Awadh (Hindi: अवध, Nepali: अबध, Urdu: اودھ ), known in British historical texts as Oudh or Oude, all derived from Ayodhya, is a region in the centre of the Tharuhat State of Nepal and modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which was before independence known as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. It was established around 1722 AD with Faizabad as its capital and Saadat Ali Khan as its first Nawab and progenitor of Nawabs of Awadh. The traditional capital of Awadh had originally been Faizabad, but it was later moved to Lucknow, which serves as the present-day capital of Uttar Pradesh. Nepalgunj was an administrative region, which serves as the present-day capital of Tharuhat of Nepal. The modern definition of Awadh geographically includes the districts of Tulsipur, Dang, Ambedkar Nagar, Bahraich, Balrampur, Barabanki, Basti, Faizabad, Gonda, Hardoi, Lakhimpur Kheri, Lucknow, Pratapgarh, Raebareli, Shravasti, Siddharth Nagar, Sitapur, Sultanpur and Unnao from Awadh and Kanpur, Kanpur Dehat, Fatehpur, Kaushambi and Allahabad from Lower Doab. A strip of the northern areas of the Awadh region, now lies within Nepal (Tulsipur Dang and Nepalgunj) and main parts of Gorakhpur district. The region is home to a distinct dialect, Awadhi, spoken by Awadhis.
Awadh, known as the granary of India, was important strategically for the control of the fertile plain between the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers known as the Doab. It was a wealthy kingdom, able to maintain its independence against threats from the Marathas, the British and the Afghans.
Since 1350 AD different parts of the Awadh region were ruled by the Delhi Sultanate, Sharqi Sultanate, Mughal Empire, Nawabs of Awadh, East India Company and the British Raj. Lucknow was one of the major centres of Indian rebellion of 1857, participated actively in India’s Independence movement, and emerged as an important city of North India. For about eighty-four years (from 1394 to 1478) Awadh was part of the Sharqi Sultanate of Jaunpur; Emperor Humayun made it a part of the Mughal Empire around 1555. During Emperor Jehangir‘s rule, he granted an estate in Awadh to a nobleman, Sheik Abdul Rahim, who had won his favour. Sheik Abdul Rahim later built Machchi Bhawan in this estate; this later became the seat of power from where his descendants, the Sheikhzades, controlled the region. Until 1719, Subah of Awadh was a province of the Mughal Empire administered by a Nazim or Nawab (Governor) appointed by the Emperor. Nawab – the plural of the Arabic word ‘naib’, meaning ‘assistant’ – was the term given to governors appointed by the Mughal emperor all over India to assist him in managing the Empire. In the absence of expeditious transport and communication facilities, they were practically independent rulers of their territory and wielded the power of life and death over their subjects. Saadat Khan also called Burhan-ul-Mulk a Persian adventurer was appointed the Nazim of Awadh in 1722 and he established his court in Faizabad near Lucknow. The Nawabs of Lucknow were in fact the Nawabs of Awadh, but were so referred to because after the reign of the third Nawab, Lucknow became the capital of their realm. The city was North India’s cultural capital; its nawabs, best remembered for their refined and extravagnt lifestyles, were patrons of the arts. Under them music and dance flourished, and many monuments were erected. Of the monuments standing today, the Bara Imambara, the Chhota Imambara, and the Rumi Darwaza are notable examples. One of the more lasting contributions by the Nawabs is the syncretic composite culture that has come to be known as the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb.
Awadh’s political unity can be traced back to the ancient Hindu kingdom of Kosala, with Ayodhya as its capital. Modern Awadh finds historical mention only in the time of Akbar, in the late 16th century.
In prehistoric times, Awadh, reputedly the kingdom of Rama, contained five main divisions:
- Uttara Kosala or the trans-Ghaghra districts, now known as Bahraich, Gonda, Basti and Gorakhpur.
- Silliana, consisting of lower range of hills to the north of Uttara Kosala, now belonging to Nepal, with the Tarai at its base.
