Wajid Ali Shah: An Artist Trapped in a King’s Robe

Wajid Ali shah- The last Nawab of Awadh whose character and stories never fail to invoke curiosity. The man who married 300 women; thriving Kothas, the establishment of Parikhana, and sprawling Kaiserbagh palace made him infamous as a king indulged in debauchery. Certainly, he was an extravagant king who splurged on architecture and art more than his armies. A Nawab whose extravagant lifestyle enamored the British to the extent that they started emulating him. Ironically, the East India Company used the same characteristics of Nawab as an excuse to usurp Awadh. You might agree to some extent as you read about him, but as you roam around the narrow bylanes of old Lucknow, the Layered persona of Nawab starts to unfold; a poet, dancer, singer, connoisseur, an amicable king whose people revolted in retaliation of the atrocities his beloved Nawab faced by British.

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah romanticized the aura of Lucknow. Artists, singers, poets flourished during his reign like never before. His love for art and culture transpired into the palate-pleasing delicacies, architectural exuberance, Kathak, and Hindustani music all that Lucknow is known for today. This was the Nawab who smeared ashes on his body and organized yogi gathering for all religions, who invented religiously neutral “ आदाब” to diminish the gap between Hindu and Muslim, a Nawab who was equally drenched in Holi colors as much as relished Eid seviyaan. Probably he is the reason that culture is so deep-rooted in Lucknow.

If you are from Lucknow and have ever been praised for your “लहज़ा and “तहज़ीब” you can unhesitatingly, give credit to this man, whose love for art marked Lucknow as a cultural bastion on the map of the world.

No wonder we can still feel the “ Nawabiyat” in everything that is connected to Lucknow as they say: “नवाब चले गए, नवाबी छोड़ गए।“ He beautifully expressed the pain of separation from his beloved Lucknow in these lines when he was deposed mercilessly by the obnoxiously greedy East India Company.

बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए

बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए

चार कहार मिल, मोरी डोलिया सजावें

मोरा अपना बेगाना छुटो जाए


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *