Lucknow in the 19th century – Vintage Pictures

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By Somali K Chakrabarti

Lucknow, the city of Nawabs, was also once the city of adab and tehzeeb (etiquette and manners).

Refined speech, manners, art, literature, poetry and “Nawabi” style cuisines once marked the culture of the city.

The capital city of Uttar Pradesh, on the bank of River Gomati, has a cultural legacy shared by Hindus and Muslims, with a strong influence of Persian court culture. The nobility consisted mainly of Shiite Muslims, who traced back their ancestry to Persia.

Peppered with Persian vocabulary and idioms, Udru language spoken in Lucknow was known for its elegance, expressiveness and extreme politeness. Lucknow Urdu played a key role in the city’s cultural milieu.

Street scene , Lucknow, 1800
Street scene in Lucknow, with shops and traders and a horseman

Lucknow first attained prominence in the 15th century under the sultans of Jaunpur. Later it was ruled by Mughal governors. By the 17th century, Lucknow was a prosperous commercial centre, and continued to flourish till 1856 as the capital of the independent Nawabs of Avadh (originally governors under the Mughals).

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