shuja al-Daula, the Awadhi
Top: Fig. 19. Sital Singh, An Indian pRince smoking a
Venetian-Style Water Pipe (12). It is inscribed “sarkar repertoire included illustrations of specific episodes from
hookah; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1754; opaque navvab Shuja al-Dawla . . . Bahadur Sahib” (His Excel- literature and poetry (11, p. 168; 24, p. 173), ragamala
watercolor and gold on paper, page 15 7⁄ 8 x 10 3⁄4 in. (40.3 x 27.3
cm), image 11 x 8 3⁄ 8 in. (27.9 x 21.1 cm); Bibliothèque Nationale lency the Regent, Shuja al-Daula the hero). Although this
paintings (140, 141, p. 183), as well as a high number of
de France, Paris, Estampes, Rés. Od. 43, pet. fol. 18 (Collection
Gentil) inscription does not offer a precise date, nor indicate terrace scenes picturing individuals observing musical

Bottom: FIG. 20. Wazir al-Mamalik Nawab Shuja

patronage, it clearly implies that it had passed through performances (Fig. 21, p. 172) or celebrating religious
al-Daula Bahadur ; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, Shuja al-Daula’s hands. As there are countless unpub- festivities. Much of this early phase of painting is
c. 1759; watercolor on paper, 9 7⁄ 8 x 7 1⁄ 8 in. (25.4 x 18.2 cm);
Museum für Islamische Kunst I.4598 folio 19 lished Awadhi paintings in both private and public undoubtedly indebted to the arrival of leading artists

166 167 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

from Delhi. Of the Mughal artists to settle in the region, Mir Kalan Khan and Nidha
Mal were the most prolific. Despite the lack of biographical information on these artists,
the number of surviving works provides an insight into the continuation of their careers.
As a leading artist of Muhammad Shah’s atelier in Delhi, Mir Kalan Khan is often
associated with the Awadhi painting tradition.5 Trained at the imperial atelier in the
Mughal tradition, in his painterly style in Awadh Khan demonstrated a preference for
eclectic compositions and experimenting with non-Mughal idioms (16, 17). A key painting,
which documents Khan’s encounter with the nawab of Awadh, is a portrait of Shuja
al-Daula inset within a hunting scene (157, pp. 4–5). Using a panoramic view of the
Allahabad fort as the backdrop, Khan portrayed Shuja al-Daula dynamically slaying a
lion. The nawab’s identity is readily discernible; Khan opted to render the nawab’s
physiognomy complete with drooping moustache and beard that was similar in style to

Left: 17. Mir Kalan Khan, ChRist (Jesus) as a Child in the Temple, c. 1760

Right: 11. Mir Kalan Khan, A DRowning Man Saved fRom MaRine MonsteRs
by a PRincely Boat, c. 1750 – 60

Opposite: 16. Mir Kalan Khan, LoveRs in a Landscape, c. 1760 –70

168 169 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

Along with his forte in portraiture, Nidha Mal brought to precision; pavilions are strategically placed on the terrace
Awadh his shrewd awareness of spatial conventions, his and adorned with colorful textiles and women are dressed
pictorial style of terrace scenes, and a “partiality to the in flowing garments (fig. 21, p. 172). Faizullah, one of
color white (20).” One of his paintings, of an unidentified
the rising stars in the Awadhi art scene during the 1760s
Awadhi nobleman accompanied by ladies of the harem and 1770s, would radically transform terrace scenes into
watching entertainments, is representative of his later confections of multilayered “idealized palaces surrounded
style (fig. 21, p. 172). For this composition, Nidha Mal by formal gardens” that would recede to the horizon (21,
notably adopted a striking color palette consisting of p. 76; 24, p. 173).8 These highly stylized paintings were
shades of bright orange and yellow-greens, juxtaposed filled to the brim with multiple vignettes of harem enter-
with brilliant white. Both the concept of lavish terrace tainments, lush gardens with birds, and armies fighting
scenes and this combined color palette would appear in battles in the far distance. Not only would these paintings
works by Nidha Mal’s contemporaries (3, p. 172). become paradigms within the Awadhi tradition, they were
The rising generation was directly influenced by the symbolic of the flourishing courtly life in the cities of
models introduced by artists such as Mir Kalan Khan Lucknow and Faizabad.
and Nidha Mal. In particular, Awadhi artists developed a In spite of the lack of information substantiating
partiality toward painting nighttime terrace scenes that nawabi patronage, the collections amassed by European
pictured women celebrating festivals or playing games. officers testify that additional sources of patronage were
Drawing on existing Delhi paintings, they incorporated available to Awadhi artists. From the mid-1760s, officers
fireworks, lanterns, and candelabra to illuminate night affiliated to the French Compagnie des Indes Orientales
scenes. These grandiose illustrations were painted with and the English East India Company were stationed in

18. Mir Kalan Khan, Village Life in Kashmir , c. 1760

the work of his contemporaries. Mir Kalan Khan’s genre scenes are also particularly
interesting, though the subject matter is not always immediately comprehensible. Khan
had a tendency to paint within a single composition specific vignettes or episodes from a
variety of literary texts. It is often unclear whether the artist intended to embellish a
story or simply used characters from various literary texts to create whimsical theatrical
scenes. This experimental phase embraced a variety of painterly modes, including Ital-
ianate and Flemish styles of landscapes (18), figural depictions from Rajput or Safavid
paintings (16, p. 169), or even Bijapuri models.6 In some instances, Mir Kalan Khan would
mix these various ideas within a single composition. One might expect that his paintings
have a pastiche appearance, but Mir Kalan Khan’s approach would more often result in
an unexpected aesthetic harmony.
A second major Mughal artist to have an impact on the rising generation of Awadhi
artists is the painter Nidha Mal. During the height of his career in Delhi, Nidha Mal
20. Nidha Mal, An Awadh Nobleman Reclining on a
painted several noteworthy portraits of Muhammad Shah accompanied by his courtiers. Couch by Moonlight, c. 1755 – 65

170 171 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

FIG. 21. Nidha Mal, An Awadhi Nobleman, PRobably
Shuja Al-Daula, with Five Ladies of the HaRem
Watching EnteRtaineRs in a Water GaRden; India,
Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1755 – 65; opaque watercolor on
paper, 10 3⁄ 8 x 14 3⁄4 in. (26.5 x 37.5 cm); Virginia Museum of Fine
Arts, promised gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bensky H. Field, L.10.2004

Above: FIG. 22. PRincess Zib an-Nisa Watching

FiRewoRks, CelebRating Shab-i BaRat; India, Uttar
Pradesh, Lucknow or Faizabad, c. 1754 –75; opaque watercolor
and gold on paper; Museum für Islamische Kunst, I.4596
folio 23

Right: 3. An Al FResco EnteRtainment for

PRinces, c. 1768

Opposite: 24. Faizullah, The Women of Egypt Cut

Their FingeRs Peeling ORanges when FiRst Seeing
YUSUF’s Beauty, c. 1770

172 173 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

FIG. 23. The PRovince of Awadh, from
Jean-Baptiste Gentil’s Atlas of the Mughal
EmpiRe; Faizabad, 1770; watercolor and ink on
paper, 15 1⁄ 8 x 21 1⁄2 in. (38.4 x 54.5 cm); The British
Library, APAC, Add. Or. 4039 folio 19r

Top: 29. Nevasi Lal, Nawab Shuja al-Daula with His

Ten Sons, AFter a Painting by Tilly Kettle, 1774
the region; these men would solicit examples of Indian of the Mughal provinces (fig. 23),10 a history of the
Bottom: 27. Various Indian artists including Nevasi Lal and
Mohan Singh, TReaty of the Nawab with the BRitish at
paintings from local artists. In particular, the collections Mughal Empire, a volume on Indian coins,12 as well as a

BenaRes in 1765, from A “Gentil Album” Depicting

amassed by Jean-Baptiste Gentil, Antoine-Louis Polier, manuscript depicting native people (27).13 Although artists
ManneRs and Customs of People of India, 1774
and Richard Johnson are central to understanding the trained in the Mughal style drew the illustrations, these
Awadhi tradition; these collections reveal particular works are more often described as products of the so-
details surrounding the establishment of minor studios called Company school. This term is used to categorize
by European residents as well as the names and some “a special type of Indian painting which was produced for
biographical information on a number of artists who Europeans and was heavily influenced by European
flourished in both Faizabad and Lucknow. As a direct taste.” 14 Gentil’s manuscripts were filled with informal
consequence of their collective patronage, enormous vignettes that were either imbedded within the text or
numbers of paintings were produced in the second half painted on the periphery of maps. While the delineation of
of the eighteenth century. figures and objects remained in the traditional Indian
Of the major connoisseurs in the region, Jean- style, owing to the time constraint imposed by Gentil the
Baptiste Gentil (1726 –1799) was the earliest to establish artists were only able to produce hastily drawn illustra-
a small studio in the city of Faizabad. Gentil’s career in tions that were accentuated with watercolors.
India commenced with the Compagnie des Indes Orien- In addition to the illustrated volumes, Gentil commis-
tales from 1752 through the early 1760s. Leaving the sioned a series of large-format architectural drawings of
French company, Gentil opted to take up a private post as buildings in Faizabad and Delhi.15 To paint this series of
the aide-de-camp for Shuja al-Daula by the mid-1760s. In illustrations, artists pasted multiple sheets of paper in a
the period leading up to Shuja al-Daula’s death in 1775, horizontal format in order to picture an entire façade of a
Gentil enlisted several artists to produce a wide range of building. These decorative illustrations were painted in a
illustrations that would be incorporated into several water-based medium and did not include the surrounding
volumes. Of the artists affiliated to Gentil’s studio, only landscape. Within this series we find an illustration of
Mohan Singh and Nevasi Lal have been identified. At the
Shuja al-Daula’s palace in Faizabad (Fig. 7, p. 81).
focal point of Gentil’s collection was a series of illustrated Gentil’s memoirs also account for another major
albums, including a volume containing individual maps project: during the winter of 1774 –75, he entrusted his

174 175 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

studio to produce copies of Tilly Kettle’s portraits of Shuja al-Daula. Tilly Kettle
(1735 –1786), the British portrait painter, was invited to Faizabad, where he received
commissions from both Shuja al-Daula and British officers, including Sir Robert Barker,
circa 1772. Kettle’s portraits had a pronounced impact on Awadhi artists; only a few
portraits of Shuja al-Daula following the common physiognomy as pictured in figure 20
are dated to the early years of his rule. As Kettle painted several full-length oil paintings
of Shuja al-Daula, including group portraits of the nawab accompanied by his progeny or
British officers, Awadhi artists would become aware of new portraiture conventions as
well as an updated physiognomy of the nawab, from which they could produce their own
versions. Even though Gentil’s memoirs state that he commissioned his studio to produce
copies of four portraits by Kettle, as of this date only one copy by a member of Gentil’s
studio has been located. Nevasi Lal, one of Gentil’s leading artists, painted a portrait of
Shuja al-Daula with His Ten Sons that was based on an original by Kettle (29, p. 174). As
Nevasi Lal’s works are generally unsigned, without Gentil’s note on the reverse of this
work, “painted at Faizabad by Nevasilal, Indian artist, 1774,” it would not have been
possible to identify Nevasi Lal’s hand. Although additional versions of Kettle’s portraits
produced by Gentil’s studio cannot be accounted for, both Nevasi Lal’s contemporaries
and later generations of Awadhi artists would often compose portraits of Shuja al-Daula
in the style of Tilly Kettle; several of these appear in the collection of Antoine Polier (31,
p. 239; 154, p. 180).
Antoine-Louis Polier (1741–1795), another major connoisseur in the region and
contemporary to Gentil, was a native of Lausanne, Switzerland. On arriving in Madras
in 1758, Polier started his career by enlisting as a cadet with the English East India
Company. Polier was actively engaged in campaigns, worked in the capacity of surveyor,
and was promoted to chief engineer in charge of reconstructing Fort William in Calcutta
(Kolkata). In 1772, Polier was assigned to the court of Shuja al-Daula in Faizabad, to
serve in the capacity of chief engineer and architect. Within months of his arrival, Polier
established a small studio that was headed by the preeminent artist Mihr Chand.16 Over
the course of the next thirteen years, in both the cities of Faizabad and Delhi, Mihr
Chand and the members of the studio were responsible for producing at least twelve FIG. 24. Shamsa page; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, 1776;
opaque watercolor and gold on paper; inner field 7 1⁄2 x 7 1⁄2 in.
exquisitely bound albums containing examples of Awadhi paintings as well as examples of (19 x 19 cm); Museum für Islamische Kunst, I.4594, folio 40
seventeenth-century Mughal and Deccani works, together with specimens of calligraphy
(117, 124).17 Particularly noteworthy, Polier’s studio ensured symmetry throughout the
collection by including similarly designed frontispieces in each of the albums with either a
sunburst-shaped medallion or rectangular cartouche that would be inscribed with details
of ownership and the contents of the particular album (Fig. 24, p. 177). In addition, the
majority of album leaves were decorated with double, dark blue borders and distinctive
multicolored floral marginal designs. While Polier endeavored to build up his collection in
India, it is curious that he sold off the majority of albums either during his final months
in India or after his return to London in 1788.18
Polier’s collection was extraordinary, as it featured the majority of the known paint-
ings ascribed to the artist Mihr Chand, who was one of the preeminent artists to flourish Top: 124. Deva GandhaRa Ragini, c. 1780

in the region. Within these albums, the artist’s repertoire included portraits of Mughal
Bottom: 117. Mihr Chand, A DeRvish Receiving a
emperors (115, p. 178), Shuja al-Daula (31, p. 239), and courtesans as well as drawings of Visitor , c. 1765 –76

176 177 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

Left: 122. Style Of Mihr Chand, The Mughal PRince
Top Left: Fig. 25. Visit of the
MiRza Jawan Bakht, c. 1786
Qawwal Shir Muhammad with
Abul Hasan Qutb Shah; India,
Right: 115. Mihr Chand, The Mughal EmpeRor Shah
Mughal, c. 1720; opaque watercolor and
Alam II on a Palace TeRRace in Allahabad, c. 1759
gold on paper, image 9 7⁄ 8 x 8 1⁄ 8 in. (25 x
20.7 cm), page 15 7⁄ 8 x 10 3⁄4 in. (40.3 x
27.3 cm); Bibliothèque Nationale de
France, Paris, Est., Rés. Od. 43, pet.
Fol. 24 (Collection Gentil)

Mughal landmarks and subjects of Hindu mythology. As the finest examples of Mihr Top Right: 123. Mihr Chand, The
Qawwal Sheikh Shir Muhammad
Chand’s oeuvre were integrated into Polier’s collection, this resource assists in under- Debates with His FolloweRs,

standing the impact of European patronage on local artists, the stylistic nuances of a c. 1765 –73

single artist, as well as providing an idea of the resources, such as European engravings Bottom Left: 149. Female
Musician, c. 1760
and earlier Mughal, Persian, and Rajput paintings, that were readily available to artists
in Awadh. Although scholars have known that Mihr Chand appropriated heavily from Bottom Right: 148. Mihr Chand,
Female Musician, c. 1765 –73
Tilly Kettle’s works to produce his own portraits of Shuja al-Daula, it has recently been
discovered that Mihr Chand also directly copied existing paintings that he found in
Gentil’s collection (Fig. 25, 123; 148, 149).19 In addition to the visual evidence, Polier’s
connection to Mihr Chand is substantiated through a series of personal correspondence
sent to the artist in this period.20 As Polier’s letters have been recently translated from
Persian to English and published, it has become possible to determine the extent of the
working relationship that was formed between the artist and patron. Of immense signifi-
cance, for the first time in the history of later Mughal painting, we have first-hand
documentation on the patronage of artists.

178 179 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

Within Polier’s collection, Mihr Chand’s finest
painting is that of Colonel Polier Watching a Nautch
(fig. 26). Although scholars debate the sitter’s identity,
Mihr Chand’s portrayal of the European wearing tradi-
tional Awadhi garments and enjoying a dance perfor-
mance is without doubt Mihr Chand’s notable patron
Antoine Polier.21 This social commentary authenticates
Polier’s patronage of the artist as well as indicating the
style of paintings that appealed to European clientele;
portraits of prominent European residents including John
Wombwell, Warren Hastings, and Richard Johnson were
also painted by Mihr Chand’s contemporaries.
At Polier’s behest, Mihr Chand was also asked to
produce a series of portraits of Shuja al-Daula that would
be assimilated into new albums bound for Polier and that
could be presented by Polier to his acquaintances (31,
p. 239; 154).22 As Mihr Chand’s multiple portraits are
dispersed through Polier’s collection and also found
elsewhere, it suggests that the artist had cornered the
market during the final years of the nawab’s rule; only
a few portraits by other artists, including Nevasi Lal’s
Shuja al-Daula with His Ten Sons, also date to this
FIG. 26. Mihr Chand, Colonel Polier Watching a period. As Mihr Chand may not have been afforded the
Nautch; India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad, 1773 –74; opaque
watercolor and gold on paper, 11 5⁄16 x 15 7⁄16 in. (19 x 28 cm); opportunity to compose portraits of the nawab in situ, he
Collection of Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan
turned to Tilly Kettle’s oil paintings for inspiration.23
Appropriating heavily from Kettle’s work, Mihr Chand
created full-length portraits of Shuja al-Daula standing
outdoors, bust-length portraits, as well as a version of
Shuja al-Daula with his ten sons (fig. 27).
Shuja al-Daula’s untimely death in 1775 had no direct FIG. 27. Mihr Chand, Nawab Shuja Al-Daula and His Ten

repercussions on the Awadhi painting tradition. Although Sons; India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad, c. 1774; opaque
watercolor and gold on paper, 13 1⁄ 8 x 9 1⁄ 8 in. (33.3 x 23.2 cm);
his eldest son and successor, Asaf al-Daula, transferred Museum für Islamische Kunst, I.4596 folio 18

the nawabi court from Faizabad to Lucknow, artists had

no option but to follow in his lead. Aside from a few
portraits of the rotund Asaf al-Daula receiving courtiers
(figs. 28, 29, p. 183), there is limited information on this
nawab’s patronage of Indian artists. For an overview of
the continuation of the Awadhi painting tradition through
the end of the eighteenth century, it is only possible to
rely on the evidence of European patronage.
Through the end of the eighteenth century, the
Left: 154. Attributed to Mihr Chand, Nawab Shuja
al-Daula, after a PoRtRait by Tilly Kettle,
Awadhi tradition persevered through the continued
and Two PictuRes of Beauties, c. 1780
patronage of European residents and officers in the
Right: 155. Asad Khan anD Alamgir , c. 1780 region. Particularly the efforts of Richard Johnson

