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Recreational Spaces of Nawabs in Lucknow

Walking through the morose streets of present Lucknow, these massive building structures dating from the days of the Nawabs rear out of the surrounding anarchy like monuments from some lost civilisation, seemingly as disconnected from the present as it could be. At times it seems almost impossible to believe that they date from less than two hundred years ago, and that at that period Lucknow was famed as one of the richest kingdoms in Asia.

In the middle of 18th century, the Nawabs, the Muslim Shi’ite nobility of Persian Origin, carved out a semi-independent state in Awadh, one of the Mughal Empire’s richest provinces. Later defeated by the British while they were leading the imperial forces, the Nawabs accepted a subordinated alliance with the East India Company. The position of the Nawabs became weaker and in 1856 the British annexed Awadh. Yet in spite of the gradual political decline of the Awadh court, Lucknow’s splendour remained unblemished until the annexation. In this period, Lucknow’s traditional culture negotiated with a new physical environmental, which codified the transformation of the Nawabs from the warriors to refined courtiers.

The study is about the landscape directly or indirectly created by the Nawabs in Lucknow between the 18th and 19th century.

Located on the banks of river Gomti, Lucknow is a beautiful city of indescribable charm. And a major part of that charm comes from the Nawabi era. The lifestyle of the Nawabs transformed the face of the Awadh capital. Popularly known as the ‘city of Nawabs’, Lucknow flourished as a cultural and artistic capital in the 18th and 19th century. With its palaces, mansions and imposing architecture one can see the grandeur of the city and imagine what it would have been at the time of Nawabs. Lucknow pulsates with a unique Indo-Persian culture, portraying an impeccable blend of the ancient with the modern. A different cultural understanding of nature and recreational past times, which became an integrated part of the lifestyle of Nawabs, brought about a transformation in the landscape of the city.

Reputation of the city rested on the beautiful gardens and their themes conveyed the character of cultural landscape. Gardens of Nawabs were a ‘local variation’ of the more elaborate Mughal gardens. Their purpose ranged from being a setting of sensual pleasure to one of scenic stage drop to the building. Being ephemeral in nature, gardens too transformed with the changing powers of the capital city and depicted the direct influences of the colonial rule during the time.

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