- Pachhimrath, which may be roughly described as the country between Ghaghra and Gomti west to the line from Ayodhya to Sultanpur. This division included about third of present district of Faizabad (including Ambedkarnagar), a small portion of the north of Sultanpur, greater part of Barabanki, and sections of the Lucknow and Sitapur districts.
- Purabrath, which may be roughly described as the country between Ghaghra and Gomti east to the line from Ayodhya to Sultanpur. This division included about two-thirds of present district of Faizabad (including Ambedkarnagar), the north-eastern corner of Sultanpur, and parts of Mirzapur district and Jaunpur.
- Arbar, extended soutwards Gomti to the Sai river.
Under the Mughals
From the pre-historic period to the time of Akbar, the limits of the province and its internal divisions seem to have been constantly changing, and the name of Oudh, or Awadh, seems to have been applicable to only one of the ancient divisions or Sarkars, nearly corresponding to old Pachhimrath. The title of Subedar of Awadh is mentioned as early as 1280 A.D., but it can only have denoted the governor of the tract of the country above defined. The Awadh of Akbar was one of the twelve (or fifteen) subahs into which he divided the Mughal Empire as it stood in the year 1590 A.D. As constituted at the end of sixteenth century, the Subah contained five sarkars, viz. Awadh, Lucknow, Bahraich, Khairabad and Gorakhpur, and these, again were divided in numerous mahals and dasturs.
Khan Zaman Khan Ali Asghar son of Qazi Ghulam Mustafa was appointed as Subahdar of Awadh during the reign of Farrukhsiyar. This appointment was made in place of ‘Aziz Khan Chughtai’. Later on, Mahabat Khan was appointed as Subahdar of Awadh in place of Khan Zaman Khan Ali Asghar who was all over again transferred to Azimabad (Patna) as Subahdar in place of ‘Sar Buland Khan’.
It seems to have been of nearly the same extent as the Province of Oudh at the time of annexation to British India in 1858, and to have differed only in including Gorakhpur, Basti, and Azamgarh, and in excluding Tanda, Aldemau, Rajesultanpur and Manikpur, or the territory to the east and South of Faizabad, Sultanpur, and Pratapgarh.
Under the Nawabs of Awadh
As the Mughal power declined and the emperors lost their paramountcy and they became first the puppets and then the prisoners of their feudatories, so Awadh grew stronger and more independent. Its capital city was Faizabad. Saadat Khan, the first Nawab of Awadh, laid the foundation of Faizabad at the outskirt of ancient city of Ayodhya. Faizabad developed as a township during the reign of Safdar Jang, the second nawab of Avadh (1739–54), who made it his military headquarters while his successor Shuja-ud-daula made it a full-fledged capital city. Suja-ud-daula, the third Nawab of Awadh, built a fort known as Chhota Calcutta, now in ruins. In 1765 he built the Chowk and Tirpaulia and subsequently laid out the Anguribagh and Motibagh to the south of it, Asafbagh and Bulandbagh to the west of the city. During the reign of Shuja-Ud-Daula, Faizabad attained such a prosperity which it never saw again. The Nawabs graced Faziabad with several beautiful buildings, notable among them being the Gulab Bari, Moti Mahal and the tomb of Bahu Begum. Gulab Bari is a striking building of fine properties, standing in a garden surrounded by a wall, approachable through two large gateways. These buildings are particularly interesting for their assimilative architectural styles. Shuja-ud-daula’s wife was the well known Bahu Begum, who married the Nawab in 1743 and continued to reside in Faizabad, her residence being the Moti-Mahal. Close by at Jawaharbagh lies her Maqbara, where she was buried after her death in 1816. It is considered to be one of the finest buildings of its kind in Awadh, which was built at the cost of three lakh rupees by her chief advisor Darab Ali Khan. A fine view of the city is obtainable from top of the begum’s tomb. Bahu Begum was a woman of great distinction and rank, bearing dignity. Most of the Muslim buildings of Faizabad are attributed to her. From the date of Bahu Begum’s death in 1815 till the annexation of Avadh, the city of Faizabad gradually fell into decay. The glory of Faizabad finally eclipsed with the shifting of capital from Faizabad to Lucknow by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula.