180 181 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

(1753 –1807), a British civil servant, deserve recognition. Compared with the collections
assembled by Gentil and Polier, which predominantly feature works of one or two named
Awadhi artists, Johnson’s collection holds paintings ascribed to multiple artists who
flourished in Awadh from 1780 to 1782. This vast resource constitutes the majority of
known Awadhi paintings that are held within a single collection.
Richard Johnson arrived in Calcutta in 1770 and took up the post of a writer in the
Bengal Civil Service. Within a short time, his achievements were recognized and he was
promoted to the post of assistant to Governor-General Warren Hastings. In Calcutta,
Johnson collected Mughal and Deccani paintings, later Mughal paintings from Mur-
shidabad, as well as Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts. During the period 1780 – 82,
Johnson was assigned to Lucknow, where he served in the capacity as the assistant to
the British Resident Nathaniel Middleton. In Lucknow, he would continue to expand his
collection and, more importantly, commission Awadhi paintings from local artists.
Although Johnson primarily commissioned new ragamala paintings and illustrations to
literary texts, his collection included topographical views and portraits that he had
purchased from artists in Lucknow. By the time of Johnson’s departure back to England,
he had sixty-seven albums; these were sold to the East India House Library in 1807 and
currently are held by the British Library in London.
Artists affiliated with Johnson’s studio include Mohan Singh, Ghulam Reza, Gobind
Singh, Muhammad Ashiq, Udwat Singh, Sital Das, and Ram Sahai.24 From this list it
is evident that Mohan Singh, who worked for Jean-Baptiste Gentil during the 1770s in
Faizabad, had transferred to Lucknow by 1780. Although Johnson was in Lucknow only
briefly, his artists were challenged to produce multiple sets of ragamala paintings,
depictions of Hindu deities, and manuscript illustrations. Ragamala paintings, the per-
sonification of the various Indian classical modes, feature prominently within Johnson’s Top Left: FIG 28. Hasan Reza Khan

collection. Typical sets of ragamala painting include thirty-six ragas and raginis. Rather PResents a Request to Asaf
al-Daula; India, Uttar Pradesh, Awadh,
than producing fully executed paintings, Johnson’s atelier produced either nim-qalam c. 1775; opaque watercolor on paper, page
18.5 x 12.8 in. (47 x 32.5 cm), image 13.7 x
(grisaille) illustrations or colored drawings of the various modes. Illustrations by artists 11.2 in. (34.7 x 28.5 cm); Bibliothèque
Nationale de France, Paris, Mss. Or.,
including Ghulam Reza’s, as seen in his delineation of Bhairava Raga and Bhairavi Smith-Lesouef 249, No. 6523
Ragini, which picture the Hindu deity Shiva, are a testament to the artistic accomplish-
Top Right: FIG. 29. Asaf Al-Daula
ments of Awadhi artists (139, 140). Receiving Hasan Reza Khan, Haidar
Beg Khan, and Other CouRtieRs;
The Awadhi tradition of painting did not cease at the end of the eighteenth century, India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, late 18th
century; opaque watercolor and gold on
however artists faced hardships in obtaining patronage from Shuja al-Daula’s descen- paper, 10 1⁄4 x 14 1⁄4 in. (26 x 36.2 cm);
dants as well as from the European residents. Further causing complications for the local Collection of Shawn Ghassemi

community was that they faced competition from European artists, including Johann Bottom Left: 139. Ghulam Reza,
BhaiRava Raga, c. 1780 – 82
Zoffany (1733 –1810) and Ozias Humphry (1742 –1810), for Asaf al-Daula’s fleeting atten-
Bottom Right: 140. Ghulam Reza,
tion. As a result, they consciously adjusted their style for the preferred “Company” idiom
BhaiRavi Ragini, c. 1780 – 82
in order to attract a wider audience; we find many Lucknow versions of the portraits of
Asaf al-Daula and the Mughal Prince Jawan Bakht that were originally painted by
Zoffany and other European artists at Lucknow (122, p. 178). In addition, by modifying
their choice of medium from a heavy gouache to watercolor, artists were able to rapidly
execute sets of illustrations on topics such as portraits of Mughal emperors or on the
occupations of the native people for European consumers to take home as souvenirs. Of
course, there are isolated paintings that suggest the patronage of the rulers of Awadh,

182 183 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

including a commemorative scene of Ghazi al-Din Haidar 16. Antoine Polier, A European Experience of the Mughal Orient: The Ijaz-i
Arsalani (Persian letters 1772–1779) of Antoine-Louis Henri Polier, trans.
entertaining Lord and Lady Moira at a banquet (fig. R9) M. Alam and S. Alavi (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), fol. 37a.
17. The majority of albums commissioned by Antoine Polier are found in the
and Wajid Ali Shah in darbar with Lord Hardinge. Of 25

Museum for Islamic Art in Berlin (MIK I 4593- 4599) and at the Museum for
all the later Awadhi rulers, Wajid Ali Shah held the most Asiatic Art in Berlin (MIK I 4063 and 5005). Other albums are held at the
British Library, the British Museum, and the Achenbach Collection for
promise as patron of art. As an accomplished poet and Graphic Arts in San Francisco.
aficionado of the Awadhi painting tradition, he commis- 18. Lucian Guthrie Harris, “Archibald Swinton: A New Source for Albums of
Indian Miniatures in William Beckford’s Collection,” Burlington Magazine
sioned 103 illustrations to accompany a volume of his 143 (2001), 360.
poetry entitled the Ishqnamah, which chronicled the 19. M. Roy, “Some Unexpected Sources for Paintings by the Artist Mihr Chand,
Son of Ganga Ram (fl. c. 1759 – 86),” South Asian Studies 26:1 (2010), 21–29.
author’s life in Lucknow and his passion for women. 26
20. Polier, A European Experience of the Mughal Orient.
This beautifully executed compilation would have been the 21 . Losty, “Towards a New Naturalism,” 51– 52.
22 . Polier, A European Experience of the Mughal Orient.
final opportunity for Awadhi artists to revive the later
23. Mildred Archer, “Tilly Kettle and the Court of Oudh,” Apollo (1972): 96 –106.
Mughal painting style that had flourished during the 24. Aside from Mohan Singh, these artists flourished during the period 1780 – 82.
second half of the eighteenth century and to be offered 25. BL, APAC, Add.Or.742
26. Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, RCIN 1005035.
such a major commission from a member of the Awadhi
27. J. P. Losty, “Painting at Lucknow,” in Lucknow: Then and Now, ed. R.
ruling family.27 Llewellyn-Jones (Mumbai: Marg, 2003), 132 – 33.

1. J. P. Losty, “Towards a New Naturalism, Portraiture in Murshidabad and

Awadh, 1750 – 80,” in After the Great Mughals, Painting in Delhi and the
Regional Courts in the 18th and 19th Centuries, ed. B. Schmitz (Delhi: Marg,
2002), 35.
2. J. P. Losty and L. Leach, Mughal Paintings for the British Library (London:
Indar Pasricha Fine Arts, 1998), no. 26.
3. European Woman Seated on a Terrace Smoking a Venetian-Style Water Pipe.
Lucknow or Faizabad, c. 1760 –75. Los Angeles County Museum of Art,
M.72.88.5. The inscription on the verso was transcribed (sarkar navvab
Shuja’ al-Dawla...Bahâdur Sâhib) and translated by Prof. Wheeler M.
4. Shuja al-Daula was appointed as wazir of the Mughal Empire by Shah Alam
II in 1759 – 60.
5. For details regarding Mir Kalan Khan’s early career in Delhi, see Terrance
McInerney, “Mughal Painting during the Reign of Muhammad Shah,” in
After the Great Mughals, Painting in Delhi and the Regional Courts in the
Fig. 30. Ghazi Al-Din Haidar EnteRtains LoRd and 18th and 19th Centuries, ed B. Schmitz (Delhi: Marg, 2002), 20. For further
Lady MoiRa; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1820 –22; information on Khan’s style in Awadh, see Losty, “Towards a New
gouache on paper, 13 1⁄2 x 18 3⁄4 in. (34.5 x 47.5 cm); The British Naturalism,” 49 – 51.
Library, Add. Or. 1815
6. Losty, “Towards a New Naturalism,” 49 – 51.
7. McInerney, “Mughal Painting during the Reign of Muhammad Shah,” 25.
8. Stuart Cary Welch, India: Art and Culture 1300–1900 (1985; reprint New
York: Prestel, 1997), 281.
9. Inside an album held by Victoria & Albert Museum (hereinafter V&A)
(IS 25 -180), the frontispiece is inscribed with the names of Nevasi Lal and
Mohan Singh. Although only these two artists have been named, with the
high number of illustrations produced for Gentil’s various projects, it is very
likely that other artists were part of Gentil’s studio.
10. Empire Mogol divisé en 21 soubahs ou gouvernements tiré de differens
écrivains du pais en Faisabad en MDCCLXX. British Library (hereinafter
BL), APAC, Add.Or.4039.
11 . Abrégé historique des souverains de l’Indoustan. Bibliothèque nationale de
France (hereinafter BnF), 24219.
12 . Histoire des Pieces de Monnayes qui ont été frappé dans l’Indoustan. BnF,
13. Receuil de toutes sortes des Dessins sur les usages et coutumes des peuples de
l’Indoustan ou empire Mogol. V&A, IS 25 -180.
14. Mildred Archer and Graham Parlett, Company Paintings: Indian Paintings
of the British Period (London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992), 11.
15. BnF, Od- 63.

184 185 Roy : Late Mughal Painting Tradition in Awadh

M u z a f far Alam
An d San jay Su b rah m an yam

Of Princes and Poets in Eighteenth-

Century Lucknow

Though it had been a garrison and administrative center of some importance through much of the Mughal
period in northern India, Lucknow truly emerged into prominence in the latter half of the eighteenth cen-
tury—when the Mughal Empire as a political structure was entering into a phase of decline and decentraliza-
tion under the long rule of Shah Alam II (r. 1761–1806).1 In this respect it was like a number of regional courts
and urban centers (Murshidabad, Bhopal, Arcot, and Hyderabad also come to mind) which profited from the
considerable reorientations of the eighteenth century in order to construct or consolidate their own profiles.
The fact that they did so at the expense of the declining imperial center at Shahjahanabad-Delhi lent this
process a bittersweet taste to a number of contemporary observers, many of whom were obliged for economic
and more general material reasons to migrate from Delhi to these newly prosperous centers of power. This
brief essay is largely concerned with the nature of the tensions that were inherent in this process, as seen
through the eyes of some princes and poets who flocked from Delhi to Lucknow in the latter half of the eigh-
teenth century.
The memoirist Abdul Halim “Sharar” (1860 –1926) famously described Lucknow as the “last exemplar
of eastern culture in Hindustan” (Hindustan mem mashriqi tamaddun ka akhiri namuna) in the nostalgic
essays that he published in the journal Dil Gudaz between 1913 and the early 1920s.2 A patriotic denizen of the
town, he traced its past back to distant antiquity, as far as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, using the
folk etymology that linked Lucknow (Lakhnau) to Lakhan (or Lakshmana), the brother of the hero and god

186 187 Alam and SubRahmanyam : Of PRinces and Poets

Rama. His rather imaginative early history of the town also tied it to the activities of the al-bayan, that has been most frequently cited, and by the time of its writing, it is clear
legendary warrior-saint Salar Masud in the eleventh century, and he claimed that “a large that Mir Hasan had reconciled himself to Lucknow, the Shia culture of which would
population of Hindus and Muslims were settled there before Akbar’s reign.” A crucial eventually be fervently defended by his grandson Mir Anis. However, his earlier writings
figure in his account is that of a certain Shaikh Abdur Rahim Bijnauri, who he stated such as the Masnawi gulzar-i eram completed in 1779 (AH 1192) give a rather different
made his residence there and was granted lands and revenues by the Mughals at the very impression.10 This long text concerns Mir Hasan’s departure from Delhi and arrival in
end of the sixteenth century. His descendants and other shaikhzadas, some of Afghan Lucknow via Makanpur; alongside a relatively brief description of Lucknow, there is a far
origin, are depicted by Sharar as the great local power-holders in the area for much of the more extensive section on Faizabad, which he much prefers. Here is how the poem begins:
high Mughal period until the early eighteenth century, when the major Iranian noble
Saadat Khan Burhan al-Mulk decided for his part to make his power base in the area. Since the time Hindustan was shattered,
my Destiny took me to the East
The central task of Burhan al-Mulk was thus to rein in the pretensions of the shaikhza-
My heart was attached to an idol there [Delhi],
das, and create a new dispensation based on a deeper fiscal penetration into the country-
and it was difficult to be separated from it.
side and its resources.3 Despite the prestige of Lucknow, which had by now also acquired
That image is still present in my eyes,
a significant presence of learned ulama in centers such as the celebrated Farangi Mahal like a stone embedded in a goblet.
(itself consolidated in Aurangzeb’s reign), Burhan al-Mulk chose to center his activities Even though I left the place,
further to the east, in a town that came for a time to overshadow Lucknow in the still the fact of separation tortures me.
region—namely Faizabad. In turn, Burhan al-Mulk was succeeded as the chief regional
I have travelled in a carriage helplessly
powerbroker by his son-in-law Muhammad Muqim Nishapuri, titled Safdar Jang. His trapped like a bird in a moving cage
presence in the area appears to have increased the Shia flavor to Muslim settlement there, Though I moved from one stage to another,
my heart was left behind at each station.11
and this continued under the rule of his son Nawab Shuja al-Daula, who also built up the
site of Faizabad to a considerable degree after having initially preferred Lucknow.5 The
It is thus clear that Mir Hasan saw his departure from Delhi as something to regret,
balance was definitively redressed away from Faizabad and in favor of Lucknow only
indeed a form of bitter exile, which he assimilated—whether literally or as a mere poetic
during the following reign, that of Nawab Asaf al-Daula and then eventually in that of
device—to separation from a beloved. He notes, for example, that “on the pretext of
Nawab Saadat Ali Khan.6
having left my homeland behind / I turned the jungle into a river with my tears.” After
Faizabad and Lucknow had certainly managed to attract a number of migrants from
passing through the important Jat center of Dig, he eventually joined a procession to the
Delhi by the middle decades of the eighteenth century. Sharar’s account is very evocative
town of Makanpur in honor of the heterodox saint Shah Madar.12 Gradually, a combina-
of this change. He writes:
tion of regular access to the good things of life such as snacks and sweetmeats, and some
As soon as it was known that Shuja-ud-Daula had decided on Faizabad for his headquarters [in 1765], amorous adventures seem to have assuaged his bitterness somewhat while on the road.
crowds flocked in that direction, and thousands came and settled there. The entire population of Delhi However, the tone of derision resumes as soon as he arrives in Lucknow, and indeed the
seemed to be making preparations to move there. Most of the eminent people of Delhi bade farewell to their heading of that particular section is bluntly indicative of this: “Arrival in the prison-
domiciles and turned towards the east. Night and day people kept coming and caravan after caravan house, and my understanding the verse: The world is a prison for believers, and a paradise
arrived to stay and become absorbed into the environs of Faizabad. In no time persons of every race and for infidels” (Rasidan be-sijn wa wazih shudan maani-yi: “Al-duniya sijnun-lil-muminin
creed, literary men, soldiers, merchants, craftsmen, individuals of every rank and class had gathered wa jannatun-lil-kafirin”). Here he writes:

O cup-bearer! Bring a jade-colored goblet

Two of the great poets of Delhi, Mir Muhammad Taqi “Mir” and Mir Hasan, were Place more precious stones at its rim.
however not amongst the first wave of migrants but rather belonged to a second moment, When I arrived in the land of Lucknow
when Asaf al-Daula had moved the center of affairs to Lucknow a decade later, in the I saw no pleasure (bahar) in that town.
mid-1770s. Of the two, Mir (1723 –1810) is uncharacteristically tactful regarding Lucknow Grief had so besieged my soul,
in his usually quite acerbic memoir Zikr-i Mir, where he describes the splendid reception I felt I could never take to this place.
Even if there are many pious people here,
given to Warren Hastings by Nawab Asaf al-Daula in 1784 in the most fulsome terms
What shall we do if the place itself is bad? 13
(glossing over the fact that the same period was one of famine and misery in northern
India, a fact that did not escape an embarrassed Hastings).8 The account of the region by
Mir Hasan saw the problems of Lucknow as partly associated with the physical site of the
his younger contemporary Mir Hasan (1736 –1786), which has attracted less attention, is
town itself, as well as the fact that it seemed quite disorderly in its construction to him in
Page 186: 128. AuRangzeb, c. 1780 spread over several texts from his pen.9 It is one of his later writings, the Masnawi sihr
evident comparison to the greater orderliness of Delhi. His verse-account thus continues:

188 189 Alam and SubRahmanyam : Of PRinces and Poets

This country is settled on bumpy ground, In a more politic vein, he also concedes that the Nawab-Wazir Asaf al-Daula has begun to
So that its paths wind all up and down. effect great improvements in the town, by way of constructing great public buildings and
Some houses are up near the sky imposing some order on what was otherwise a rather chaotic situation.
And the huts of some are almost underground.
When we say, “It’s not Lucknow, but because of this age,” May Asaf al-Daula be kept safe forever,
We blame this age for no fault of its own. For he made the plans for his stay in this place.
The paths and customs here are all dirty. He laid foundations for such buildings here,
At times it’s low, and sometimes it rises up. That their spectacle had the whole world in raptures.
This town is so crowded together, He put an end to all the dirtiness here,
That it’s scarcely possible to take a breath. And gave a real shape to Lucknow.
Each lane is so narrow here, O God! May this leader live forever,
That even the wind cannot pass through. who made the town of Lucknow into a garden.17
The sludge in the lanes is black with mud,
Like sweat from the body of an Ethiopian.14
At the same time, it is clear that Mir Hasan’s distaste for Lucknow does not stem
from the comparison with Delhi alone. Rather, he also has extended passages in the same
The denigration thus continues in verse after verse. He complains that the houses are far
masnawi where he makes evident his own strong preference for Faizabad, which he
too small, while their wells are like tiny specks with water oozing out like pus from a
portrays in the most glowing terms. If the poet sees Lucknow as a “cruel city” (shahr-i
wound in the chest. To be sure, the place had an ancient past going back practically to the
bedad), Faizabad for him is no less than a “flower-garden.”
time of the legendary Decius, but its lanes were labyrinthine, and even the crossroads
were so narrow that it was hard to take a horse through them. The Shia Mir Hasan even O cup-bearer! Fill my goblet rapidly.
compares Lucknow to Kufa near where Imam Husain was killed, complaining in turn of Take my boat across to the other side.
the miserliness of its people, its vulnerability to attacks by wild animals like wolves, and I am now fed up with the narrowness of this place [Lucknow],
the fact that its river—the Gomti—overflowed its banks practically every year. And each hill here is like a rock on my chest.
When I saw this condition of the place,
As for what transpires here during the rains, A wave came one day over my breast:
What can I say about its horrors? Why not make a trip to Faizabad?
When the Gomti rises all round, And so I raised up my heart and left.
Houses begin to drown like bubbles in a stream. As soon as I entered that town,
No wood can be found, nor logs for a fire, It felt as if heaven’s door had opened.18
There’s water all around, and grain is dear.
There’s so much water in the place, This town, the seat of power built up by Shuja al-Daula, was in the poet’s words full of
That it’s not a town but a water-pot instead. 15 “open bazaars and wide-open streets / like lines on a white piece of paper.” He rejoices in
the extended description of the Tripuliya quarter, as well as other bazaars, with jewels,
In later passages, however, Mir Hasan attempts for a time to soften the tone of his criti- cloth merchants, money changers (sarrafs), and metalworkers. Indeed, it is evident that
cism somewhat. He notes that at least a few generous patrons have settled in the town, the commercial prosperity of Faizabad impresses him no end, what with flowers, fruits,
even if most of them have their origins in Delhi. One of them was a certain Khwaja Basit. sugarcane, sweetmeats (phirni and faluda) as well as many other products including
kebabs of different varieties. There is also a vast number of occasions and locations for
But if there’s one place, it is Khwaja Basit’s,
sociability, whether in the coffee shops, or in establishments where female prostitutes
Quite in keeping with the Khwaja’s status.
(randiyan) as well as young boys (launde) from Kashmir and elsewhere preen themselves.
May God protect him and that abode,
For here it is the symbol of Delhi. Mir Hasan waxes eloquent in several passages regarding the dresses and ornaments worn
Bravo! See the tastes and desires of lovers, by the people, and especially the women, of Faizabad. These include flirtatious women
Songs in an assembly, and the recollections of friends. covered with perfume (itr) and sandal essence, whose dresses are often revealing of their
It is one of the exemplars of Hindustan, breasts. If Lucknow is chaos then, Faizabad for the poet is a commercial, culinary, and
It is a page from that wonderful album.16 erotic paradise.19

190 191 Alam and SubRahmanyam : Of PRinces and Poets

Lucknow also comes in for some rather harsh criticism in another of Mir Hasan’s And when you need to relieve yourself,
texts, the “Poem Denigrating His Mansion” (Masnawi hajw-i haweli, from 1775/76 [AH Close the door to the house where you dwell.

