Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lucknow, Awadh: Treasure of Muslim Cultural and Intellectual Tradition

Lucknow, Awadh became the focal point of a cultural renaissance with the shifting of capital from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1776. 

Awadh is a region in the centre of the modern Indian state of Uttar PradeshThe traditional capital of Awadh has been Lucknow, the capital of the modern day Uttar Pradesh. Until 1819, Awadh was a province of the Mughal Empire administered by a Nawab. Saadat Khan Burhanul Mulk was appointed Nawab in 1722 and established his court in Faizabad near Lucknow. He took advantage of a weakening Mughal Empire in Delhi to lay the foundation of the Awadh dynasty. His successor was Safdarjung the very influential noble at the Mughal court in Delhi.  

Under royal Awadh patronage Kathak, Thumri, Khayal, Dadra, Ghazals, Qawalies and Sher-o-Shairi reached their zenith point.

Kathak: The style that flourished under patronage of Muslim rulers of Lucknow came to be known as Lucknow Gharana. Lucknow Gharana was greatly influenced by Muslim culture and traditions. The Lucknow Gharana developed a style of Kathak that is characterized by precise, finely detailed movements and an emphasis on the exposition of thumri, a semi-classical style of love song. The footwork is matched by the percussion instruments like tabala and pakhwaj. It has very intricate movements of the hands and feet along with facial expressions set to complex time cycles. The dance movements include numerous pirouettes executed at lightning speed and ending in statuesque pose.

As a centre of Islamic learning Lucknow witnessed the formation of Lucknow school of poetry under renowned poets like Anes, Dabeer, Imam-Buksh 'Nasika', Mirza Mohd. Raza Khan Burq, Atish, Mirza Shauq Asar, Josh and others. Apart from Ghazals, another form of long narrative poem for which Lucknow is famous is Masnavi. Elegy writing in Urdu also reached a new height through the three forms-'marsiyas'*. 'salams'* and 'nauhas'*.

Urdu as a language attained a rare degree of perfection in Lucknow and slowly Lucknow emerged as a cradle of unforgettable ghazals, masnavi, elegy, hazal* and dramas. The Navabs of Avadh, Twelver Shi'is and patrons of Urdu literature and poetry, provided auspices for the sublimation of the marsiya genre in North India.

In the kingdom of Avadh, during the months of Muharram and Safar, marsiay and nohay were recited on a daily basis in the majalis (gatherings to commemorate the tragedy of Karbala) held twice a day in imambareh (places of gathering for the majalis). The Navabs thus invited effective reciters (marsiya khwan and noha khwan) who had a considerable following themselves. After the recitation of marsiay and nohay, the family of the Prophet was praised and the enemies of this family rebuked.

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, himself composed a number of songs and dramas under the pen name of , 'Akhtari Pia'. No account of Lucknowi culture is complete without a mention of the famous 'Chowk' of Lucknow. The term 'Chowk' has become synonymous with Lucknow. 'Chowk' has played a vital role in the development of the Lucknowi culture. It is the pivotal point around which the traders, engravers, painters, artisans, weavers, singers flourished and grew.

Chikankari is the delicate and traditional embroidery practiced in Lucknow and it’s environs. Chikan is a unique craft involving delicate and artistic hand embroidery on a variety of textile fabric like muslin, silk, chiffon, organza, doriya and organdi. There are 36 types of stitches used in chikan work. The source of most design motifs in Chikankari is Mughal.

Lucknow is well known for its jewellery and enamelling work. Exquisite silverware's with patterns of hunting scenes, snakes and roses are very popular. The Bidri and Zarbuland silver works of Lucknow find expression on excellent pieces of huqqa farshi, jewel boxes, trays, bowls, cufflinks, cigarette holders, etc.
Renowned ivory and bone carvings with motifs of flowers, leaves, creepers, trees, birds and animals are widely produced in Lucknow. The master craftsmen create intricate items like knives, lampshades, shirt pins and small toys.

'Attars' or perfumes are also produced in Lucknow from the 19th century. The Lucknow perfumers experimented and succeeded in making attar with delicate and lasting fragrances those are made from various aromatic herbs, spices, sandal oil, musk, essence of flowers, and leaves. The famous Lucknow fragrances are khus, keora, chameli, zafran and agar.

At the turn of the eighteenth century a notable Muslim family settled in Lucknow. Its members were respected for religious learning. It was headed by Mulla Qutb al-Din (d. 1691) who had always retained close links with the Moghul court in Delhi. In fact he and his sons participated in the compilation of al-Fatawa al-`Alamghiriyyah. Since they occupied a French designed house this family came to be known as Farang Mahal.

Dar al-`Ulum Farang Mahal came into existence in 1693. It was founded by Mulla Nizam al-Din Sihal (d. 1748) and was a direct descendent of the Farang Mahal family in Lucknow. He was responsible for evolving the syllabus of this institution which is named after him i.e. Dars-e-Nizam. This syllabus is implemented in all the Muslim religious institutions in India and in other parts of the World, like in South Africa. Dar al-`Ulum Farang Mahal was noted for training Qaadhis (judges), Muftis (those competent to issued legal verdicts) and other legal officials that were, from time to time, required by Muslim courts. Thus Dar al-`Ulum Farang Mahal succeeded in filling the void in Islamic scholarship which existed after the displacement of religious centres in Delhi.

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