The Nawabs of Awadh were a Persian Shia Muslim dynasty from Nishapur, who not only encouraged the existing Persian-language belle-lettrist activity to shift from Delhi, but also invited, and received, a steady stream of scholars, poets, jurists, architects, and painters from Iran. Thus Persian was used in government, in academic instruction, in high culture, and in court,.
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. Until 1819, Awadh was a province of the Mughal Empire administered by a Nawab.
Awadh was known as the granary of India and was important strategically for the control of the Doab, the fertile plain between the Ganges and the Yamuna rivers. It was a wealthy kingdom, able to maintain its independence against threats from the Marathas, the British and the Afghans.
The third Nawab, Shuja-ud-Daula fell out with the British after aiding Mir Qasim the fugitive Nawab of Bengal. He was comprehensively defeated in the Battle of Buxar by the British East India Company, after which he was forced to pay heavy penalties and cede parts of his territory. The British appointed a resident in 1773, and over time gained control of more territory and authority in the state. They were disinclined to capture Awadh outright, because that would bring them face to face with the Marathas and the remnants of the Mughal Empire.
Asaf-ud-Daula, the fourth Nawab and son of Shuja-ud-Daula, moved the capital from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775 and laid the foundation of a great city. His rule saw the building of the Asafi Imambara and Rumi Darwaza, built by Raja Tikait Rai Nawab Wazir (Diwan) of Awadh, which till date are the biggest architectural marvels in the city. Asaf-ud-Daula made Lucknow one of the most prosperous and glittering cities in all India. It is said, he moved because he wanted to get away from the control of a dominant mother. On such a thread did the fate of the great city of Lucknow depend.
In 1798, the fifth Nawab Wazir Ali Khan alienated both his people and the British, and was forced to abdicate. The British then helped Saadat Ali Khan to the throne. Saadat Ali Khan was a puppet king, who in the treaty of 1801 ceded half of Awadh to the British East India Company and also agreed to disband his troops in favour of a hugely expensive, British-run army. This treaty effectively made part of the state of Awadh a vassal to the British East India Company, though they continued to be part of the Mughal Empire in name till 1819.
Coins were struck under the nawab’s control for the first time in 1737, at a new mint opened in Banaras, although the coins named the Mughal emperor, not the nawab. After the Battle of Buxar, the British seized Banaras, and so the mint was moved in 1776 to Lucknow. From there, coins in the name of the Mughal emperor continued to be struck, and they continued to name Muhammadabad Banaras as the mint. It was only in 1819 that Nawab Ghaziuddin Haidar finally started to strike coins in his own name. Soon thereafter, Awadhi coins started to feature the kingdom’s European style coat of arms.
The wars and transactions in which Shuja-ud-Daula was engaged, both with and against the British East India Company, led to the addition of Karra, Allahabad, Fatehgarh, Kanpur, Etawah, Mainpuri, Farrukhabad, Rohilkhand, to the Oudh dimensions, and thus they remained until the treaty of 1801 with Saadat Ali Khan, by which province was reduced considerably as half of Oudh was ceded to the British East India Company. Khairigarh, Kanchanpur, and what is now the Nepal Terai were ceded in 1816, in liquidation of Ghazi ud din Haider‘s loan of a million sterling towards the expense of Nepal War; and at the same time pargana of Nawabganj was added to Gonda district in exchange for Handia, or Kawai, which was transferred from Pratapgarh to Allahabad.