1189/90]).20 This is written in a far more humorous tone than the poem we have cited So that a guest arriving there by chance,
From the closed door divines at a glance,
above, and we shall cite the opening passages to give the reader a flavor of its contents.
And thinks: well, if the door is shut
Someone must be sitting on the pot.21
Ever since I took on a house here,
For a rent of two rupees a year,
Has anyone, since the world was created, Humiliated and constantly assailed by heat, dust, and the scourge of thousands of ants
seen such a house, so I’ve debated? who seem to swarm all around Lucknow, the poet’s life in the town is described in this
poem as a veritable purgatory. With one’s nostrils full of mud, what poetry can one write,
The people in it are always annoyed,
asks Mir Hasan rhetorically. The fate of the poet and writer in Asaf al-Daula’s Lucknow
It’s not a house but a mortal killjoy.
The house, I found, has a strange quality,
is thus seen as anything but joyous.
I entered it and got a feverish malady.
Fortunate that man, who from disgust
My cheek threw up a dreadful swelling, at the troubles of the world, gave up the ghost.
As if I’d been butted by that dwelling. And like the ants, disappeared in the sod,
As if instead of a kiss of affection, And took the earth to be his abode.
My face had been bitten at first inspection. If you laugh at it all, it might seem not so sad,
But if not, perhaps, there’s a lesson to be had.22
What shall I say of its courtyard all bare,
Just four cots can be spread out there.
A thatched roof about five planks wide, But the reality seems to have been far more complex than the dark picture painted by Mir
So thin the sun burns through all day long inside. Hasan in these verses, some simply gloomy and some bitingly humorous. For many poets
in both Persian and Urdu can be listed in Lucknow in these times, some Muslims such as
A veranda made of nine or ten spare beams,
Mir or Mir Hasan, and others Persianized Kayasthas and Khatris.23
While a thatched roof over it leans.
An old ladder just to clamber up and down, A decade or so after Mir Hasan’s salvos, we get a somewhat different view of Luck-
of rough bamboo, just lies around. now under Asaf al-Daula from the pen of a princely Mughal writer who also resided there
for a time. This was Mirza Ali Bakht “Azfari,” a direct descendant of the Great Mughals
Everyone is in peril day and night,
who had grown up in Delhi and remained there until about the age of thirty, as a sort of
A slip, and it’s your death from a height.
And if your skirt gets caught up in that bamboo,
elite prisoner.24 Eventually, Azfari—like many of his cousins who were in a similar
Its notches tear your clothes quite in two. situation—managed to escape by profiting from a breach in the city walls, and made his
way to a variety of courts in Rajasthan where he pleaded with their rulers to support
Know the truth, it’s plain enough to state,
him in a bid for the throne. In this endeavor, he met with very limited success and was
It’s all crooked here, and nothing’s straight.
eventually tempted by the prospect of migrating to the Asaf Jahi court in the Deccan.
The chief quality of that yard can be found,
In the fact that it goes up and down. When this proved too difficult, Azfari decided to try his luck with Asaf al-Daula in
Lucknow.25 Making his way to the Rohila principality of Rampur, he wrote letters from
At every breath, your foot may be twisted,
there to the Nawab-Wazir (that is, Asaf al-Daula), his deputy, and a certain notable called
So you walk as if only tiptoes existed.
Maharaja Jhao Lal explaining his situation to them and received positive responses with
There’s no kitchen, or even a privy space,
As if there were no such habit in this place. promises of good treatment. The Mughal prince proceeded cautiously however and only
left Rampur after a few months. On his arrival in Lucknow in the early 1790s, Maharaja
In midcourtyard is a plain raised square,
Jhao Lal greeted him and had him stay at Gau Ghat. Like Mir Hasan, Azfari was
With the sludge from it spreading everywhere.
initially far from impressed; the lanes, bylanes, bazaars, land, and buildings of Lucknow
As a curtain, two dusty wooden shutters,
That will soil the hands of the man who enters.
were in his view all still in rather poor shape. The streets were narrow, he complained,
The courtyard’s slope is made so cunning and the ground was all up and down so that the town compared in his eyes unfavorably to
It’s into the house the water’s always running. Jaipur, which he had already visited. Conversely, Asaf al-Daula had built matchless
That helpless water: where can it go? buildings there, but it seemed that the town’s very foundations and temperament (uftad-i
It too must return to its own abode.

192 193 Alam and SubRahmanyam : Of PRinces and Poets

an balda) were somehow asymmetrical (na-mauzun). Still, he noted, it was now well he wished to do well in the all-too-polite high society of Asaf al-Daula’s court. Azfari thus
populated and many accomplished people from the different arts were living there. Azfari notes that he was initially not given to such courtly habits, but little by little picked up
then adds sarcastically that the people here were so perfect, that one needed God’s these manners over the years in Lucknow. He was thus able to show off his extensive
protection from them. 26
erudition not merely in Persian, but in Arabic and Turkish, and grew so influential that
Eventually, it appears that Azfari warmed somewhat to the place, its people, and he arranged a number of important marriages amongst the Mughal elite in Lucknow.
especially to the court of Asaf al-Daula. After a year in Lucknow, he thus seems to have It would appear however that the treatment received by Azfari in Lucknow was better
decided that he would settle there in a more permanent way, and hence sent for his own than that meted out to the run-of-the-mill Mughal prince, even if Asaf al-Daula generally
family from Delhi. He writes in his memoir, the Waqiat-i Azfari, that Asaf al-Daula, his remained mindful of the proprieties and did not overly abuse etiquette. Other Timurid
deputy (naib) Sarfaraz al-Daula, and others were so diligent in their service to him that princes who were present in Lucknow at the time included Mirza Sulaiman Shikoh, Mirza
he eventually remained in the town for all of seven years and two months. His social Ilahi Bakhsh, and Mirza Husain Bakhsh. At the same time, the nawab was also himself
interactions with these aristocrats are described as excellent. As an instance of the sensitive to slights, both real and perceived. Azfari reports for example that one of his
culture and refinement of the court, Azfari notes that he used to engage in archery cousins, Mirza Jawan Bakht Jahandar Shah, had earlier fled Delhi for Lucknow and had
(tir-andazi) but that Asaf al-Daula was such a great archer that Azfari and his cousin developed a close friendship for a time with Asaf al-Daula to the extent that the latter had
Mirza Jalal al-Din became his disciples. We learn from the Waqiat that over the years a set aside 50,000 rupees for his household expenses. However, after a few years, the Mirza
number of other Mughal princes from Delhi had taken refuge in Lucknow. However, over left for Delhi without the consent of the nawab to bring his relatives from there, and this
the years Asaf al-Daula had ceased to pay too much attention to some of them (especially offended Asaf al-Daula. Eventually, when the prince came back to Lucknow, the nawab
the minor princes), a fact that stuck somewhat in Azfari’s craw. It so happened that not used an occasion for the exchange of witticisms to humiliate Jawan Bakht to the point
long after his arrival, in the season of the Holi festival, the nawab called him to witness that the latter left for Benares (Varanasi), never to return. On the other hand, whenever
the music and dance (raqs-o surud) at the court. On this occasion, Azfari stated that it Asaf al-Daula was visited by Azfari he always made it a point to stand and to seat the
did not behoove the nawab’s quality and justice to treat his cousins as he did, since they Mughal prince next to him, even on one occasion when the nawab was suffering as a
were also after all of Timurid descent. To make his point, he then extemporized a verse. result of a fall from a horse. Asaf al-Daula’s cautiousness with regard to the use of the
symbols of royalty is emphasized by Azfari in the following anecdote.
When Timur’s family came to seek your shelter,
Your glory lay in making them rich and contented. I lived in Lucknow for seven years and saw the procession of the Nawab a thousand times. He never
But what have their cousins done to deserve humiliation (zalil-o khwar)? allowed a fly-whisk (morchal) to be used above his head. I heard that one day that he said to the princes
For it is far from justice that two breezes blow through the same roof. 27 who had come from Delhi, “I feel embarrassed that I used a fly-whisk in the presence of such high-statured
people such as yourself.” He therefore stopped using it. However, in the procession, over the amaris and
He reports that on hearing this Asaf al-Daula smiled and said regretfully he had been too haudas [types of seats] of around twenty elephants, the morchals would also be in accompaniment, but the
busy with his own household and their sustenance (maash). However, from then on he elephant upon which he rode did not itself have a morchal. He commanded that an ordinary handkerchief
would pay greater attention to the Mughal princes, paying them a proper stipend each (rumal) be used to swat flies for him. Several times I have been to his palace and also visited the house of

month. Azfari counts his intervention in favor of his cousins something of a success, for Hasan Raza Khan with him, but he never sat on a throne (masnad) in front of me and he did not use a
morchal to whisk away the flies, although he did use a large fan (badkash).28
this assurance continued to be upheld for quite some time; it was only when Nawab Saadat
Ali Khan came to power that he had took back the grants (wazifa or maash) from them.
The degree of courtesy shown to Azfari by Asaf al-Daula was also not necessarily
Azfari’s time in Lucknow also brought him into contact with other Mughal grandees
reflected in the attitude of all those in his court. The Mughal prince reflects for example
such as Nawab Madar al-Daula, who, though he was only loosely a member of the Timurid
on an episode that took place at the time of the Holi festival, when a certain Sharaf Ali
clan, still commanded great respect. Indeed, he reports, Asaf al-Daula respected him so
Khan, a courtier and cousin of Sarfaraz al-Daula, rather rudely threw a ball full of water
much that—despite certain persisting tensions between the two—he would stand up from
on his back. The faux pas offended the nawab considerably, and Azfari himself had to
his throne when he entered, and would seat him at his side. Madar al-Daula apparently
intervene in order to defuse the situation, reminding the nawab that “etiquette and regard
still was in possession of a great estate with horses, camels, and elephants and had a large
and respect for elders are all set aside in playing Holi.” Over the years he spent in Luck-
family with many wives. His dealings with Azfari were courteous, but he also insisted
now, Azfari thus seems to have experienced both unease and an occasion to develop his
that it was the latter who had a higher status since he was a direct descendant of the
own not inconsiderable self-esteem. He also grew to appreciate that court culture in
emperor Jahandar Shah on his mother’s side while Madar al-Daula himself was not (man
Lucknow had its own rhythms and values, and in some instances was less attuned to
az nasl-i Timuriyya nistam). It was through Madar al-Daula, it seems, that Azfari even-
West and Central Asia than that of Delhi. The following anecdote which he recounts is
tually came to understand that he would need to modify his somewhat abrupt manners if
illustrative of this.

194 195 Alam and SubRahmanyam : Of PRinces and Poets

In a private meeting, in my presence, one Shah Husain who was fresh from abroad (wilayat), was a good 1. See Violette Graff, ed., Lucknow: Memories of a City (Delhi: Oxford
University Press, 1997), 16 – 48.
reciter, and also sang several maqams well from the music of wilayat, came to the court. Shah Husain was
2. Abdul Halim Sharar, Hindustan mem mashriqi tamaddun ka akhiri namuna
considered to be peerless as nobody like him had come to Lucknow before. He came to the court and started ya‘ni Guzashta Lakhnau, ed. Rashid Hasan Khan (New Delhi: Maktaba
reciting the book, Dih Majlis. One of the courtiers in a tone of appreciation addressed the Nawab: “Do Jamia, 1971); the English translation is Abdul Halim Sharar, Lucknow: The
Last Phase of an Oriental Culture, trans. E. S. Harcourt and Fakhir Husain
listen to the beautiful and attractive voice in which the Shah is reciting. He is an expert of the art. There (1977; Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989).
is no match for him perhaps even in wilayat. It is so good that such a distinguished person visited your 3. Muzaffar Alam, “The Awadh Regime, the Mughals and the Countryside,” in
Graff, Lucknow: Memories of a City, 16 – 31.
court in your period and because of you, even we can enjoy this beautiful voice.” The Nawab replied,
4. Francis Robinson, The ‘Ulama of Farangi Mahall and Islamic Culture in
“Perhaps you say this on account of your knowledge. This banda (meaning, himself) is totally illiterate in South Asia (London: C. Hurst, 2001).
this art.” Evidently, the Nawab was weary of the recitation. The point of this response was that he did not 5. On Shiism in the region, see the important analysis in J. R. I. Cole, Roots of
North Indian Shi‘ism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh,
approve of the recommendation even if it had come from his own mother. When this harsh remark of the 1722–1859 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988).
Nawab reached Shah Husain, he became uncomfortable, and later he told me, “Now, even if I am chained, 6. For the standard account, see Richard B. Barnett, North India Between
I will not stay in Hindustan,” and he did precisely that. In actuality, in the practice of his own wilayat, he Empires: Awadh, the Mughals, and the British, 1720–1801 (Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1980).
was fully accomplished. When he arrived here, he did not listen carefully to the songs of Hindustan and 7. Sharar, Hindustan mem mashriqi, 44 – 45; Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase
he gave preference to the songs of wilayat over those of Hindustan. When he heard Indian songs, however, of an Oriental Culture, 31.

he liked them very much and accepted that the real music is what the people of India sing.29 8. C. M. Naim, Zikr-i Mir: The Autobiography of the Eighteenth-Century Mughal
Poet: Mir Muhammad Taqi “Mir” (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999),

All this however was not enough, in the final analysis, to keep Azfari in Lucknow. After 9. On Mir Hasan, see Ralph Russell and Khurshidul Islam, Three Mughal
Poets: Mir, Sauda, Mir Hasan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968).
spending the greater part of the 1790s in Asaf al-Daula’s court, Azfari decided eventually 10. For this text, see Mir Hasan, Masnawiyat-i Hasan, ed. Wahid Qureshi
to seek his fortune elsewhere. He therefore departed for Benares and Calcutta (Kolkata), (Lahore: Majlis-i Taraqqi-i Adab, 1966), 175 –212.
11. “Masnawi gulzar-i eram,” in Mir Hasan, Masnawiyat-i Hasan, 177.
and eventually made his way after considerable travails to Madras (Chennai) and Arcot, 12. On Shah Madar and Makanpur, see Anna Suvorova, Muslim Saints of South
where he settled under the Walajah nawabs. However, his family connections with Luck- Asia: The Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries, trans. M. Osama Faruqi (London:
Routledge-Curzon, 2004), 171–77.
now remained intact even after his departure in 1796. 13. “Masnawi gulzar-i eram,” in Mir Hasan, Masnawiyat-i Hasan, 186.
14. Ibid., 186 – 87.
In the meanwhile all my brothers and cousins arrived in the Lucknow of Nawab Asaf al-Daula and are 15. Ibid., 189.
16. Ibid., 190.
safe there. The Nawab has treated them generously. They are all living in peace. My real brother is enjoy-
17. Ibid., 191.
ing appropriate hospitality even from the deputy wazir and is honoured and safe there. He has two sons
18. Ibid.
and two daughters, the elder son being named Mirza Ilahi Bakhsh and the younger Mirza Izad Bakhsh, 19. Mir Hasan’s presentation of the “public sphere” is briefly discussed by
may God bestow upon them knowledge, wisdom and honor and may they enjoy a long natural life. 31 Farhat Hasan, “Forms of Civility and Publicness in Pre-British India,” in
Civil Society, Public Sphere and Citizenship: Dialogues and Perceptions, ed.
Rajeev Bhargava and Helmut Reifeld (New Delhi: Sage, 2005), 84 –105.
The received wisdom on Lucknow tends to highlight two moments. One is the early 20. “Masnawi hajw-i haweli,” AH 1189/90, in Mir Hasan, Masnawiyat-i Hasan,
153 – 69.
phase under Asaf al-Daula, usually associated with the activities of European savants
21. “Masnawi hajw-i haweli,” in Mir Hasan, Masnawiyat-i Hasan, 153 – 55.
and collectors, men such as Claude Martin and Antoine-Louis Polier. This moment is 22. “Masnawi hajw-i haweli,” in Mir Hasan, Masnawiyat-i Hasan, 169.
usually thought of as embodying a particular style of cosmopolitanism, when East and 23. Zohra Farooqui, Awadh ke farsi-guh shu‘ara (1134–1273 Hijri/1721–1856)
(Delhi: Maktaba Isha’at al-Qur’an, 2003); on Urdu poets, see for example
West came together. A second moment is that of the end of the nawabi regime in the Abu’l-Lais Siddiqi, Lakhnau ka dabistan-i sha‘iri (Delhi: Maktaba-yi
‘ilm-o-fan, 1965).
1850s, captured in fiction by Munshi Premchand in a celebrated story and then commit-
24. On Azfari, see Muzaffar Alam and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Envisioning
ted to the screen by Satyajit Ray as The Chess Players (Shatranj ke khiladi). Here we see Power: The Political Thought of a Late Eighteenth-Century Mughal Prince,”
Indian Economic and Social History Review, 43:2 (2006): 131– 61.
a Lucknow that has become effete and depleted of creative energy, an overripe fruit
25. Mirza Ali Bakht Azfari, Waqi‘at-i Azfari, eds. T. Chandrasekharan and Syed
waiting to be plucked by the greedy hand of the colonial power. In this brief essay, we have Hamza Hussain Omari (Madras: Government Oriental Manuscripts Library,
1957), 95 –119. For an Urdu translation, see Waqi‘at-i-Azfari, trans.
attempted to add some further voices and perceptions to those that are normally encoun- Muhammad Husain Mahvi Siddiqi (Madras: University of Madras, 1937).
tered in the historiography. In so doing, we hope to have contributed—in however modest 26. Ibid. (Persian text), 96.
27. Ibid. (Persian text), 97.
a way—to an understanding of the significance of the rise of Lucknow in a context that
28. Ibid. (Persian text), 107.
included its two great rival cities: Delhi-Shahjahanabad and Faizabad. 29. Ibid. (Persian text), 104 – 5.
30. S. Muhammad Husayn Nainar, trans., Sources of the History of the Nawwabs
We are grateful to C. M. Naim for his helpful suggestions and indications while
of the Carnatic: Sawanihat-i-mumtaz by Muhammad Karim, 2 vols. (Madras:
University of Madras, 1940 – 44), 2:48 – 49.
we were planning this essay. We hope elsewhere to extend the analysis of Mir Hasan and Azfari
31. Azfari, Waqi‘at-i Azfari (Persian text), 118.
presented here in a relatively brief form.

196 197 Alam and SubRahmanyam : Of PRinces and Poets

St e ph en M ar k e l

“This Blaze of Wealth and Magnificence”:

The Luxury Arts of Lucknow

“This blaze of wealth and magnificence . . .” 1 In expressing these words of awe in 1798, the Reverend William
Tennent aptly characterized the ostentatious grandeur of the Awadh court and Lucknow cityscape. By its zenith
in the mid-nineteenth century, Lucknow was not only the wealthiest and largest city in all of India, but it has been
estimated that two-thirds of its population were artisans.2 While much of Lucknow’s imposing palatial architec-
ture perished in the tragic destruction of 1858, significant numbers of its sumptuous decorative art objects survive
as immutable testaments to the masterful accomplishments of Lucknow’s generally anonymous artisans 3 and to
the life of luxury they enabled the city’s elite to enjoy. The best known of these artistic splendors is Lucknow’s
famed silver and gilt silver metalware embellished with brilliant blue and green champlevé and basse-taille enamel-
ing (91), but sophisticated metalware made in other techniques and media was also produced, as well as adorned
glassware, delicate jewelry, and ornate weaponry.4 This essay discusses the development of Lucknow’s decorative
arts to demonstrate how the choice of motif and medium was used to achieve a unified aesthetic vision heralding
the self-fashioned identity of Lucknow’s ruling nawabs, leading resident Europeans, and wealthy landowners
(taluqdars) in the post-nawabi era following the annexation of Lucknow by the English East India Company in
1856 and subsequent exile of King Wajid Ali Shah. Just as a codified floral imagery was developed to identify and
proclaim the dynastic origin of a wide range of artworks created for the celebrated Mughal emperors and members
of the nobility in the seventeenth century, a distinctive style of floral decoration that evolved in Lucknow was
extensively employed for similar conceptual purposes. Whereas the Mughals preferred a single flowering plant

