Jhankar Gadkari is a man on a mission. This is the third city he plans to bring to his audience in the 12 city circuit. Jhankar is a popular Lumiere Learning Monday guest speaker. He took us on a virtual historical journey to Mumbai and to Delhi in seasons 1 and 2. “If Jhankar were my history teacher, I would have learned and remembered a lot of my history”, is the reaction from many a listener. Jhankar’s purpose is to talk about the little-known tipping point moments in history. With no physical audience and their gasps of astonishment, this TEDx and keynote speaker must feel a little cheated on the one way Restream platform.
Bringing the story alive
Jhankar begins his session by showing the image of the Mahi Martab, part angel part mermaids on the the Awadhi Crest. The “rohu” fish connotes longevity and good luck, and symbolises the highest authority flowing from kingship. Gravely underestimated and misunderstood, the true importance and significance of Awadh is unknown. Lucknow is not just a city, a state or a place in history, but a rich granary, abundantly rich region that greatly contributed to the entire History and Politics of India.
History, Geography, Mythology
The Awadh region roughly consists of the areas around today’s Lucknow, Kanpur, Barabanki, Faizabad, Gonda, Raebareli, and Allahabad. Awadh was a huge stepping stone to British entering India and establishing the East India Company because of the decisions made by the Nawabs of Awadh. Blessed by the alluvial soil brought in by the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, Awadh was known as the ‘Granary of India’ where maximum revenue was generated. During the Mughal and post- Mughal times, it was a wealthy kingdom which was able to maintain its independence against threats from the Marathas, the British and the Afghans. The city of Lucknow was a part of the ancient province of Lakshampur in Awadh. It was believably ruled by Lakshman, brother of Lord Ram.
The Nawabs of Awadh
Jhankar talks about the 10 nawabs of Awadh. He outlines the role of the “emotionally inclined” ninth Nawab, the artistic, sensitive, poetic Wajid Ali Shah, essayed by Amjad Khan in the 1977 internationally acclaimed film “Shatranj Ke Khilari” or The Chess Players. Based on Munshi Premchand’s eponymous short story, the film is written and directed by Satyajit Ray. Jhankar gives us a flavour of the rulers. Wajid Ali Shah’s connection with Calcutta, his wife, Hazrat Mahal and his mother
- Saadat Ali Khan I (1739)
- Safdarjung (1754)
- Shuja-ud Daulah (1755)
- Asaf-ud Daulah (1798)
- Ghazi-ud-Din Haider (1827)
- Nasiruddin Haider (1837)
- Mohamad Ali Shah (1842)
- Amjad Ali Shah (1847)
- Wajid Ali Shah (1887)
- Begum Hazrat Mahal, wife of Wajid Ali Shah (1879)
Three Brave Women
And history is silent about the efforts of three Indian women offering the resistance against the British, says Jhankar. The first is Wajid Ali Shah’s mother, Janab i’Aliyah who travels to England with her retinue to seek a meeting with Queen Victoria. The second woman is Begum Hazrat Mahal despite her humble beginnings holds her ground and who refuses to leave Awadh or Oudh. She rules the kingdom for 1.5 years with an intent to protect the kingdom. She divorces her husband, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, and chooses to stays back with her son, Bijris Qadr. The third woman hero is the mutineer, Udali, who has a statue in her memory in Lucknow. Jhankar has managed to pique the interest in his audience to know more.
Begum Hazrat Mahal organises and leads the rebels to put up a fight against the British, to protect the kingdom and to avenge the defeat of her husband. The rebellion can be historically categorised in two parts – the first and the second siege. Over 2000 Indians were recovered at Secundra Bagh during the Highlanders attack that took place at the same time. Major General Colin Campbell and James Outram were the two British Officers defending the British Residency. The aftereffects of the 1847 Uprising lasted for more than a year in Lucknow.
Exploring the Architecture
Jhankar’s guide, Atif Bhai gives him an inside view into this study on Lucknow. The land of Awadh during the Mughal reign has huge yet intricate works of architecture built by the Nawabs. Jhankar walks us through these magnificent monuments detailing out the construction style, choice of material, landscape, importance to intricacy and their architectural roles in administration, defence, religion, sacrifice and homage.
To conclude, today Lucknow is a city that has aged through glory and war. The beauty of the city lies in its landscapes that tell stories of the Nawabs and their riches. It leaves with us the legacy of Ayyashi with the traditional cock fights, kite flying, Galawati Kebabs, Biryani, Ittra, Zardozi, Jadau (uncut diamonds) Chikankari (textile) and the dance form of Kathak.
Watch the full episode here