The treaty of 1801 formed an arrangement that was very beneficial to the Company. They were able to use Awadh’s vast treasuries, repeatedly digging into them for loans at reduced rates. In addition, the revenues from running Awadh’s armed forces brought them useful revenues while it acted as a buffer state. The Nawabs were ceremonial kings, busy with pomp and show but with little influence over matters of state. By the mid-19th century, however, the British had grown impatient with the arrangement and wanted direct control. They started looking about for an excuse, which the decadent Nawabs readily provided.
In 1856 the East India Company annexed the state under the Doctrine of Lapse, which was placed under a Chief Commissioner. Wajid Ali Shah, the then Nawab, was imprisoned, and then exiled by the Company to Calcutta. In the subsequent Revolt of 1857 his 14-year-old son Birjis Qadra son of Begum Hazrat Mahal was crowned ruler, and Sir Henry Lawrence killed in the hostilities.
In the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the First War of Indian Independence and the Indian Mutiny), the rebels took control of Awadh, and it took the British 18 months to reconquer the region, months which included the famous Siege of Lucknow.
The Tarai to the north of Bahraich including large quantity of valuable forest and grazing ground, was made over to the Nepal Darbar in 1860, in recognition of their services during the Revolt of 1857, and in 1874 some further cessions, on a much smaller scale, but without any apparent reason, were made in favour of the same Government.
In 1877 the offices of lieutenant-governor of the North-Western Provinces and chief commissioner of Oudh were combined in the same person; and in 1902, when the new name of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh was introduced, the title of chief commissioner was dropped, though Oudh still retained some marks of its former independence.
Best Time to Visit
Awadh is the conglomeration of different cultures and customs. The history and heritage of Awadh is simply mesmerizing one and sets the spirits of the visitors high. There are various tourist attractions that one can visit being here in Awadh .
The climate of Awadh is general extreme that is; too hot during the summers and biting cold during the winters. Hence there is always a dilemma in the mind of the tourists as to what is the best time to visit Awadh .
The region of Awadh is considered to be the center of Ganga-Jamuni culture.
Sham-e-Awadh is a famous term popular for glorious evenings in Awadh capitals Faizabad and later in greater extent to Lucknow even today the evening of Lucknow is unique. Awadh was established in 1722 AD. with Faizabad as its capital. Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula‘s son Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, the fourth Nawab of Awadh, shifted the capital from Faizabad to Lucknow; this led to decline to Faizabad and glory to Lucknow.
Just as Banares (Varanasi) is famous for its morning, Lucknow is famous for evenings. Many of famous building were made on bank of river Gomti in time of Nawabs. You can view its architectural beauty taking a trip in river Gomti in evening time. Nawabs also used to take a view of river at the evening time, so why Sham-e-Awadh is so romantic.
There is a saying: ‘Sham-e-Awadh, Shubah-e-Benares’ meaning evening of Awadh and morning of Benares (Varanasi) are unique.
Awadhi Cuisine is primarily from the city of Lucknow and its environs. The cooking patterns of the city are similar to those of Central Asia, the Middle East, and Northern India as well. The cuisine consists of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Awadh has been greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques, and the cuisine of Lucknow bears similarities to those of Kashmir, Punjab and Hyderabad; and the city is famous for its Nawabi foods.
The bawarchis and rakabdars of Awadh gave birth to the dum style of cooking or the art of cooking over a slow fire, which has become synonymous with Lucknow today. Their spread would consist of elaborate dishes like kebabs, kormas, biryani, kaliya, nahari-kulchas, zarda, sheermal,Taftan, roomali rotis and warqi parathas. The richness of Awadh cuisine lies not only in the variety of cuisine but also in the ingredients used like mutton, paneer, and rich spices including cardamom and saffron.
In popular culture
The events surrounding the 1856 overthrow of Wajid Ali Shah and the annexation of Awadh by the British are depicted in the 1977 film The Chess Players by the acclaimed Indian director Satyajit Ray. This film is based on famous Urdu story Shatranj Ke Khilari by the great Hindi-Urdu novelist writer Munshi Premchand.
The movies of Umrao Jaan are based on two cultural cities of Awadh, Lucknow and Faizabad.