198 199 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

(often the ubiquitous poppy, but several other genera as well as hybrid and fantastic during the rules of Safdar Jang and his son Shuja
creations) or series of floral sprays formally arranged against a plain background, the al-Daula, both of whom rose in rank to the exalted post of
luxuriant floral motifs favored in Lucknow during the latter eighteenth and early nine- prime minister (wazir) of the Mughal Empire. Moreover,
teenth centuries are generally less staid and more exuberant. The vibrant, flowing floral in 1752 Safdar Jang assumed the authority to appoint the
imagery of Lucknow transmuted the orchestrated severity of Mughal flowering plants supervisors of the imperial workshops,6 which may have
to produce a vitality of form and spirit far removed from the somber products of the facilitated his contact with artists. In addition, the
Mughal ateliers. aesthetic traditions of the Deccan were another fertile
During the rule of the first two nawabs, Saadat Khan Burhan al-Mulk and Safdar source of artistic influence. Not only are certain Lucknow
Jang in the second quarter of the eighteenth century, the early decorative arts of Luck- paintings known to be based on Deccani antecedents,7 but
now drew creative inspiration from the works of Delhi and other important centers of there is also a close stylistic and technical relationship
artistic production. Two works in different media, but both attributed to the first half of between the enameling of Hyderabad in the Deccan and
the eighteenth century, are rare examples from this formative period. An enameled silver that of Lucknow.8
betel box (pandan) (87) and an enameled glass huqqa base (98) 5 are similarly emblazoned There is literary evidence for significant quantities of
with a riot of open blossoms (poppy and lotus, respectively) atop thin vertical stems ornate decorative art objects, and enameled metalware in
flanked by green leaves. Whereas the denseness of the Mughal-inspired flowering plants particular, in use early in the nawabi period. In late 1745,
bespeaks a post-seventeenth-century date, the verticality and repetition of the motifs for the extremely costly and elaborate wedding celebration
belie their placement within the distinctive corpus of Lucknow’s mature floral decoration of his son Mirza Jalal al-Din Haidar, who would rule as
that bloomed in the late eighteenth century. The close stylistic relationship of Lucknow’s Shuja al-Daula, Safdar Jang provided lavish gifts to the
early floral imagery to Mughal artistic traditions is to be expected given the many years bride’s family that included “large numbers of vessels,
of high-level service at the Mughal court by the early nawabs of Lucknow and their such as cups, dishes and crockery of various shapes and
adoption of Mughal royal symbolism and patronage patterns. This is particularly true workmanship. Conspicuous among these were more than a
thousand silver vessels enamelled with gold.” 9 90. Water Pipe Base, late 18th or early 19th century

Under Shuja al-Daula and his wife, the Bahu

Begam,10 and even more so under his son and successor
Asaf al-Daula, Faizabad and then Lucknow were con- style of lush floral imagery and select motifs. Individual
sciously and increasingly promoted as centers of artistic flowering plants in the Mughal style occasionally still
patronage in order to lure the leading cultural luminaries appear, often demarcated by elegant cartouches, but their
and intelligentsia of Delhi and beyond: botanical structures and the overall decorative programs
of Awadh objects are much busier in composition than on
Various classes of people from different places, especially from Mughal precursors (90). In the mature Lucknow style
Delhi, began pouring into this area [Faizabad]. Architects, engi-
of decorative art that developed during the rule of Asaf
neers, physicians, artisans, artists and poets flocked to the city
al-Daula, the predominant ornamentation consists of
to diminish the glories of Delhi and to enhance the richness of
stylized irises, lilies, poppies, roses, rosettes, and other
Faizabad. The very seat of Muslim culture and civilization at Delhi
was thus eclipsed by the emergence and rise of a new centre of blossoms both real and imaginary, all bursting into bloom
culture at Faizabad. 11 on scrolling vines (95, pp. 202–3; 96, p. 202). Similar
foliated creepers are also found as border decoration of
Asaf al-Daula patronized a new generation of artistic performers
contemporaneous Indian paintings commissioned by a
and courtiers who took established forms further and created a new
Lucknow school of cultured expression. Not content only to match preeminent European patron of the arts residing in
the faded glories of other capitals, Asaf al-Daula sought to surpass Faizabad and Lucknow, Colonel Antoine-Louis Polier
them all. . . .12 (119, p. 203).13 Variants of the mature style feature flower-
Left: 87. Betel Box, early 18th century ing branches with perching birds rising from meandering
Right: 98. Water Pipe Base, c. 1700 – 50
The newly envisioned culture of Lucknow was mani- ground lines (99, p. 203) or a rich organic pattern of
fested in the decorative arts primarily through the crea- flora and fauna spreading over the surface of an object
Page 198: 91. Water Pipe Base, late 18th–early
19th century tion and “branding” of myriad works with a distinctive (86, p. 204).

200 201 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

Right: 96. Chape fRom a SwoRd
ScabbaRd, c. 1780; detail

bottom: 95. TUREEN with cover ,

c. 1775; two details

Top Left: 127. Detail of floral border

on Shah Jahan, c. 1780

Top Right: 99. Water Pipe Base,

c. 1780; detail to left

202 203 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

86. Betel Box in the FoRm of an Ogival Dome,
c. 1780; tray of betel box

The verdant vistas of vegetation are sometimes

interspersed with architectural vignettes (93), which
perhaps reflect related compositions found in chinoiserie
designs widely popular in Europe and England during the
eighteenth century.14 Given the cosmopolitan artistic
interests of Asaf al-Daula, an international cadre of
artists, and an abundance of imported works of art
present in Lucknow, it is likely that the distinctive styles
of decorative floral imagery that arose in Awadh during
this period drew from a variety of sources. This creative
process of hybridity and synthesis was paralleled through-
out the humanities in Lucknow. 93. SwoRd and ScabbaRd, 18th century; details of scabbard

204 205 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

An important submotif of Lucknow’s floral/vegetal imagery is the split acanthus leaf.
Acanthus leaves were used as decorative motifs in western art as early as the seventh
century BCE on Corinthian capitals. They have a long history of being assimilated into
South Asian artistic traditions, as they appear in the Buddhist art of ancient Gandhara
(present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan) in the first few centuries of the Common Era,
and then again during the Mughal period. The Mughals used both the full acanthus leaf
and the split (or half) acanthus leaf in their repertoire of design elements.15 In Mughal
decorative art a full acanthus leaf often appeared as either a flush or a bas-relief motif or
to provide a three-dimensional form for a projecting handle, whereas the split acanthus
leaf was typically used to form a curvilinear border or edge design. In contrast, in Luck-
now’s decorative arts the split acanthus leaf was frequently used in a distinctive manner
as an elegant framing device in which a series of split acanthus leaves linked end-to-end
to form an ornamental cartouche or as an undulating vine festooned with split acanthus
leaves, both designed to highlight a floral or, occasionally, an animal motif (89, 94; 93,
p. 205). In addition to the split acanthus leaf motif, the acanthus bract (a modified leaf
growing on a stalk) is also often found adorning Lucknow’s decorative arts (88, p. 212).16

Top Left: 94. KATAr SHEATH, late 18th century

Top Right: 97. SwoRd BELT FITTING, 1750–1800

Left: 89. Basin, late 18th or early 19th century;

detail opposite

206 207 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

Top: 92. Two Pieces fRom a Water Pipe,
late 18th or early 19th century

Bottom: 100. Water Pipe Base, c. 1725 –75

Opposite: 83. Water Pipe, late 18th or

early 19th century

208 209 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

Top: 177. Rosewater Casket, late
18th century

bottom: 161. Betel Set belonging

to edward clive, late 18th or early
19th century

Top: 178. Shield pResented to EdwaRd VII when

PRince of Wales by the MahaRaja of Kashmir duRing
the winter of 1875–76, early 19th century

Bottom: 43. CeRemonial Mace of Wajid Ali Shah,

1848 – 56

210 211 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

it.25 According to Sleeman, the symbolism of the fish and
globes was originally ordained by Khosrau II:

When he ascended the throne the moon was in the constellation of

the Fish, and he gave orders to have two balls made of polished steel,
which were to be called Kaukabas (planets), and mounted on long
poles. These two planets, with large fish made of gold, upon a third
pole in the centre, were ordered to be carried in all regal processions
immediately after the king, and before the prime minister.26

The distinctive Lucknow emblem of paired fish was

used specifically to proclaim the Lucknow royal image
and serve as the leitmotif of the Lucknow nawabs. Given
the fish emblem’s ubiquity in the arts of Lucknow, one
might expect that its impetus and perhaps even a for-
mally decreed rationale leading to its inauguration would
have been recorded for posterity. Regrettably, the circum-
stances of its adoption are shrouded by the veils of
history. An examination is therefore warranted into
factors possibly contributing to the selection of this
88. TRay and Matching Box with Four Scent Vials, important motif as the symbol of the Lucknow rulers. In
late 18th century; a single vial
Abdul Halim Sharar’s classic homage, Lucknow: The Last
Phase of an Oriental Culture,27 the author postulates two
pre-nawabi era possibilities for the origin and promotion
Another important motif, or more properly, decorative pattern, appearing in the
of the fish emblem in Lucknow. Both concern Shaikh
luxury arts of Lucknow features enameled green lotus leaves, either fan-shaped or
192. Woman’s Head ORnament, c. 1800 – 50 Abdur Rahim, who was appointed governor (subedar) of
pendant on a thin stalk, set dramatically against a gold background (88).17 The green
Awadh province by Akbar in 1580. Shaikh Abdur Rahim
lotus leaves are sometimes graced with small adjacent blue-and-white blossoms (other
was from the family of hereditary but impoverished rulers
minor variations in detail exist), and the lotus leaves are at other times replaced by small
of Awadh, the shaikhzadas. After his appointment, he is
flowering plants with red petals and green leaves, but the motif is characteristically Asia, including the Delhi sultans, the Islamic sovereigns
commonly believed to have built a fort known as the
represented in a regularly spaced diamond grid pattern on a gold ground. This distinc- in the Deccan, and the Mughal emperors. During the
Macchi Bhawan (Palace of the Fishes) on a hill near the
tive motif is found on both extant decorative objects and on their representations in reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556 –1607)
bank of the Gomti River in Lucknow. Sharar thus specu-
painting.18 Its importance in an art-historical context is that its presence corroborates a the mahi-ye maratib was judiciously granted, but from
lates that:
Lucknow attribution to the decorative object or painting on which it appears. Bahadur Shah (r. 1707–12) onward its bestowal was
The decorative motif par excellence used throughout all the arts of Lucknow is a pair reportedly less discriminating.21 Nonetheless, it remained
Either because Shaikh Abdur Rahim had been awarded the title of
of fish, generally arranged head-to-head with their curved bodies forming a circle (192). a prestigious distinction and was accorded only to the
Mahi Maratib at the Imperial Court or because on the twenty-six
The prevailing assumption by scholars is that the fish emblem represents an idiosyncratic Mughals’ highest-ranking military commanders.22 As was arches on one portion of the fort the architect had engraved two
Lucknow artistic rendition of the Mughal insignia of exalted rank known as the mahi-ye the case with Mughal hereditary titles, the direct descen- fishes on each arch [in the spandrels], making a total of fifty-two
maratib (Fish of Dignity).19 The fish insignia has a long heritage in pre-Islamic and dants of the mahi-ye maratib awardees seem to have been fishes, this fort became known as Machi Bhavan. The word bhavan,
Islamic cultures of the Middle East and South Asia. Sir William Henry Sleeman, who eligible to inherit its honorific status. 23
as well as meaning ‘fort’, could be a corruption of the word bavan,
served in the British army in India and Nepal from 1809 to 1856 and as Resident in The mahi-ye maratib was represented in physical meaning ‘fifty-two’.28
Lucknow from 1849 to 1856, relates the belief apparently current during his time in India form as a golden or gilt fish (or elongated fish head) and
that the mahi-ye maratib was thought to have been first instituted by Khusru Parviz two gilt or steel globes,24 all borne on individual standards Whether there was confusion between the two similar
(now known as Khosrau II) at the time of his accession as king of Persia in 590. Subse-
displayed at royal functions and carried in royal proces- words cannot be resolved by historical inquiry. Conse-
quently, it was to be awarded in recognition of valorous service by Muslim rulers in South sions and in the retinue of nobles who had been awarded quently, this supposition should best be relegated to the

212 213 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

realm of popular lore. Regardless, literary evidence discounts the likelihood of Shaikh name of the Macchi Bhawan. According to this legend,
Abdur Rahim being a recipient of the mahi-ye maratib. Akbar’s official court chronicler, after Saadat Khan had been appointed governor of
Abul Fazl, states that Shaikh Abdur Rahim’s rank was merely “commander of 700 Awadh by Muhammad Shah but before he had conquered
[men],” which is far short of the required rank of 6,000 men. Moreover, besides his low
the ruling shaikhzadas and assumed control of the
rank, Shaikh Abdur Rahim had been “rebuked and excluded from Court” by Akbar for province, he left Farrukhabad with his troops bound
drinking alcohol, so it is unlikely that he was able to incur sufficient imperial favor to for Lucknow and crossed the Ganges River during the
receive the prestigious award. Finally, even Sharar’s account of Shaikh Abdur Rahim’s
rainy season:
biography and his reputed patronage of the Macchi Bhawan have been questioned by
recent scholars.31 It is said that when his boat reached the middle of the river, a
The controversy over the identity of the Macchi Bhawan’s original patron notwith- fish leaped into the Nawab’s lap. Considering it to be a good omen,
standing, a causal relationship between the fish appearing on the Machhi Bhawan and he treasured the fish carefully, its skeleton remaining with his

the later adoption of the fish emblem by the nawabs of Lucknow must be regarded as descendants till the fall of his dynasty.35

tentative at best. Of far more direct relevance (recognized for the first time herein) was
Muhammad Shah’s conferring of the mahi-ye maratib to Saadat Khan in 1720: “on the Although this may be a mere fish story, it does provide
20th November (20th Muharram, 1133-H.), Saadat Khan was honoured with the title of anecdotal support for the strong symbolic linking of fish
Bahadur Jang (brave in battle) and was granted the Mahi and Maratib.” Saadat Khan
to the early history of Lucknow and the creation of its
had risen rapidly in military service under Emperor Muhammad Shah (r. 1719 – 48). He royal imagery. The honor of the mahi-ye maratib contin-
had received promotions in honor of his resounding success in several important battles, ued to be conferred in Lucknow following the rule of
and was elevated to the rank of commander of 6,000 men and appointed governor of Saadat Khan.36 But it was during the later reigns of the
Akbarabad (Agra) province in October 1720.33 The following month he was awarded the kings of Lucknow, beginning with Ghazi al-Din Haidar in
mahi-ye maratib for his role in suppressing a rebellious insurrection, and in September the first quarter of the nineteenth century, that the fish
1722 he was appointed governor of Awadh. 34
emblem achieved its most profound significance in the
Another possible contributing factor in the adoption of the fish emblem by the Luck- city’s arts. When the Lucknow court artist Robert Home
now nawabs is the tale of a fish omen that appeared to Saadat Khan. It is preserved in (1752 –1834) designed the royal regalia for Ghazi al-Din
popular lore, as is the idea already mentioned of suggestive wordplay inherent in the Haidar’s coronation in 1819, the fish emblem had become
so ingrained as a symbol of Lucknow’s nawabi dynasty
that Home chose it as the primary element for the new
king’s coat of arms, in which a pair of curved fish are
innovatively combined with another idiosyncratic Indian
visual form, a punch dagger (katar) (fig. 31). Ghazi al-Din
Haidar’s coat of arms was proudly displayed as
his royal emblem and incorporated as a decorative motif
in works of art made during his rule, such as an elegant
throne chair probably designed by Home and given by
Ghazi al-Din Haidar to Lord Amherst, India’s governor-
general (1823 –28), during his visit to Lucknow in 1827
(fig. 32).
While the presumed plethora of palatial objects
embellished with Ghazi al-Din Haidar’s coat of arms has
not survived, the primary extant sources of documenta-
tion for the use of the royal insignia are the coronation
Top: 38. Medal of Ghazi al-Din Haidar , 1819
medals and coinage issued by the new king (38).37 The
Fig. 31. Robert Home, PRoposal for Coat of ARms; India, Bottom: Fig. 32. ThRone Chair ; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1820; wood, coat of arms on Ghazi al-Din Haidar’s coinage displays a
Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1819; drawing on paper, 10 1⁄ 8 x 18 1⁄ 8 in. gilt, with gilt brass and gilt gesso mounts; upholstered seat, back, and arms, 35 x 24 x
(25.7 x 45.9 cm); Victoria and Albert Museum, E. 1524 –1943 24 in. (89 x 61 x 61 cm); Victoria and Albert Museum, IS 6 -1991 variation of Home’s original design. Instead of depicting

214 215 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

the pair of fish encircling the punch dagger, the dagger
surmounts the fish and is itself topped by Ghazi al-Din
Haidar’s pointed crown. The ensemble is flanked by a pair
of English-inspired heraldic lions. Coinage issued by
the subsequent kings of Lucknow all employed variant
heraldic forms of the fish emblem.38 In the mid-nine-
teenth-century coat of arms of Wajid Ali Shah, the fish
are transformed into honorific mermaids bearing flag
standards. The mermaids flank a pair of swords and a
shield or two shields in place of the earlier punch dagger.
The crowning elements of the coat of arms are a royal
parasol surmounting a crown of the lobed form in vogue
during Wajid Ali Shah’s rule. This distinctive coat of
arms was used extensively to decorate Wajid Ali Shah’s
palatial arts and architecture, such as a grand silver
presentation cup (44) and the gateways of the Qaisar
Bagh palace.39 Iconographic variations of Wajid Ali
Shah’s coat of arms, or perhaps decorative motifs inspired
by his coat of arms, sometimes also appear on what may
be nonofficial or later works, such as on a delicate chikan
textile (102).
Even after nawabi rule ended with the annexation
of Awadh in 1856, the fish emblem continued to enjoy
frequent expression in the arts of Lucknow patronized by
the wealthy landowners and made for western visitors.40
This is particularly true in the case of metalware. The
Above: 102. Shawl with Chikan WoRk (detail), early 19th
traditional fish emblem is often used as the primary century
design in a specifically Lucknow style of bidri-ware (made
Left: 44. PResentation Cup with Coat of ARms of
of a zinc, copper, and lead tin alloy) adorned with distinc- Wajid Ali Shah, 1848 – 56

tive raised (zarbuland) ornamentation (180, p. 219; 181,

p. 218). 41
In the plentiful “Anglo-Indian” style silver vessels
made in Lucknow during the later nineteenth century,
fish function in various compositions as a decorative motif
imbued with a generic symbolic association with Lucknow
rather than as a dynastic emblem (183, p. 219).42
A hitherto little-examined aspect of the decorative
arts of Awadh is its lapidary arts. In the sixteenth
through mid-nineteenth centuries, a sophisticated tradi-
tion of gemstone and hardstone carving (technically
“abrading”)43 and an extensive market network for raw
stones and the finished products flourished in South Asia,
particularly in the Mughal realm and the Deccan.44 The
nawabs, nobles, and elite foreign residents of Lucknow
and Faizabad were among the primary consumers of such

216 217 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

Top: 183. Bowl with Fish Designs,
c. 1880 –1900

Bottom: 180. Plate with

181. Wine Decanter , c. 1880 Emblematic PaiRs of Fish, c. 1880

218 219 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

luxury goods.45 An elegant emerald seal inscribed with the name and titles of Colonel
Antoine-Louis Polier and the date 1774 /75 (AH 1188) exemplifies the high quality of
Awadh’s lapidary arts (160).46 The emerald seal can be directly associated with Awadh not
only on the basis of its well-known patron, but Polier is additionally known to have
engaged a lapidarist renowned for engraving seals and inscriptions on rubies and other
gemstones; named Muhammad Salah Khan, he lived in Faizabad and also traveled with
Shuja al-Daula’s court entourage.47 The continuity of fine seal engraving being produced
for Lucknow patrons through at least the mid-nineteenth century is evidenced by an
exquisitely inscribed agate accession seal of Wajid Ali Shah dated 1846/47 (AH 1263) that
recently appeared on the London art market.48
Even though the presence in Lucknow of works of art made of nephrite jade and
other hardstones is attested by historical records,49 few documented examples survive.
The finest and most important such work is an exceptional sword hilt made of white jade
inlaid with rubies and emeralds in distinctive gold settings (112). The sword blade is
inscribed in gold as being presented to Claude Martin by Asaf al-Daula in 1786/87 (AH
1201).50 Despite the problematic potential for mixing and matching the hilts and blades of
South Asian swords and daggers, which begs the question of whether the Claude Martin–
inscribed sword blade and its current jade hilt should be assigned the same attribution,
their contemporaneity can be corroborated by stylistic analysis. On both the blade and
the hilt, the split acanthus leaf is used as a design element in the mode typical of Luck-
now decorative art as previously discussed, and the acanthus bract is also used on the hilt
in the Lucknow fashion. This renders any significant disparity in temporal or geographic
origin highly unlikely. A stylistically related but less finely executed jade dagger hilt also
survives (fig. 33). Identified here as a Lucknow work for the first time, it bears a similar
design composition of the inlay and also features the motifs of the split acanthus leaf
and acanthus bract.
Claude Martin’s ownership of numerous hardstone objects and works of art is
160. EmeRald Seal Belonging to Antoine-Louis
recorded in the inventory of his estate prepared by his executors, Hamilton and
Polier , gem 1774 /75 (AH 1188)
Aberdeen, in May 1800 prior to its sale at public auction in Calcutta in January 1801.51
The preparer of the inventory describes the vast majority of the hardstones as “agate,”52
but two factors make it extremely probable that these objects were actually made of jade.
First, there is an extremely wide range of object types, including a “Tulwar [talwar/
sword] Agate Handle given by Sujah Dowlah [Shuja al-Daula].”53 Based on the extant
corpus of South Asian hardstone objects, a typological spectrum of this extent and the
evident size of the largest objects would be much more likely to accord with works made
of jade than of agate. Second, at the time of the compiling of the Martin estate inventory,
“agate” was reportedly the standard English word used to translate the Persian term for
jade, yashm.54 Thus, Martin’s estate inventory provides evidence not only for the exis-
tence of numerous jade works of art among his own personal effects but also for their
presence in the nawab’s royal collection. The Lucknow origin of the jade hilt on Claude FIG. 33. Dagger (detail); India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow,
c. 1785; hilt: white nephrite jade inlaid with gold, rubies, and
Martin’s inscribed sword is therefore fortified. It can thus be regarded as a key bench- emeralds; blade: steel; length overall: 14 1⁄2 in. (36.8 cm); The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of George C. Stone, 1936,
mark of later South Asian jades. 36.25.673a,b
A recent discovery adds significant new evidence confirming Claude Martin’s collect-
Left: 112. SwoRd PResented to Claude MaRtin (detail),
ing and perhaps even his patronage of jade objects. A green nephrite jade mirror back dated 1786/87

220 221 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

with multicolored enamel-and-gold floral decoration, now in the Islamic Arts Museum
Malaysia (2008.1.14), bears a faintly engraved ownership inscription reading, “Colonel
Claud[e] Martin, Lucknow, 1782 (113).”55 A tantalizing reference in the Martin inventory
to a “Looking Glass [mirror] with a [sic] Agate Frame” might be linked to this inscribed
mirror, or at least one similar. Thus, Claude Martin’s inscribed mirror, and his previously
discussed sword and dagger hilts, provide tangible confirmation of sophisticated jade
working being both produced and collected in Lucknow.
The decorative arts of Lucknow and Faizabad, especially those made during the
reigns of Shuja al-Daula and Asaf al-Daula, exhibit an elegance of form and material
sumptuousness rivaling those produced during the heyday of the great Mughal emperors
in the seventeenth century. A wide variety of ornate metalwork was produced, including
arms and armor, palatial tableware, and elegant jewelry. The metal wares were techni-
cally sophisticated and varied. Finely worked silver and gilt silver objects were adorned
with brilliant enameling and inlaid with gemstones. Sundry glassware was fashioned,
much of which was embellished with painted and gilded decoration. European glassware
was also imported in significant numbers, especially chandeliers. Given the sophistication
of craft and medium, the luxurious arts of Lucknow may be regarded among the pinna-
cles of artistic expression in the long and rich history of South Asian art. The awestruck
description of a tapestry in the Claude Martin Estate Inventory is equally apropos for
the myriad other splendors of the age:

the Extreme Brilliancy of the Colours and the Richness of design have never been Equalled by any thing
Seen in this Country . . . it is impossible to describe their beauty.

113. MiRRor That Belonged to Claude MaRtin,

dated 1782; detail left

222 223 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

1. The full quote is, “Amidst all this blaze of wealth and magnificence, 21 . Zahir Uddin Malik, The Reign of Muhammad Shah 1719–1748 (New York: 37. Sir Richard Burn, “The Coronation Medal of the First King of Oudh,”
thousands of poor wretches are seen on the road to all appearance in real Asia Publishing House, 1977), 317. Journal of the Numismatic Society of India 3:2 (December 1941): 113 –14.
want.” Rev. Tennent’s disparaging praise is in accordance with the frequent 22 . The mahi-ye maratib was not granted to nobles below the rank of commander 38. Colin R. Bruce II et al., South Asian Coins and Paper Money Since 1556 AD
reaction of Europeans to the ostentatiousness of Asaf al-Daula’s court of 6,000 or 7,000 men. William Irvine, The Army of the Indian Moghals: Its (Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1981), 131– 34; and Shailendra Bhandare, “A
compared to the stark poverty of the general population. Quoted from Rev. Organization and Administration (London, 1903; reprint Delhi: Low Price Metallic Mirror: Changing Representations of Sovereignty during the Raj,”
William Tennent, Indian Recreations (London, 1804), 2:409, by Rosie Publications, 1994), 33; and M. Athar Ali, The Mughal Nobility under in Coins in India: Power and Communication, ed. Himanshu Prabha Ray
Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal Friendship: The Nawabs, the British, and the City of Aurangzeb (Aligarh: Department of History, Aligarh Muslim University, (Mumbai: Marg Publications, 2006), 87– 88.
Lucknow (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1985), 231. 1966), 141. For an explanation of the Mughal military ranking system, see 39. In addition to the Mermaid Gateway at the Qaisar Bagh, there are also
2. Veena Talwar Oldenburg, The Making of Colonial Lucknow 1856–1877 Irvine, The Army of the Indian Moghals, 3 –11; and Ali, The Mughal Nobility, depicts of mermen and boys with fish. See Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 3, 12. 38 – 43. Friendship, 263 n64.
3. The works of many Indian painters active in Lucknow have been identified, 23. Ali, The Mughal Nobility, 140; and Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections, 40. Wynyard R. T. Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858–1947: Silver from the Indian
but very few examples of Lucknow’s decorative arts can be directly 1:165. Sub-Continent and Burma Made by Local Craftsmen in Western Forms
associated with an individual artist or craftsman. 24. There is often an apparent lack of correlation between painted and extant (London: W. R. T. Wilkinson, 1999), 125 –26.
4. For a survey of Lucknow’s decorative arts by media, see Stephen Markel, representations of the mahi-ye maratib (see examples identified in note 25 41 . See Susan Stronge, Bidri Ware: Inlaid Metalwork from India (London: V&A
“Luxury Arts of Lucknow,” Arts of Asia 23:2 (March–April 1993): 108 –20. below). In painting, only the fish standard is generally shown without being Museum, 1985); Krishna Lal, National Museum Collection: Bidri Ware (New
5. For a discussion of the LACMA huqqa base’s Lucknow origin, see Markel, accompanied by the twin globes, but the extant representations of the Delhi: National Museum, 1990); and Shahir M. Naqvi, “Bidri Ware with Spe-
“Luxury Arts of Lucknow,” 119. mahi-ye maratib do have the accompanying globes. Although this may be due cial Reference to Its Collection in the State Museum, Lucknow,” Journal of
to artistic license or misunderstanding, an even more compelling reason may Indian Museums 36 (1980): 101–7.
6. Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava, The First Two Nawabs of Awadh, 2nd ed. (Agra:
be the common discrepancy between object and image in Mughal and later
Shiva Lal Agarwala & Co., 1954), 202. 42 . Wilkinson, Indian Silver 1858–1947, 126; and Vidya Dehejia et al., Delight
South Asian art. Artists seemed to have painted types of objects rather than
7. For example, see Linda York Leach, Mughal and Other Indian Paintings in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj, exhibition catalogue (Ahmedabad:
actual specific objects. Moreover, a selective realism was employed that was
from the Chester Beatty Library (London: Scorpion Cavendish, 1995), 2:700. Mapin Publishing in association with Timeless Books, 2008), 171.
dependent upon the hierarchical importance of the subject being portrayed.
8. Manuel Keene, “The Enamel Road, from Siena, Paris, London and Lisbon, For a discussion of this issue, see Stephen Markel, “Correlating Paintings of 43. Markel, “Mughal Jades: A Technical and Sculptural Perspective.”
leads to Lucknow,” Jewellery Studies 10 (2004): 99 –126. Indian Decorative Art Objects with Extant Examples: Correspondences and 44. For a discussion of non-Mughal, particularly Deccani, jade working, see
9. Srivastava, The First Two Nawabs, 110. See also Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava, Issues,” (February 2003), Stephen Markel, “Non-Imperial Mughal Sources for Jades and Jade
Shuja-ud-Daulah, Vol. I, 1754–1765 (Calcutta: Midland Press, 1939), 6. index.html. Simulants in South Asia,” Jewellery Studies 10 (2004): 68 –75.
10. The Awadh begams were major patrons of the arts. See Memoirs of Faizabad 25. For a painted and extant examples of mahi-ye maratib, see a Kishangarh 45. Numerous literary accounts and pictorial depictions document the
(1772–1781/82): Being a Translation of “Tarikh-i-Farahbakhsh” of Muham- painting from c. 1700 of The Emperor Aurangzeb at a Royal Hunt in the sumptuous ornaments and accoutrements enjoyed by the Awadh aristocracy.
mad Faiz Bakhsh, Part – I, Part – II, trans. William Hoey, ed. Hamid Afaq Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2003.430), For example, Shuja al-Daula’s coronation robe was embellished with flowers
Qureshi (1889; reprint Lucknow: New Royal Book Co., 2004, 2005), 1:61– 62; toah/hd/mugh_2 /ho_2003.430/htm; Manuel Keene with Salam Kaouki, made of rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. See Memoirs of Faizabad, Part – II,
Carla Petievich, Assembly of Rivals: Delhi, Lucknow, and the Urdu Ghazal Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals 2:252 – 53.
(New Delhi: Manohar, 1992), 32 n 2; and Richard E. Barnett, North India (London: Thames & Hudson in association with The al-Sabah Collection, 46. Polier’s emerald seal was later remounted as the bezel of a diamond set gold
Between Empires: Awadh, the Mughals, and the British, 1720 –1801 (Berkeley Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait National Museum, 2001), 106, no. 8.30; ring by Cartier (per maker’s inscription; see Christie’s, London, Art of the
and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), 175. and Gordon Sanderson, The Arts and Antiquities of India: An Illustrated Islamic and Indian Worlds, April 17, 2007, lot 179). Indian gemstones were
Selection (1910; reprint New Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 1983), 41, pl. XII. frequently reworked into jewelry by famous European firms such as Cartier
11 . K. S. Santha, Begums of Awadh (Varanasi: Bharati Prakashan, 1980), 9.
For a late-eighteenth-century Delhi set of fish and other ensigns of royalty in and Van Cleef & Arpels in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
12 . Michael Fisher, A Clash of Cultures: Awadh, the British, and the Mughals the former royal collection of Gwalior, see Anna Jackson and Amin Jaffer
(New Delhi: Manohar, 1987), 72. 47. Alam and Alavi, A European Experience, 97, 347, and 376 (folios 5b, 396b,
with Deepika Ahlawat, eds., Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal
and 428a).
13. I am indebted to Wynyard Wilkinson for his detailed stylistic analysis and Courts (London: V&A Publishing, 2009), 94, fig. 76.
photographic details of the Lucknow tureen (95). Personal communication 48. Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art; November 2008, sale cat. Simon
26. Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections, 1:166.
via Indar Pasricha Fine Arts. Ray Ltd., London: 90 – 91, no. 40.
27. Abdul Halim Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture, trans.
14. For example, see Dawn Jacobson, Chinoiserie (London: Phaidon, 1993); and 49. For example, massive jade bowls were recorded as being destroyed by British
and ed. E. S. Harcourt and Fakhir Hussain (London: Elek Books, 1975).
Oliver Impey, Chinoiserie: The Impact of Oriental Styles on Western Art and soldiers during the looting of the Qaisar Bagh Palace. See Llewellyn-Jones,
28. Sharar, Lucknow, 37. A Fatal Friendship, 193.
Decoration (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1977). See also the
discussion of such “paysages” in Keene, “The Enamel Road,” 115. 29. Abu’l-Fazl, The A’in-i Akbari by Abu ‘l-Fazl Allami, Vol. 1, trans. H. 50. “By the order of His High Excellency Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, to be given to
Blochmann, ed. D. C. Phillott (1871; 2nd revised ed., 1939; reprint, 2 vols., General Martin of the East India Company, the year of 1201 of the hijra
15. For several examples of acanthus leaves found on Mughal jades, see Stephen
Delhi: Low Price Publications, 2001), 1:524 (Book 2, no. 197). (1786 –7).” Ricketts, Splendeur des armes orientales, 197, no. 221; 132 – 33.
Markel, “Mughal Jades: A Technical and Sculptural Perspective,” Asianart.
com (July 2008), 2 /index.html#2. 30. Abu’l-Fazl, The Akbarnama of Abu-l-Fazl, trans. Henry Beveridge, 3 vols. 51 . Facsimile of Claude Martin Estate Inventory obtained from the British
(1902 – 39; reprint Delhi: Low Price Publications, 1989), 3:545 (Chapter 64, Library (India Office Library, Bengal Inventories, Vol. 1, LAG/34 /27/24, no.
16. For a discussion of the related depiction of the acanthus bract in European,
no. 371). 76). Also see discussion in Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Very Ingenious Man:
Deccani, and Lucknow art, see Keene, “The Enamel Road,” 122 –23 n63.
31 . Hamid Afaq Qureshi opposes Shaikh Abdur Rahim’s traditional biography Claude Martin in Early Colonial India (Delhi: Oxford University Press,
17. For a discussion of this motif’s clear affiliation with the arts of Lucknow, see
on genealogical grounds and offers indirect reasoning against his association 1992), 138 – 39; and Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Man of the Enlightenment in
Markel, “Luxury Arts of Lucknow,” 115 –16.
with the Macchi Bhawan; see Memoirs of Faizabad, Part – 1, 1:i–iii. For a Eighteenth-Century India: The Letters of Claude Martin 1766–1800 (Delhi:
18. For enameled daggers with this motif, see Kjeld von Folsach, Art from the recent assessment of the historical development of the Macchi Bhawan and Permanent Black, 2003), 5 – 9.
World of Islam in The David Collection (Copenhagen: The David Collection, the Panch Mahalla royal residence built later within its grounds by Safdar 52 . Rock crystal objects are also listed. Significantly, no jade objects are
2001), 343, no. 569 (32 /1980); and Howard Ricketts, Splendeur des armes Jang and Shuja al-Daula, and their demolition in the late nineteenth century, specified as such.
orientales, trans. Philippe Missillier (Paris: ACTE-EXPO, 1988), 97, no. 157 see Sophie Gordon, “The Royal Palaces,” in Lucknow: City of Illusion, 31– 37,
(now in the Khalili Collection, London). For paintings, see von Folsach, Art 53. The inventory list of “agate” objects includes sword and dagger hilts, hookah
ed. Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (New York: Alkazi Collection of Photography;
from the World of Islam, 107, no. 82 (46/1980) “bottoms” [bases] and mouthpieces [mukhnal], numerous boxes and
Munich: Prestel, 2006).
assets/345/20.3- 46 -1980 -Miniature-Paladshaver.jpg; and Francesca containers (some “mounted” with gold), fan and crutch handles, “looking
32 . Srivastava, The First Two Nawabs, 23. glasses” [handheld mirrors], cups, salvers, bracelets, belt buckles, and
Galloway and Michael Spink, Islamic Art from India, sale catalogue
(London: Spink & Son, 24 April–10 May 1980), 53, no. 77. 33. Ibid., 21. engraved “pieces.” The typical size of hookah bases also suggests that the
34. Ibid., 29. Martin collection examples were actually made of jade because, as far as I
19. Variants of the term appear in modern literature as mahi-maratib and
am aware, no agate hookah bases from South Asia have survived.
mahi-o-maratib. It has also been translated loosely as “Fish and Dignities” 35. Ibid., 33.
or “The Honor of the Fish.” I am indebted to Saqib Baburi for the correct 54. M. L. Nigam, Jade Collection in the Salar Jung Museum (Hyderabad: Salar
36. For example, Antoine-Louis Henri Polier records in a letter dated June 21,
spelling of the term and for sharing several historical literary references, and Jung Museum., 1979), 15. Therein are cited dictionaries published in 1810
1776, that Muhammad Ilich Khan, who briefly served as Asaf al-Daula’s
to Rosie Llewellyn-Jones for generously discussing the history and use of the and 1852 in which “yashm” is translated as “agate.”
viceroy (naib), had been “honoured with mahi maratib.” See Muzaffar Alam
Lucknow fish emblem. Personal communications. and Seema Alavi, A European Experience of the Mughal Orient: The I’jaz-i 55. I am indebted to Lucien de Guise, Acting Head Curator, Islamic Arts
20. W. H. Sleeman, Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official, 2 vols., ed. Arsalani (Persian Letters, 1773–1779) of Antoine-Louis Henri Polier (New Museum Malaysia, for bringing the previously unpublished inscription on
V. A. Smith (Westminster, 1893; reprint New Delhi: Asian Educational Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2001), 376. this important object to my attention, and to Rosie Llewellyn-Jones for
Services, 1995), 1:165. discussing the inscription’s historical context. Personal communications.

224 225 MaRkel : The LuxuRy ARts of Lucknow

Ros e m ary C r i l l

Textiles and Dress in Lucknow in

the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The court of Awadh was well known for the flamboyance of its furnishings and the extravagance of its dress. Two
apparently contradictory aspects of the Awadhi style are typified on one hand by exquisitely light jamdani weaves
and chikan-work embroidery, and on the other by the heavy, gold-embroidered dress and furnishings that were
popular after European influence became dominant in Awadh in the first half of the nineteenth century. While
both men and women adorned themselves with elaborate costumes involving huge amounts of lavishly decorated
cloth, exquisite embroidered or woven cottons in shades of cream and white were still used on informal occasions
and continued to convey a sense of coolness and elegance.
The prevailing aesthetic influence at the Awadh court was basically Mughal, and in particular the Mughal
style as worn at Delhi, but overlaid on this were certain idiosyncratic elements that had been developed in Luck-
now. In addition, a Persian element was added to the mix, particularly during the later eighteenth century, leading
to the use of Persian-style head-wear and fur-trimmed coats and boots (30, p. 229; 154, p. 180). The Persians, like
the Lucknow rulers, who were of Persian descent, were adherents of the Shia sect of Islam, unlike the Sunni
Mughals, and were looked to as inspiration for several aspects of Awadhi court culture, from literature to dress.
We are fortunate that several different types of contemporaneous and later sources inform us about dress
in Awadh. These include paintings, by both Indian and western artists; written accounts, mainly by western
observers; and, from the later nineteenth century onward, photographs of rulers, nobles, and courtesans. From
these we can form an impression of the different styles that prevailed over the period between about 1750 and 1880.

226 227 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

Much of the information about eighteenth-century dress in Lucknow comes from western men are mostly wearing European dress with few
paintings by western artists who were either residents of or visitors to Lucknow. Works concessions to the local climate or culture. Some (like
by Tilly Kettle and Johann Zoffany in particular show both Indians and Europeans in Colonel Mordaunt himself) are dressed in white cotton
formal and informal dress. Zoffany’s well-known painting Colonel Mordaunt’s Cock Match cloth, while others have stuck to their heavy-looking
(fig. 34), painted in 1784 – 86, is a superbly observed depiction of a gathering of European woolen coats. The Indian men (like the nawab in the
and Indian men (and a very few Indian women) from all levels of Awadhi society. The center of the painting) are wearing white muslin jamas:
the classic tailored robe of Mughal India, usually tied at
the side of the chest and waist, or sometimes at the front,
but always with a well-defined waist and full, gathered
skirt. Throughout its history, the jama has been worn at
various lengths, but in eighteenth-century Awadh the
fashion was evidently for ankle-length jamas. Most of the
visible male waists in the painting are wrapped with a
“cummerbund” (kamarband or “waist tie”), either of plain
white cotton like the robe itself, or of patterned fabric,
which would quite likely be of Kashmir-shawl fabric, as
on the figure in the red turban in the foreground of the
scene. Headgear at this gathering is usually a colored or
white, wrapped cotton turban; the nawab, the central
Indian male figure, is wearing a small cotton cap. The
few female figures in the painting are wearing wrapped
garments of colored, fine muslin, but beyond that it is
impossible to distinguish quite what these garments are.
Tilly Kettle, the other major European artist working
in Lucknow in the eighteenth century, painted several
portraits of Nawab Shuja al-Daula that illustrate the
courtly fashion of the time. His portrait of the nawab in
1772 (28) shows the ruler in a Mughal-style jama, over
which he wears a Persian-style coat with fur tippet.
Elaborate sashes are tied around his waist, and he wears
around his turban the Lucknow style of turban band or
goshpech (30). The Persian-style coat (sometimes worn
also with boots) (154, p. 180), seems to have been popular
around 1750 –75. It was not unusual for western residents
of Lucknow in the eighteenth century to adopt Indian
Fig. 34. Johann Zoffany (1733 –1810), Colonel MoRdaunt’s
Cock Match; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, and West
dress to some degree, at least in their homes, which they
Bengal, Calcutta, 1784 – 86; oil on canvas; support: 103.9 were likely to share with Indian wives or bibis. Colonel Top: 28. Tilly Kettle, Nawab Shuja al-Daula with the
x 150 cm; Tate Britain, 1994.T06856 Heir AppaRent, MiRza Amani, later Asaf al-Daula, 1772
Antoine-Louis Polier, for example, is shown in at least
Page 226: 84. Water Pipe Mat, 1800 – 50
two paintings in full Indian dress, in paintings done in Bottom: 30. TuRban Band (detail), c. 1800

1773 and the 1780s. He is shown in a white muslin jama,

complete with turban and turban band, while he watches
a nautch or dance performance at his home (106, p. 68).
When in the company of his European male friends,
however, Polier is more likely to wear western dress

228 229 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

Fig. 35. PoRtRait of John Wombwell, in Indian DRess
and Smoking a Hookah; India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow,
c. 1790; opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 12 3⁄4 x 11 1⁄4 in.
(32.3 x 28.5 cm); Frits Lugt Collection, Institut Neerlandais,
Paris, 1970 -T.36

(Fig. 3, p. 54). Another European resident, John Wombwell, also chose to have his
portrait painted on at least two occasions in full Indian dress accessorized by a hookah
(fig. 35).
While fine white or colored muslin appears to have been the most popular fabric for
both male and female dress in the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century saw huge
changes in style in Lucknow. Both male and female dress developed in ways that were
particular to the Awadhi court. The costumes (and the word is appropriate to the theatri-
cality of much of the dress worn there) of the court females, dancing girls, and courte-
sans who appear in paintings and, latterly, photographs are some of the most elaborate
and apparently cumbersome of any Indian dress. The most characteristic of the flamboy-
ant garments used at the Awadhi court in the nineteenth century are probably the
immensely wide trousers known either as farshi paijama (literally, “spread-out” trousers)
or kalidar paijama (“paneled trousers,” which have straight, wide legs rather than the
flared shape of the farshi). These voluminous garments were supplemented with large
(although usually lightweight) shawls or head-covers called dupatta (literally “two pieces”).
Although much of our information about this type of dress comes from pictorial and
written evidence, a rare survivor of a full court costume of the mid-nineteenth century is
the so-called “Queen of Oudh’s dress” in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (190). Top: 199. Pair of ear ORnaments,
The outfit, consisting of wide trousers, a front-opening long-sleeved robe, a bodice, a c. 1850

sleeveless tunic, and a large rectangular head-cover, was acquired from the Exposition Bottom: 198. FoRehead ORna-
ments, c. 1775 –1800
Universelle held in Paris in 1855, and it is not clear what the circumstances were that led
to its being sent to this exhibition. It is possible that it was made specifically for the Left: 190. The Gown of the
“Queen of Oudh,” mid-19th
exposition rather than belonging to a real person, but it does seem to have signs of wear. century

230 231 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

wearer freedom of movement and also allowed the legs to fine chintz,­—English manufacture having the preference,—silk and
be seen. For these reasons they were particularly favored cotton ginghams,—in short, all such materials are used for this

by dancers and courtesans. The jama was the other main article of female dress as of sufficiently firm texture, down to the
white calico of the country, suited to the means of the wearer. By the
type of robe: while this is usually associated with the
most fashionable females they are worn very full below the knee, and
side-fastening robe worn at the Mughal court, usually by
reach to the feet which are partially covered by the fullness, the
men, it was also used as the name for front-opening
extremity finished and the seams are bound with silver riband
garments in Lucknow. [gota]; a very broad silver riband binds the top of the pyjaamah;
Under the peshwaj or jama, women wore a hip-length this being double has a zarbund (a silk net cord) [ezarband] run
sleeveless tunic called a shaluka or kurti (“small shirt”) through, by which this part of the dress is confined at the waist. The
over a short, tight bodice called a kanchli or angiya. The ends of the zarbund are finished with rich tassels of gold and silver,
whole outfit would be topped by a large, light, rectangular curiously and expressly made for this purpose, which extend below

veil or shawl called an odhni, which would cover the head the knees: for full dress, these tassels are rendered magnificent with
pearls and jewels.
(but not the face) and fall down the back, and could if
One universal shape is adopted in the form of the ungeeah
necessary be tucked into the waistband of the trousers to
[angiya] (bodice), which is, however, much varied in the material
secure it. Head-covers like this were worn in many parts
and ornamental part; some are of gauze or net, muslin, etc., the more
of India, where the usual garb consisted of skirt or transparent in texture the more agreeable to taste, and all are more
trousers and bodice (as in Rajasthan, or at the Mughal or less ornamented with spangles and silver trimmings. It is made
court) rather than a sari. Paintings and photographs of
the period of Wajid Ali Shah show court ladies or dancing
girls wearing only a sheer dupatta (scarf) across their
200. Darogah Abbas Ali, Husso Jan, Dancing GiRl upper bodies (200, Pl. 18), not the large head-cover.
(Pl. 17; left) and Ameer Jan, Dancing GiRl of Biba Wali
(Pl. 18; right), from The Beauties of Lucknow, 1874 One of the most informative observers of the Lucknow
scene in the early nineteenth century, and in particular
that of the world of women, was Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali, a
lady about whom few personal details are known except
While it is unlikely that it ever belonged to a queen of Awadh, it could have been made for
that she was an Englishwoman who was married to an
one of the betrothal ceremonies of a very young bride connected with the court—the size
Indian and who lived for a number of years in Lucknow.1
suggests that she would have been only about twelve years old. The paijama of the V&A’s
A resident of the city from 1816 until 1828, she wrote a
costume has a flat rectangular front panel and sixteen tapering panels (kali) in each leg,
series of minutely detailed letters describing various
and a circumference at the hem of each leg of 391 centimeters (154 inches). This particu-
aspects of life in Lucknow, covering subjects ranging
lar paijama is made of a fine silk overlaid with a fish-scale pattern in gota work (couched
from architecture to styles of ladies’ slippers. Ostensibly
gold strips), but other examples, like those seen in Company paintings and photographs
written to friends (and indeed Fanny Parks, the self-
such as those of the Beauties of Lucknow (200, Pl. 17), are made of slightly more manage-
styled “pilgrim in search of the picturesque,” quotes one
able material, usually of satin with trim of woven gold-thread ribbon or gota work. Such
of her “amusing and novel” letters in her own work),2 the
trousers usually had deep borders called gote, and these would form a sort of pool of
letters were obviously intended for publication. They are
fabric spread out around the wearer’s feet when she was standing: hence the name farshi
full of fascinating information which would have otherwise
or “spread out” for this style. If she needed to move about, the excess cloth would be
gone unrecorded. Her firsthand description of female
gathered up and thrown over an arm (40). Equally voluminous but cut with straight
dress is so informative that it is worth quoting at length:
panels in the leg, augmented by inserts, was the kalidar or kaliondar paijama, which
tended to have less excess length than the farshi type.
The ladies’ pyjaamahs are formed of rich satin, or gold cloth,
The full-length, high-waisted, and full-skirted robe often worn over the paijama was goolbudden [gulbadan, or “rose body,” a woven silk fabric often
usually of the type called a peshwaj (“open front”) or choga, although this term, of with ikat patterning], or mussheroo [mashru, a satin-weave fabric
Central Asian origin, is usually used for a very different and much less figure-hugging with silk warps and cotton wefts, often striped and also often with 40. Mah-i Alam stRikes a watchman with a golden whip in the
PRince’s pResence as penalty for making a false accusation,
robe in most other parts of North India. The full, swirling skirt of the peshwaj gave the ikat patterning] (striped washing silks manufactured at Benares), from the Ishqnamah, dated 1849/50 (AH 1266), folio 317r

232 233 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

to fit the bust with great exactness, and to fasten behind with strong cotton cords; the sleeves are very short court. Another redoubtable observer of the Lucknow
and tight, and finished with some fanciful embroidery or silver riband. Even the women servants pride scene, Fanny Parks, tells us of an occasion in 1831 on
themselves on pretty ungeeahs, and will strive to have a little finery about them, however coarse the which King Nasir al-Din Haidar presented “four or five
material it is formed of may happen to be. They are never removed at night but continue to be worn a
dresses of honour, made of thick Benares gold and silver
week together, unless its beauty fades earlier, or the ornamental parts tarnish through extreme heat.
kimkhwab, which were all put upon [the recipient’s]
With the ungeeah is worn a transparent courtie [kurti] (literally translated shirt) of thread net; this
person one over the other.” This same man received a
covers the waistband of the pyjaamah but does not screen it; the seams and hems are trimmed with silver
or gold ribands. jeweled turban, a necklace of pearls and precious stones,
The depattah [dupatta] is a useful envelope, and the most graceful part of the whole female costume. and “over all these dresses of honour were placed four
In shape and size, a large sheet will convey an idea of the depattah’s dimensions; the quality depends on or five pairs of Cashmere shawls.” 7 Khilats could include
choice or circumstances; the preference is given to our light English manufacture of leno or muslin for up to 101 pieces, while the lowest possible number of
every-day wear by gentlewomen; but on gala days, gold and silver gauze tissues are in great request, as is pieces was five. Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali describes khilats
also fine India muslin manufactured at Decca [Dhaka]—transparent and soft as the web of the gossamer which include:
spider;—this is called shubnum [shabnam] (night dew) from its delicate texture, and is procured at great
expense, even in India; some depattahs are formed of gold-worked muslin, English crape, coloured gauze,
embroidered or cloth of gold chupkunds [chapkan: a type of tailored
etc. On ordinary occasions ladies wear them simply bound with silver riband, but for dress they are
coat]; shawl-stuff labaadahs (pelisses) [i.e., coats], trimmed with
richly trimmed with embroidery and bullion fringes, which add much to the splendour of the scene, when
sable; turbans of shawl or muslin; . . . shawls, always in pairs, of
two or three hundred females are collected together in their assemblies. The depattah is worn with much
more or less value; shawl kerchiefs; shawl cummerbunds (girdles);
original taste on the back of the head, and falls in graceful folds over the person; when standing, it is
shawl lahaafs (counterpanes); gold cloth, gold and silver muslins,
crossed in front, one end partially screening the figure, the other thrown over the opposite shoulder.3
and shawl stuff, in pieces, each being sufficient to form a dress;
... Benares silks, or rich satin for trousers; pieces of fine embroidered
The ladies never wear stockings, and only cover the feet with shoes when pacing across their court-yard, muslin for shirts. These are the usual articles of value given in
which bounds their view and their walks. Nevertheless, there is a fashion and taste about the ladies’ shoes, khillauts to the most exalted favourites.8
which is productive of much emulation in zeenahnah life;—they are splendidly worked in many patterns,
with gold and silver spangles, variously-coloured small seed beads and embroidery—the whole one mass
The lavish use of gold embroidery (zar-dozi) and other
of glittering metal;—they are made with sharp points curling upwards, some nearly reaching half way to
“trimmings” as described by Mrs. Ali was a striking
the knees, and always worn down at the heel, as dressing slippers; the least costly for their every-day wear
feature of much court wear in Lucknow, as at Delhi. This
are of gold embroidery on velvet; the less opulent condescend to wear tinsel work, and the meanest
servants yellow or red cloth with silver bindings. The same style of shoes are worn by the males as by the could come in many forms: gilt-metal strips (badla) that
females; I have seen some young men with green shagreen slippers for the rainy season; these are made would usually be crimped into a serrated form before
with a high heel and look unseemly. The fashion of shoes varies with the times in this country, as well as being couched or stitched onto the cloth of the garment;
in others, sometimes it is genteel to have smaller points to the shoes; at another, the points are long and flat metal sequins (sitara, literally “star”) or small domed
much curled; but they still retain the preference for pointed shoes whatever be the fashion adopted.4 sequins (katori, literally “cup”) that would be sewn
directly onto the cloth; embroidery or couching in silk
In another passage, Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali describes a bridal outfit: thread wrapped with a thin coil of flattened gilt-metal
strip (kalabattun); lengths of fabric woven with fine strips
The dress for a bride differs in one material point from the general style of Hindostaunie costume: a sort
of silver or silver-gilt as the warp threads (gota), which
of gown is worn, made of silver tissue, or some equally expensive article, about the walking length of an
English dress; the skirt is open in front, and contains about twenty breadths of the material, a tight body
was often used as a facing for a skirt or jacket, and was
and long sleeves. The whole dress is trimmed very richly with embroidered trimming and silver riband; frequently decorated with impressed patterns in the cloth
the depattah (drapery) is made to correspond.5 created by stamping with heated wires (uttu or uttusazi);
or as soft fringes made of finely cut metal strips, used to
Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali then recounts how she attended a marriage ceremony and was decorate the edges and hems of garments. Other decora-
persuaded to wear a full Awadhi costume of “gold dress and glittering drapery” for the tions like seed pearls and glass beads would also contrib-
occasion—which she wore on top of her usual clothes. Not surprisingly, she experienced ute to the lavish effect. The same style of embroidery was
“some suffering from the heat, for it was at the very hottest season of the year.” 6
also used for decorative domestic furnishings like the
Although it is not clear if Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali was expected to keep these clothes or mats and coverings for hookahs (84, p. 226; 85). Shoes 85. Water Pipe
Snake Cover ,
not, the bestowal of clothing as gifts, khilat, was a common practice at the Lucknow were usually embroidered with metal-wrapped thread or 1800 – 50

234 235 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

was in complete contrast to the heavy gold embroideries surviving pieces seem to predate the mid-nineteenth
worn for formal events and dances. century. William Hoey notes in 1880 that chikan embroi-
The exact origin of chikan embroidery is not known, dery is one of the few industries in Lucknow still to be
and even the etymology of its name remains mysterious, thriving at that date, and states that it “is in great
but it is thought to have originated in Bengal, probably in demand and the export of it to Calcutta, Patna, Bombay,
Dacca (Dhaka), in modern Bangladesh, during the later Haidarabad [Hyderabad] and other cities is an important
Mughal period. The art, and presumably some practitio- trade.” He suggests that chikan embroidery was a “not
ners, moved to Lucknow probably no earlier than the irksome means of supplementing small incomes” and a
mid-eighteenth century, and it became extremely popular “natural vent for the labour of persons thrown out of
under the nawabs. Its delicacy, and especially the fragility employ by failure of other trades.” 10 Hoey probably
of the muslin on which it is usually done, has meant that underestimates the very high level of skill required for
little early chikan work has survived, and indeed no good chikan embroidery, but no doubt he was right in

102. Shawl with Chikan WoRk (detail), early 19th century

101. Man’s GaRment with Chikan WoRk (detail), 19th century

metal strips. Slippers with extravagantly curling toes were popular with both men and
women at court, either with pointed toes or with broad or splayed ends. Although Wajid
Ali Shah is shown wearing these broad-toed slippers in the Ishqnamah, completed in
1849/50, (40, p. 233), they had evidently fallen out of favor with fashionable society by the
time William Hoey was making his survey of the crafts of Lucknow in 1878 –79. Hoey
writes of this “peculiar pattern of shoe” (called kafsh) that it is “broad at the toes, which
are curled up in fantastic style, and is very narrow at the heel which is very high and
protected by an iron tip round the rim. It is exceedingly difficult for one unaccustomed to
walk with kafsh to move steadily while wearing them. They give that shaky movement to
the wearer which is characteristic of old age. It may be for this reason that they are worn
chiefly by sanctimonious maulvis [clerics] carrying long walking sticks.”9
A complete contrast to the heavy, gold-embellished embroidery used on many gar-
ments was provided by the delicate and often incredibly finely worked embroidery known
as chikan or chikankari. This is worked on cotton, using cotton thread with occasional
highlights in natural light-brown or golden tussar silk. Chikan embroidery (chikandozi)
was popular with both men and women in Lucknow, where it was made by both male and
female professional embroiderers. Used for caps, kurtas, angarkhas, and small domestic
items like tray covers, chikan is characterized by small, complex floral designs in white on
white, and gives a supremely cool and airy effect to a garment (101, 102). Even if densely
embroidered all over a cap or robe, the subtlety of the monochrome palette and delicacy
of the materials and stitching gave chikan work an air of quiet understatement, which

236 237 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

suggesting that it could be taken up by men and women (and even children) looking for
work. Chikan work is still a thriving cottage industry in Lucknow, where the traditional
stitches (although usually worked to a less high standard) are embroidered onto kurtas
and for furnishing fabrics which are sold throughout India and abroad.
The woven equivalent to chikan embroidery in lightness and fineness is a cotton
fabric called jamdani, which also appears to have originated in eastern India, with Dacca
as its main center. It has been suggested that weaver families from Dacca were given
grants enabling them to settle at Tanda and Jais near Faizabad under Nawab Shuja
al-Daula in order to weave fine muslins for the Awadhi court and elite.11 Fine muslin was
certainly being produced at Tanda by the 1770s, when Polier records ordering lengths of
it.12 Jamdani is woven in a supplementary weft technique, which involves adding the
isolated designs (usually stylized floral elements or botehs) into the weave by hand using
small spools of thread to weave under and over the warp threads to achieve the desired
pattern. C. A. Silberrad, in his 1898 Monograph on Cotton Fabrics Produced in the
North-West Provinces and Oudh, describes the jamdani weaving technique as used at
Left: 32. Possibly by Mihr Chand, Shuja al-Daula, Nawab
Tanda as somewhat different to that of Dacca, in that at Tanda the designs were inserted of Awadh, After a Painting by Tilly Kettle, c. 1775

using thread stored in spools hanging from the warps, while at Dacca, separate cut
Right: Fig. 36. Johann Zoffany (1733 –1810), Asaf
pieces of yarn were used to insert the designs.13 Diaphanous garments such as angarkhas Al-Daulah, Nawab of Awadh, Lucknow; India, Uttar
Pradesh, Lucknow, 1784; oil on canvas, 50 x 40 in. (127 x 101.5
and kurtas were especially suited to both the jamdani and chikan techniques, both cm); The British Library, London, F106

sometimes being embellished with strips of silver (called kamdani work) or with metal- Bottom Left: 103. CRown, c. 1850
wrapped thread embroidery. Both woven jamdani and chikan embroidery were worn by
Bottom Right: 104. Minister’s TuRban, c. 1850
nawabs and court women throughout the nineteenth century, and the well-known images
of Wajid Ali Shah in a white angarkha and jauntily placed cap (the small two-sided cap
called a dopalri) reflect this popularity.
The mainstream later Mughal style prevailed throughout the eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries. The angarkha, a calf-length robe with an unusual semicircular
opening behind which a panel conceals most (but rarely all) of the wearer’s chest, was by
far the most popular type of male dress (101, p. 236) and occurs in many illustrations of
the nineteenth century. It was worn with a sash around the waist or, in the case of Wajid
Ali Shah, a larger shawl-like textile wrapped around the hips and tied in front (40, p. 233).
Servants, musicians, and other non-elite males wore flat turbans. Accessories like the
turban band (goshpech) became popular: the goshpech was a long, narrow band, usually
embroidered and often embellished with pearls or sequins which was wrapped around the
turban and tied at the front. It appears in portraits of Lucknow nobles during the 1770s
and, to a lesser extent, the 1780s (31, fig. 36). It seems to have enjoyed a revival under
Wajid Ali Shah, as some attendants in the Ishqnamah are seen wearing them wrapped
around flat turbans rather than the Mughal-style headgear of the previous century.
Head-wear became a focal point of Lucknow inventiveness (104). As Abdul Halim
Sharar explains in his informative account of Lucknow, this was partly because turbans
became smaller and smaller at the Mughal court and the caps worn underneath them
therefore were obliged also to become small.14 Eventually, people gave up wearing pagris
(turbans) altogether, and focused on creating new types of cap and other headgear. There
was a four-sided cap called a chaugoshia, a dome-shaped cap with four or five sections
which was produced in Delhi but which influenced Lucknow styles; the mandil, which

238 239 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

Sharar describes as “a round cap like a tambourine”;15 Although the splendor of the courts of the flamboyant
the ever-popular dopalri, which was made up of two flat nawabs and kings of Awadh such as Wajid Ali Shah may
half-moons joined along the curved sides, and the more have declined in the later nineteenth century after the
pointed version of this cap, called the nukkadar, which events of 1857 and British annexation, it is clear that
was often embroidered in gold and silver thread. Some Lucknow continued to be a major center of craft and
extraordinary new shapes of hat were created, often out textile production. William Hoey’s survey of trades and
of gold-embroidered fabric and sometimes in styles based manufactures lists an astonishing number of textile-
on western models, especially crowns. The enthusiasm for related crafts that were still being carried out in 1879 – 80,
crownlike hats was almost certainly inspired by the even though he laments the fact that “the weavers of
bestowal of the title “king” on Ghazi al-Din Haidar in Lucknow have been ruined by the import of European
1819 and Nasir al-Din Haidar in 1827, and both can be goods.” Silk-weaving seems particularly to have suffered,
seen sporting fanciful crowns in contemporaneous and he writes that the local silk products have been “quite
paintings (2, p. 95; 36, p. 19; 103, p. 239). crushed out by the import of European silks and Indian
Western styles infiltrated other aspects of male dress silks from other seats of manufacture.” Hoey also reports
as the nineteenth century progressed. Wajid Ali Shah’s that even the fine cotton weaving for which Lucknow and
illustrated romance, the Ishqnamah, shows some remark- its environs was so well known is “at its last gasp.” In
able outfits clearly based on western military styles, with spite of this sad state of affairs, chikan embroidery,
elaborate frogging and gold braid epaulettes. Later dyeing, printing, dari weaving, silk-weaving, turban-
photographic albums like An Illustrated Historical Album weaving, cotton-weaving, gota border–weaving, cord-mak-
of the Rajas and Taluqdars of Oudh (1880) show men ing, shoe-making, blanket-weaving, carpet-weaving,
dressed largely in a recognizably Lucknow style, often darning, shawl-weaving, and gold embroidering are all
with the elaborate headgear just described, including listed as trades actively pursued at the time in Lucknow.17
tinsel “crowns,” turbans made of Kashmir-shawl mate-
rial, caps such as the four-sided chaugoshia, the pointed
1 . On Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali, née Biddy Timms, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones’s
nukkadar, and the large, round mandil (179). A notable
essay in this volume.
exception is one Rampal Singh (upper right), who chose 2 . Fanny Parks, Wanderings of a Pilgrim, in search of the picturesque, during
to be photographed for the album in western dress with four-and-twenty years in the East; with revelations of life in the zenana, 2 vols.
(London: Pelham Richardson, 1850), 87.
no hat or turban. He is described in the text as “an 3. Mrs. Meer Hassan Ali, Observations on the Mussulmauns of India descriptive
of their manners, customs, habits and religious opinions made during a twelve
English scholar” who has “imbibed the manner and years’ residence in their immediate society (1832). 2nd edition, ed. W. Crooke
customs of the West by a long residence in England.” 16 (London: Oxford University Press, 1917), 106 – 9.
4. Ibid., 111–12.
The interiors in which these outfits were worn also follow
5. Ibid., 357– 58.
the same trajectory from Mughal relative simplicity to 6. Ibid., 361.
western-inspired excess. The halls and terraces in which 7. Parks, Wanderings, 190.
8. Ali, Observations, 148 – 49.
Polier is seen watching nautch parties in the 1770s and
9. William Hoey, A Monograph on Trade and Manufactures in Northern India
1780s (106, p. 68) appear sparsely furnished with the (Lucknow: American Methodist Mission Press, 1880), 127.
10. Ibid., 28.
usual floor-based furniture of daris or satranjis (flat-
11 . R. C. Sharma, K. Giri, and A. Chakraverty, eds., Indian Art Treasures:
woven cotton rugs), floor-spreads and cushions (although Suresh Neotia Collection (Varanasi: Jnana-Pravaha, 2006), 250.
we know that Polier also possessed a western-style sofa, 12 . Ibid., 251n3.
13. C. A. Silberrad, Monograph on Cotton Fabrics Produced in the North-West
as shown in the painting in [Fig. 26, p. 180]). These Provinces and Oudh (Allahabad: Government Press, 1898).
furnishing textiles would usually be of embroidered velvet 14. Abdul Halim Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture, trans.
and ed. E. S. Harcourt and Fakhir Hussain (London: Elek, 1975), 171.
or plain white cloth for simpler occasions, just as at Delhi, 15. Ibid., 172.

179. Darogah Abbas Ali, from

but by the middle of the nineteenth century, Wajid Ali 16. Abbas Ali, Haji Darogah, An Illustrated Historical Album of the Rajas and
Taluqdars of Oudh (Allahabad: North-Western Provinces and Oudh
An IllustRated HistoRical Shah was imitating Victorian interiors with chairs, Government Press, 1880), 66.
Album of the Rajas and
TaluQdaRs of Oudh, 1880 tables, and chandeliers. 17. Hoey, A Monograph, 28 –196, quotes on 28.

240 241 CRill : Textiles and DRess in Lucknow

Pet er M an u e l

Music in Lucknow’s Gilded Age

In the nineteenth century Lucknow came to host an urban culture of extraordinary sophistication and rich-
ness, unparalleled not only in its exquisite elegance but also in its sheer amount of creative activity and output.
Music and dance played preeminent roles in this cultural efflorescence, ardently patronized by elite epicurean
aesthetes for whom the fine arts constituted an indispensable concomitant to refined dress, language, cuisine,
and the good life in general. Although twentieth-century music historians have written with ambivalence about
the era’s sybaritism and alleged cultural shallowness, Lucknow in the nawabi period constituted the primary
center for music patronage in North India and hosted a music culture of unique refinement and expressive
charm. In a period in which artistic patronage suffered from the disruptive effects of the Uprising (1857– 58)
and the dramatic decline of the feudal nobility, Lucknow played an essential role in sustaining and even rein-
vigorating the fine arts. Further, the dynamic innovations it fostered provided much of the foundation for the
lively flowering of Hindustani music in its modern era that can be said to have commenced in the early 1900s.
The visitor to Lucknow today can admire the joyously flamboyant imperial gateways and imambaras
built by the nawabs, and aficionados of Urdu literature still savor the ghazals penned by the era’s poets. How-
ever, in the absence not only of recordings but also of musical notations like those in the West, the sounds of
“Lakhnavi” or Lucknowi-era music are largely lost to us. Nevertheless, some forms of nawabi-period song and
instrumental style were perpetuated more or less faithfully by twentieth-century musicians and constituted
direct sources for other, more modern stylistic developments. Perhaps more substantially, we are able to learn
much about the epoch’s music culture from contemporary chronicles, especially two works in Urdu. One of
these is a treatise on music, Madan al-Mausiqi (Mine of Music), written in 1856 by Mohammad Karm Imam, a

242 243 Manuel : Music

courtier of Wajid Ali Shah’s. While most of this work consists of a fairly conventional employers of performers. Asaf al-Daula set the tone for the later rulers with his luxuri-
rehash of traditional Sanskritic music theory, in one chapter—felicitously translated into ous lifestyle and his neglect of administration. After the brief subsequent (mis)rule of
English and published in 1959 – 60 —the author presents a detailed and engagingly Wazir Ali Khan, and the musically quiescent period of his successor, the puritanical
opinionated survey of musicians of his era, providing, indeed, a mine of data for music Saadat Ali Khan, nawabi patronage rebounded under the energetic support of his son
historians. The other outstanding Urdu source is a series of articles written in the early Ghazi al-Din Haidar (d. 1827), and the latter’s son Nasir al-Din Haidar, whose frivolous
1900s by Abdul Halim Sharar, translated and published in English as Lucknow: The Last lifestyle was publicized through an 1855 British exposé entitled The Private Life of an
Phase of an Oriental Culture, and containing informative chapters on music. Passing Eastern King. This sensationalist book, which enjoyed considerable popularity in Britain,
references to music in the writings of British chroniclers provide different sorts of per- disparaged the nawab for his transvestism, his decadent extravagance, and his indiffer-
spectives and information, as do other miscellaneous texts, recollections of elders, the ence to administering his kingdom, a task that he delegated to a set of European mounte-
1905 novel Umrao Jan Ada about a courtesan, and “Company” paintings—especially of banks, especially his barber. At the same time, the author noted that Haidar’s court was
dance performances. Among the works by modern music historians that have synthesized the most brilliant in India and his court performers the best. After the barber fled with
such data, Allyn Miner’s Sitar and Sarod in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries is much of the treasury, Haidar was poisoned and replaced by the elderly and sober Muham-
particularly astute and thorough. mad Ali Shah, who died in 1842. His successor, Amjad Ali, reverted to the voluptuous
lifestyle of Nasir al-Din, and upon his death the throne passed to his son Wajid Ali, who,
The Rise of Lucknow having not been the heir-apparent, had been allowed to spend his youth primarily in the
company of courtesans and performers.
The city of Delhi served, except for passing interludes, as the imperial capital of the
Muslim dynasties that ruled northern India from the twelfth century to the early eigh-
Wajid Ali Shah
teenth century. After the death of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, the empire
disintegrated rapidly, and a series of invasions, pillagings, and massacres undermined the Wajid Ali Shah’s nine-year rule (which ended with annexation by the British in 1856)
city’s ability to sustain patronage of the fine arts. While Delhi was declining, two hun- constituted a zenith of fine arts activity. Like several of his predecessors, Wajid Ali had
dred miles to the southeast the city of Lucknow was emerging as the political, economic, no patience for the tedium of administrative affairs, and instead devoted his energies and
and cultural center of the North. Formerly a sleepy provincial town of no particular expenses to sponsoring and personally mastering the arts of music, dance, drama, and
distinction (and of which no particular musical activity has been documented), Lucknow poetry. The British resident, Sir William Henry Sleeman, and other observers were
became the wealthy capital of the province of Awadh, whose substantial agricultural dismayed by Wajid Ali’s indifference to governing and the fact that he rarely ate, slept,
surplus came to sustain the rise of an opulent and sophisticated elite. Allowed by the or conversed with anyone but musicians, concubines, poets, and eunuchs. Most disturbing
newly empowered British to rule as irresponsibly as they wished while paying a heavy were the corruption, mischief, and chaos resulting from his tendency to award high
tribute, the nawabs—at once protected and rendered impotent by British firepower— administrative and even military posts to low-caste musicians (of the dom and dhari
found patronage of the arts to be one of the few arenas in which their court could achieve castes) and especially to a sitar player named Ghulam Raza Khan, who became his closest
renown. As a result, innumerable courtesans, artists, and musicians migrated from Delhi adviser (while energetically defrauding the nawab at the same time). To a dour observer
and elsewhere to Lucknow to bask in the patronage of the new gentry. like Sleeman, Wajid Ali represented the epitome of despotic decadence.
Awadh’s musical efflorescence dates from the 1750s, when scores of professional As a patron of the fine arts, however, Wajid Ali Shah was extraordinarily energetic,
musicians went to Faizabad and Lucknow to benefit from patronage provided by Nawab innovative, and influential. His Urdu and Braj-bhasha Hindi poetry is engaging, his
Shuja al-Daula, an ardent music lover. When his successor, Asaf al-Daula, moved the dance-dramas (called rahas) sparked the emergence of folk music theater and modern
Awadh capital from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775, he established an extensive retinue of urban Urdu drama, and his court became the primary crucible for the flowering of kathak,
court performers there. In this period, the most prominent Lucknow musicians were
the North Indian classical dance style. Perhaps most outstanding was his contribution to
refugees from Delhi, so that, as Sharar wrote, “Lucknow’s lamp was lit by that of Delhi.” music. Wajid Ali enthusiastically employed and sustained many of the North’s most gifted
By the early nineteenth century, however, the culture of Lucknow had begun to acquire a classical artists, whose names are extensively documented by Karm Imam. Even the wily
flavor of its own, which, while lacking the depth and grandeur of Mughal arts, displayed Ghulam Raza Khan, when not cuckolding and robbing the nawab, was developing and
what can be described as a sort of manneristic, rococo sophistication of exquisite refine- popularizing a sitar style that would form much of the basis of modern instrumental
ment, whether in architecture, poetry, or music. playing. Wajid Ali had more than two hundred concubines trained in music and dance,2
Both the amount and character of Lucknow’s musical activity were conditioned by the housing them in a palace called the “Fairy House” (Pari Khana). His energetic patronage
orientation and background of its patrons. At the apex of the patronage system were, of extended to folk music and theater as well as classical fine arts. Further, he was himself
Page 242: 19. Fath Chand, Todi Ragini,
c. 1750 – 60 course, the nawabs themselves, whose courts could constitute by far the largest single an avid and reportedly skilled singer, composer, and percussionist; of his many light

244 245 Manuel : Music

classical compositions, his thumri “Babul mora naihar” remains one of the most popular behag [classical rags or melodic modes], and other ragas with such excellence that those
songs in the genre (although its modern form of rendering may be quite distinct from its who heard them were entranced and the greatest singers envied them.”4
original style). While he clearly preferred the emerging, romantic, semiclassical genres to
the hoary and austere Mughal ones, it seems evident that he was in his way a sophisti- Music in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Lucknow
cated connoisseur. Further, although he may not have devoted his days to administering
In North Indian classical music history, nawabi Lucknow can be seen as a stage of
his kingdom, he evidently spent many if not most of them not in a drunken stupor but
dynamic transition between the Mughal era and the modern period commencing in the
rather in vigorous fine-arts production and promotion, as might befit an energetic Minis-
early twentieth century. The preeminent vocal music genre of the Mughal era, especially
ter of Culture. Even after his exile in 1856 to Matiya Burj in Calcutta, arts patronage at
as flourishing in Delhi and Gwalior, had been dhrupad, a relatively austere genre in which
his ersatz court continued to be munificent and laid the foundation for Calcutta’s musical
a solo singer, with instrumental accompaniment, sang an improvisatory alap in free
preeminence in subsequent decades.
rhythm in a given rag or melodic mode, segueing to a metered section based on a precom-
posed song, with drum accompaniment. Dhrupad could also be rendered instrumentally,
Elite Patronage outside the Court
especially on the bin, a stick zither with two large resonating gourds. Karm Imam’s
While Wajid Ali Shah’s court would have constituted the single most substantial and best Madan al-Mausiqi and other sources document the presence of several dhrupad perform-
documented source of Lucknow’s fine arts patronage, a prodigious and probably more ers in nawabi Lucknow, suggesting that the genre still enjoyed prestige and patronage.
extensive amount of musical activity went on outside the court, as patronized by the elite Increasingly, however, dhrupad was being replaced by khyal, which allowed greater scope
of the city and its environs. While the institution of public concerts for paying audiences both for leisurely elaboration of a rag as well as display of virtuoso technique. Khyal
did not emerge until after 1900, fine arts performances took place in a variety of contexts, performers were also well represented in Lucknow, and since the early twentieth century,
especially the homes of the aristocracy and the salons of the city’s courtesans. Lucknow khyal has been the standard idiom of North Indian classical (“Hindustani”) music.
became renowned for the sophistication and talent of its courtesans, some of whom While the serious classical styles khyal and dhrupad held their own in Lucknow,
acquired considerable wealth and fame as singers or dancers. The 1905 Urdu novel by considerably more popular, whether in court, the courtesan salon, or the homes of the
Mirza Ruswa, Umrao Jan Ada, paints a colorful portrait—at once melodramatic and elite, were semiclassical vocal genres, especially thumri and ghazal, which remain popular,
realistic—of the courtesan milieu and the book’s heroine, a singer struggling to negotiate in somewhat differing styles, to this day. Prior to Wajid Ali Shah’s time, thumri had been
the perversities of ephemeral successes and ardent lovers who are variously noble, impecu- an obscure regional dance song, but as cultivated in Lucknow it rapidly evolved into a
nious, or villainous. 3
sophisticated semiclassical art, linked to the concurrently developing kathak dance.
Lucknow’s gentry in the nawabi era was in some respects diverse. Aside from the Thumri and ghazal are “lighter” in the sense that the rag may be maintained in a casual
nawabs themselves, many aristocrats would have been assorted princes or other dignitar- and flexible manner rather than a scrupulous one, and there is less emphasis on either
ies associated in one way or another with the court. Another category would comprise the virtuoso display or sober, meditative alap. Moreover, the sentiment of the song lyrics,
remnants of the Mughal feudal landlords—the zamindars—who lived off the revenues of rather than being essentially ignored as in the serious, rag-oriented genres, is fore-
land granted to them generations earlier. From the early 1800s, however, this social class grounded as the singer brings out expressive nuances by subjecting the text lines to
in Awadh and elsewhere was being increasingly bankrupted by a British land tenure melodic variation and elaboration.5 The Urdu ghazal, a sophisticated verse form typically
system which effected the summary eviction—rather than a traditional mere harass- about unrequited love, also enjoyed phenomenal popularity during this period, both as
ment—of landowners who failed to pay their taxes, which under the British were becom- sung and as a purely literary genre. Thumri and ghazal performances could also incorpo-
ing ever more onerous. As such, the hereditary zamindars were being replaced by a new rate dance, as a singer—whether seated or standing—might mimetically enact the action
class of protocapitalist landlords called taluqdars, many of whom also patronized the or sentiment of the lyric, either while singing or during percussive interludes between
arts, whether out of genuine interest, a desire to appear sophisticated, or a sense of verses. Hence thumri and ghazal were the mainstays of the “nautch” (nach), a song-and-
noblesse oblige. dance session in which courtesan vocalists and dancers, accompanied by male instrumen-
Nawabi Lucknow, like the rest of contemporary India, lacked a broad-based bourgeoi- talists, would perform for private audiences. Nautches are depicted in several paintings of
sie that could have bridged the social gap between rich and poor, and there were neither the era, and prior to the Uprising were often enjoyed, attended, and even sponsored by
mass media nor regular public concerts to expose subalterns to the fine arts. Neverthe- British officers.
less, evidence suggests that access to and fondness for semiclassical music extended well Many performers of thumri and ghazal were male, including Wajid Ali Shah himself.
beyond the mansions of the rich. Sources like Sharar’s writings attest to the Lucknow However, as light, sensual styles they were more typically associated with courtesans (or
Muslims’ zeal for education, and the alleged musicality and refinement of ordinary tawaifs), that is, professional female entertainers who were trained in these arts, as well
urbanites. As he wrote, “Sometimes bazaar boys have been heard singing bhairvin, sohni, as in etiquette, genteel conversation, and refined culture in general. Courtesans had been

246 247 Manuel : Music

a fixture of urban Indian society for millennia, but the extent of their renown and promi- The Musical Legacy of Nawabi Lucknow

nence in nawabi Lucknow seems to have been unprecedented. Nobles wooed them and sent
Indian writers on Hindustani music history have tended to regard the Lucknow period
their sons to the tawaif’s salons to learn cultured habits. Salons of leading courtesans—
with deep ambivalence. While acknowledging the prodigious amount of musical activity
many of whom amassed great wealth—were centers of the high culture of the era, with
and patronage in the nawabi era, they have generally disparaged the incommensurate
poetry readings, concerts, and daily social gatherings of the city’s most urbane aesthetes.
orientation toward the lighter, more sentimental genres of thumri and ghazal rather than
Even the opinionated and conservative critic Imam, while at certain points disparaging
the serious classical dhrupad and khyal. The turn toward the sensuous and sentimental
tawaifs and their male teachers, lavishly praised some of them, saying of one Bi Rehman
in music can be seen to parallel the prevailing orientation of Lucknow Urdu poetry, in
Bai that she “sings better than any male singer of the age. . . . In fact, I have never heard
contrast to the more philosophical verse of earlier poets like Mir Taqi “Mir.” Hence
any ustad [maestro] who could equal her.”6 Ruswa’s novel Umrao Jan Ada depicted a
Sharar, for example, quotes an elderly music purist lamenting the great “harm” done by
private performance in which the heroine effectively used her ghazal-singing to ensnare
the captivating thumris of Lucknow composer Kadar Piya.8 In retrospect, it is difficult to
the heart (and purse) of a young nobleman in the audience, singing elegant Urdu love
empirically assess such criticisms, since, for one thing, the extraordinary vogue of thumri
lyrics while staring him in the eye. Lucknow’s courtesan culture, with thumri and ghazal
and ghazal may not have been at the expense of khyal and dhrupad, which are serious
at its core, enjoyed extraordinary renown, representing the zenith of the Indo-Muslim
classical idioms never destined for mass popularity.
aesthetic epicureanism, as later bowdlerized in several Bollywood films.
Perhaps equally problematic is the complaint, which recurs in modern Indian music
Instrumental music also flourished in Lucknow. Imam enumerates many exponents of
historiography, that the nawabs and even the Mughals before them had vitiated and
instrumental dhrupad, along with members of the less prestigious hereditary dom and
profaned music by depriving it of its (Hindu) spiritual orientation, turning it into a
dhari musician castes whose primary occupation was teaching and accompanying tawaifs.
vulgar “fleshly” art for the diversion of hedonistic, decadent kings and princes. It is true
Perhaps most important in the historical perspective was the extent to which the bases for
that the Muslim rulers of North India, in ardently patronizing the largely Hindu-oriented
modern Hindustani instrumental music were laid in nineteenth-century Lucknow. The
fine arts culture they inherited, on the whole secularized it, rather than attempting, for
dhrupad instruments—especially the stringed bin and the rabab, as well as the pakhavaj
example, to Islamicize it, much less ban it. Hence, if Wajid Ali Shah wrote verses about
barrel drum accompanying them—were gradually being upstaged by instruments more
Radha and Krishna and staged dance-dramas in which he himself played the role of
suitable to khyal style, with its greater expressive range and its scope for virtuoso display.
Krishna, he was evidently inspired less by a Hindu religiosity than by a purely aesthetic
The most popular instruments in modern Hindustani music have been the sitar, sarod,
fondness for the arts. Indeed, the secularization of Hindustani music’s aesthetics may
and tabla drum pair, which are louder and brighter sounding than their predecessors and
have facilitated its remarkably successful adaptation to modern patronage.
more suitable for pyrotechnics. All three instruments, far from being ancient, took their
Early-twentieth-century reformers like V. N. Bhatkhande and V. D. Paluskar
modern shape in the 1800s, and it appears that both their organological as well as stylistic
successfully campaigned to persuade the emerging Indian bourgeoisie to patronize
evolutions were to a large extent centered in Lucknow.7 The colorful Ghulam Raza Khan
Hindustani music, and to divest that music of its associations with the backward world
was evidently a founder of the emergent modern sitar style, which derived less from
of courtesans and effete feudal nawabs. Intrinsic to the success of such reformists,
dhrupad than as an adaptation of up-tempo contemporary thumri compositions to sitar.
however, was the fact that the music itself had remained vital, due in great part to the
Sarod playing, as cultivated by his contemporaries, appears to have developed along the
vigor of the Lucknow period.
same lines, while several basic aspects of modern tabla playing clearly evolved in tandem
with these instruments. Even the fast-tempo section of modern khyal evolved hand-in- 1. Abdul Halim Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture, trans. E. S. Harcourt and Fakhir Hussain
hand with the closely similar Lucknow thumri style. (London: Elek, 1975), 134.
2. Mohammad Najam Al-Ghani Khan, Tarikh-e-Avadh, ed. Zaki Kakorvia (Lucknow: Idara-e-Farogh-e-Urdu, 1979), 526.
Aside from classical and semiclassical fine arts, nawabi Lucknow hosted a variety of
3. Mirza Mohammad Hadi Ruswa, The Courtesan of Lucknow (Umrao Jan Ada), trans. Khushwant Singh and M. A. Hadi,
genres which might today be categorized as “folk music” for their lack of abstract music (1905; Delhi: Hind Pocket Books, 1970).
4. Sharar, Lucknow, 139.
theory and because of their accessible nature. Several such genres, however, were sophisti-
5. See Allyn Miner, Sitar and Sarod in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Wilhelmshaven, Germany: Florian
cated and rich in their own way, as are their latter-day counterparts. Particularly Noetael, 1993).
6. See Peter Manuel, Thumri in Historical and Stylistic Perspectives (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1989).
dynamic under the patronage of the Shia royalty was the art of soz khwani, musical
7. Hakim Mohammad Karm Imam, “Melody through the Centuries: Being a Chapter from Ma’danul Moosiqui written in
renderings of Urdu verse typically lamenting the martyrdom of the Shia saints at Kar- 1856 by Hakim Mohammad Karam Imam, a courtier of Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow,” trans. Govind Vidyarthi, Sangeet
Natak Akademi Bulletin 11–12 (1959): 21.
bala. Sufi qawwali, with its lively and rhythmic renditions of mystical Urdu poetry, also
8. Sharar, Lucknow, 137.
thrived in Muslim shrines and other contexts. Processions of various sorts, such as were
connected with weddings or Muharram, were also invigorated with music, especially
thunderous tassa drum ensembles with their virtuoso percussionists.

248 249 Manuel : Music


alap: the introductory portion of a classical Indian motifs for use on a wide range of goods, jama: a tailored robe with fitted waist and full skirt. Maratha: a term describing various Hindu states qawwali: a Sufi devotional song often sung at Sunni: literally, “one of the path.” Refers to Muslims
musical or vocal recital in which the performer furnishings, and architecture. Tied usually at the side of the chest and waist. that rose to political and military prominence in dargahs. who recognize the caliphs—leaders who were
expounds the features of the raga, or melodic chowk: marketplace or square. jamdani: a weaving technique used to produce the region of present-day Maharashtra state Quran (also Koran): the sacred book of Islam. elected by the Muslim community—as the
framework, for the ensuing composition. darwaza: gateway. figured muslin cloth. during the seventeenth century. By the late rabab: a type of plucked string instrument. legitimate successors of the Prophet Muhammad.
al-Hind: Arabic term for India, adapted from the dastan: a genre of Persian narrative poetry focused Jami Masjid (also Jama Masjid): a congregational eighteenth century, the Marathas had extended raga: a melodic mode that serves as a framework Sunni Muslims recognize Ali, the cousin and
Persian word Hind, which referred both to the largely on themes of heroism, adventure, and mosque where official Friday prayer services are their control into Gujarat and north-central for musical and vocal compositions. son-in-law of Muhammad, as the fourth Caliph.
land beyond the Indus (ancient Sindhu) River courtly life. conducted. India, and had attacked Delhi. They were Ragamala: literally, “Garland of Ragas.” A series tabla: pair of hand drums, each of different size
(located in present-day Pakistan) and to the dargah: a Muslim shrine often associated with the Jat: name of a diverse community of peoples residing subdued by the British in the early nineteenth of paintings illustrating a standardized grouping and musical tone, which today constitutes the
Persian-Indian frontier zone of Sindh in which it tomb of a saint or with an object of veneration. across northern India and Pakistan, historically century. of ragas. The ragas are personified as archetypal primary percussion instrument of classical Indian
was located. darogah: a title denoting a position of authority. known for their agrarian lifestyles and martial marsiya: elegiac or heroic narrative poetry, heroes and heroines and are depicted in various music.
angarkha: a calf-length long-sleeved robe worn by Deccan: the central plateau region of southern natures. frequently honoring the martyrs of Karbala. settings and situations. takhallus: a pen name.
men, with a semicircular opening at the chest India. jawab: literally, “answer.” A building within an masjid: mosque. A Muslim place of worship. rahas: a theatrical dance performance with themes taluqdar : a landowner or landholder belonging to
revealing an inner cloth panel. dev: also deva. A god or divinity. architectural complex that serves as a symmetri- masnawi: a Persian verse form associated with a deriving from the exploits, especially amatory, of an originally rural, then urban, class of Muslim
angiya: a sleeveless, tight bodice worn by women dhari: a class of musicians who often performed as cal double to another like structure. range of genres including literary epics, didactic the Hindu god Krishna. and Hindu merchants and speculators that
beneath a covering scarf or robe. accompanists to dancers. Today the term is kalidar/kaliondar paijama: trousers with poetry, and romances. rahas khana: a building constructed by Wajid Ali emerged to prominence in Awadh in the early
bagh: garden. inclusive of a broad community of hereditary especially flared lower legs. matam: a song or poem expressing lament. Its Shah for theatrical entertainments. nineteenth century. They assumed primary
Basant (also Vasant, Vasanta): the season of musicians. Karbala: site in Iraq where the third Imam, recitation during the mourning rituals of raja: king or prince. patronage for the arts following the end of the
spring. Also the name of various festivals dhrupad: a genre of classical North Indian, or Husain, and his followers were slain in battle in Muharram is accompanied by a beating of the rekhta: classical Urdu ghazal, written in a male nawabi period in 1856, after the annexation of
celebrating the spring. Hindustani, vocal music, known for its austere 680 CE. Also a name given to a type of building chest. voice. Awadh.
basse-taille: an enameling technique featuring style. where the model tombs (taziyas) that are carried mirza: Persian title designating a prince or honorifi- rekhti: a genre of Urdu poetry, composed by men, tassa: a kettle drum or an ensemble containing
low-relief, cut or hammered designs visible diwan: a collection of poems, usually by one poet in procession during the mourning rituals of cally denoting a high-ranking or esteemed male. but written in a feminine voice. such drums.
beneath transparent enamel pastes. dom: a class of hereditary musicians who provided Muharram are interred. mufti: a Muslim cleric or expert in Islamic law. Rohilla: from Roh, referring to a mountainous tawaif: a courtesan. In South Asia the term
begam (also begum): term used to denote a woman dance and musical entertainment. kathak: a classical North Indian dance tradition, Mughal: a Muslim dynasty founded in 1526 by the terrain of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the designates a range of professional female
of high or noble rank, usually Muslim. dupatta: an unstitched length of fabric worn over one important school of which is associated with Timurid Prince Babur (1483–1530). The dynasty eighteenth century, the term came to refer to the entertainers, including an elite class of women
bibi: wife or lady. From the late eighteenth century, the upper body in the manner of a scarf or shawl. Lucknow, where the tradition was especially ruled over various regions of South Asia, Indo-Afghans of Rohilkhand, a region to the trained in the arts, etiquette, and culture.
the term was frequently used to refer to the Eid: Abbreviated form of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth particularly northern India, until 1858. The northwest of Awadh. taziya: literally, “consolation.” Model tombs that
female companions—Indian or European—of festival marking the end of Ramadan, the month centuries. name of the dynasty refers to its rulers’ maternal Safavid: Persian dynasty of Shia Muslims who are carried in procession during Muharram.
European men. of fasting. Kayastha: a Hindu caste, historically engaged in descent from the Mongol Chingiz (Genghis) ruled Iran and its border regions from 1502 to thumri: a semiclassical vocal genre of North Indian,
bidri: decorative metalware made from a zinc- farshi paijama: wide-legged trousers. administrative, record-keeping, or writing Khan. 1736. or Hindustani, music. Popularized at Lucknow
and-lead alloy, and ornamented with inlaid or ganj: a marketplace or a town with a considerable occupations. Many converted to Islam during the Muharram: the first month of the Islamic calendar. sarod: a type of plucked string instrument, during the reign of Wajid Ali Shah.
overlaid sheets of precious metals and/or strands market or commercial nature. period of Muslim rule in northern India. Heralds the beginning of the mourning period descended in part from the rabab. Timurid: Turko-Mongol dynasty, established by the
of wire. Lucknow bidri ware often features raised ghazal: a genre of Persian poetry and song dealing khana: house. observed by Shia Muslims for the third Imam, shaikh: Arabic and Persian title primarily chieftain Timur (1370–1405). Controlled vast
designs with carved motifs and a thin overlay of largely with themes of spiritual and worldly love. Khatri: a predominantly Hindu caste and Husain, and his fellow martyrs at Karbala, where designating a learned scholar or, in the case of territories extending from Turkey into India
silver or, rarely, gold. goshpech: a decorative band of cloth wrapped community historically associated with the region they died on the tenth (Ashura) of Muharram. mystical orders, a spiritual master. until its collapse in 1506.
bin: a type of stick zither with two gourd resonators. around a turban. of the Panjab in northwestern India and mujtahid: Shia Muslim scholars possessing the shaikhzada: literally, descendant of the shaikh ulama: a class of Muslim religious scholars.
Also known as the rudra vina, it is associated hauda: also howdah. A type of seat or conveyance Pakistan. Many converted to Islam during the authority to interpret religious law. (elder or chief). A predominately Sunni landed Umayyad: the first Muslim dynasty which, at its
with the classical musical genre of dhrupad and used atop elephants. period of Muslim rule in northern India. nautch: Anglicized version of the Hindi term nach, agricultural community who controlled the region greatest extent, encompassed lands extending
rose to prominence during the reign of the huqqa: also hookah or water pipe. A type of pipe in khilat: a robe of honor or set of garments meaning dance. of Lucknow before being defeated in 1722 by the from Spain to Pakistan. Ruled from their capital
Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556–1605). which tobacco smoke is cooled and filtered by ceremonially bestowed by a ruler. nawab: deputy or vice-regent/governor. new Mughal governor (nawab) of Awadh, Saadat at Damascus, Syria, from 661 to 750 CE.
boteh: also buta, literally “flower.” A decorative passing through water. khwaja: an honorific title denoting respect. nawabi period: 1722–1856. Generally defined Khan Burhan al-Mulk. Urdu: South Asian language combining Persian,
motif, taking the form of a teardrop with a curled imam: literally, “leader.” Generally refers to the khyal: a genre of classical North Indian, or herein as the time span from the appointment of Shia: literally “partisans” or “followers.” Refers to Arabic, and Hindi vocabulary. Written in
tip, found especially on textiles. Popularly known leader of congregational prayer within a Muslim Hindustani, music, considered lighter and more Saadat Khan Burhan al-Mulk (ruled 1722–39) as the Muslim followers of Ali, first cousin and Perso-Arabic script.
as paisley. community or at a particular mosque. To Imami, ornate than the genre of dhrupad. the nawab of Awadh until its annexation by the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, whom ustad: a title of respect, especially denoting a
braj-bhasha: a Hindi language associated with the or Twelver, Shia Muslims, the term has special kotha: house or mansion, referring especially to a English East India Company in 1856. Techni- Shias regard as the Prophet’s legitimate master of music or poetry.
region of Braj in northern India. It was the importance, denoting twelve designated leaders of courtesan’s residences and salon. cally, beginning in 1819, when Ghazi al-Din successor. Usuli: A school of Shia Muslim scholars who
primary language of the Hindu devotional the Muslim community who include Ali—the kothi: a palatial residence or house. Haidar was crowned king of Awadh, its Sikh: an adherent of the Sikh faith, a South Asian advocated the role of intellectual reasoning and
literature of northern India from the sixteenth Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law—and several of kurta/kurti: a loosely stitched tunic, the kurti sovereigns ruled as kings rather than governors. religion founded in the Panjab region of the authority of mujtahid in the interpretation of
through eighteenth centuries. his descendants through the late ninth century. being shorter in length. nim qalam: literally, “half pen.” A technique for northwestern India and Pakistan by Guru Nanak Islamic law.
champlevé: an enameling technique in which imambara: literally, “house of the imam.” A mahal: palace, royal apartment, or house. rendering lightly colored drawings. (1469–1539). Sikhs maintain the existence of a wazir : chief minister.
designs are engraved or ground into a metal construction associated with the Shia Muharram maharaja: literally, “great king.” nizam: deputy or governor. The term came to be universal God and follow the teachings of Guru wazir al-mamalik: literally, “chief minister of the
surface. The designs are filled with a paste of mourning ceremonies. Whether public or private, mahi-ye maratib (also mahi-maratib or used as a royal title by the Muslim rulers of Nanak and his successors as compiled in a text kingdom.”
powdered glass and the particular metallic oxide such structures are used to store and display the mahi-o-maratib): literally, “fish of dignity.” A Hyderabad, in southern India. known as the Adi Granth, or First Book. zamindar : a hereditary landholder, and assessed
used to produce the desired enamel color. model shrines (taziyas) carried in mourning royal insignia of Persian origin. In India, odhni: a large veil worn by women as part of a more sitar : the primary plucked string instrument of revenue–collector within the Mughal administra-
Successive firings are needed because of the processions. They may also serve as tombs. awarded by Muslim rulers as a sign of favor. A elaborate clothing ensemble. classical Indian music. tion. Continued in a modified role under British
different melting temperatures of the various Islamicate: a term referring to the cultural and pair of curved fish, often arranged head-to-head Oude/Oudh: Anglicized terms for the region of soz khwani: the recitation of poetic laments, colonial rule.
enamel pastes. social dimensions of diverse Muslim communities, with their bodies forming a circle, was adopted as Awadh. typically at religious gatherings held during zardozi: literally, “gold embroidery.” Embroidery
chattri: an umbrellalike dome or a pavilion with rather than the religious. a state emblem by the nawabs of Awadh. Variant pakhavaj: a large barrel-shaped drum often played Muharram. using metallic thread, sometimes also employ-
such a dome. Jain: a South Asian religion founded in the sixth forms were employed over time. as an accompaniment during dhrupad perfor- subedar : governor. ing embellishments such as mirrors and gems.
chikan (chikankari, chikandozi): embroidery century BCE focused on the veneration of majalis: a gathering or assembly, especially for the mances. subedari: from suba, or province. An administra- zenana: women’s living quarters within a royal or
employing white thread of cotton or silk on fine twenty-four teachers, or jinas (“conquerors”), and recitation of poetry during Shia Muharram pari: fairy. tive area within the Mughal Empire. noble household.
white cotton cloth. based upon the belief that liberation from the observances. Pari Khana: literally, “Fairy House.” At Lucknow Sufi: a practitioner of a Sufi path, a mystical
chinoiserie: the European adaptation of Chinese, cycle of existence can be achieved through strict manzil: palace or house. under Wajid Ali Shah, a palace dwelling for tradition which seeks union with God as its
Japanese, Thai, and Indian–inspired designs and asceticism and meditation. women especially trained in dance and music ultimate goal.

250 251
Checklist of the exhibition

1. Introduction: Hybrid Visions Akbarnama manuscript B: Painters from the Court of Muhammad 19. Fath Chand (fl. c. 1750–60) 25. Attributed to Muhammad Faqirullah Khan 31. Mihr Chand (fl. 1759–86)
India, Mughal Empire, c. 1590–95 Shah and the Development of Painting Todi Ragini, Second Wife of Hindola Raga (fl. c. 1720–70) Shuja al-Daula
1. Tilly Kettle (England, 1735–1786)
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper at Lucknow Folio from a Ragamala series A Princess and Her Companions Enjoying a India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad or Lucknow,
Shuja al-Daula, Nawab of Awadh, Holding a Bow
12 3⁄4 x 7 1⁄4 in. (32.4 x 18.6 cm) India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1750–60 Terrace Ambiance c. 1770–80
India, Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad, 1772 14. Muhammad Shah and Nadir Shah
Victoria and Albert Museum, IS.2:95-1896 Opaque watercolor and gold on paper India, Uttar Pradesh, Farrukhabad, c. 1760–70 Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
Oil on canvas India, Mughal Empire, c. 1740
p. 75 Page 111⁄4 x 71⁄2 in. (28.6 x 19.1 cm); Opaque watercolor and gold on paper Approx. 16 x 20 in. (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
50 1⁄ 8 x 40 1⁄ 8 in. (127.3 x 101.8 cm) Opaque watercolor and gold on paper
image 51⁄2 x 3 in. (14 x 7.6 cm) Page 161⁄ 8 x 113⁄4 in. (41 x 29.9 cm); Museum fur Islamische Kunst, Berlin, I.4594,
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, 9. Jagan (fl. c. 1582–1605) composition, Sur Das 12 3⁄ 8 x 8 3⁄ 8 in. (31.5 x 21.3 cm)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with image 11 x 7 1⁄2 in. (27.9 x 19.1 cm) folio 38
B1976.7.48 (fl. c. 1584–1605) painting, and Madhav (fl. c. Musée national des Arts asiatiques–Guimet, Paris
funds provided by the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art Museum Guimet only
p. 17 1582–1605) faces MA 3544
Collection, Museum Associates Purchase, Council Fund, M.2005.159
Akbar Is Entertained by His Foster Brother p. 16 32. Possibly by Mihr Chand (fl. 1759–86)
2. Muhammad Azam M.2004.180 p. 73
Azim Khan at Dipalpur Shuja al-Daula, Nawab of Awadh, after a Painting
Nasir al-Din Haidar 15. Attributed to Mir Kalan Khan (fl. c. 1734–70) p. 242
Right side of a two-page composition from an 26. Prince Hunting with Cheetah by Tilly Kettle
India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1830 A Princess Visiting a Forest Shrine at Night
Akbarnama manuscript 20. Nidha Mal (fl. c. 1735–75) India, West Bengal, Murshidabad, 1764 or earlier India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1775
Oil on canvas India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, c. 1760