Nawab Wajid Ali Shah 

Context: Several events have been scheduled to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the final ruler of Awadh, who possessed a remarkable appreciation for the arts. These activities comprise an exhibition, a heritage walk, and informative discussions.

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah 

About Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

About Nawab Wajid Ali Shah
  • Mirza Wajid Ali Shah, the final ruler of Awadh, held the position from 1847 to 1856.
  • His second wife Begum Hazrat Mahal, played a significant role in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British East India Company, acting as the regent of Awadh.
  • Although his kingdom had been safeguarded by the East India Company under a treaty, it was annexed by the company in 1856.
  • Following the annexation, the Nawab was exiled to Metiabruz, a suburb of Kolkata, where he spent the rest of his life receiving a generous pension.

Wajid Ali Shah was not only a ruler but also a poet, playwright, dancer, and avid patron of the arts. He introduced Kathak, a significant form of classical Indian dance, as a court dance during a period when the Mughal influence was diminishing, primarily for recreational purposes.

As a Ruler of Awadh

  • The British East India Company had already annexed a significant portion of Awadh through a treaty signed with the Nawabs in 1801. 
  • The company’s actions had severely impacted the Awadh economy by burdening it with the costs of maintaining the Bengal Army and repeatedly demanding loans. 
  • Wajid Ali Shah became the ruler of Awadh when the East India Company was determined to annex the prosperous kingdom, which was regarded as “the garden, granary, and queen-province of India.” 
  • Upon ascending the throne, he actively participated in the administration of justice, implemented reforms, and reorganized the military.
  • The British Resident of Lucknow, General William Sleeman, submitted a report highlighting alleged “maladministration” and “lawlessness” in Awadh. This report conveniently provided the British with the justification they needed for the annexation under the Doctrine of Lapse by Governor-General Lord Dalhousie. 

Patronage to Music 

  • Wajid Ali Shah patronized music, dance, drama, and poetry, but he was also a gifted composer himself.
  • Bahadur Hussain Khan, was one of Wajid Ali Shah’s favorite musicians. The Nawab honored him with the title Zia-ud-Daulah. 
  • He adopted the pseudonym ‘Akhtarpiya’ for his musical compositions. Under this name, he wrote poems, prose, and thumris.
  • His collections, Diwan-i-Akhtar and Husn-i-Akhtar, contain his ghazals.
  • Much of the knowledge about music in Nawabi Lucknow comes from the text Madanul Moosiqui (‘The Mine of Music’)
  • During his reign, complex ragas like hori and dhrupad were less emphasized, while easier raginis like tilak, pilu, sendura, khammach, bhairvi, and jhanjhauti gained popularity.
  • These raginis were favored by the king and easily understood by all sections of society, making them beloved by the common people.
  • There is a popular belief that Wajid Ali Shah was the creator of the light classical form known as thumri.
  • Wajid Ali Shah’s innovative ideas and experiments in ghazals played a significant role in shaping the modern-day style of ghazals. 

Patronage to dance

  • In ancient times, Kathak was originally performed as part of temple rituals. 
  • It was under the artistic guidance and patronage of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah that Kathak reached new heights.
  • During this period, Kathak was also extensively performed by courtesans, who developed the art form alongside its refinement in the court.
  • Their style of Kathak differed from the court style, often incorporating playfulness known as nakhra.
  • Wajid Ali Shah introduced two distinct forms of Kathak: Rahas and Raas.
  • Rahas was a choreographed dance form that incorporated acting, dancing, and music. It encompassed dramatic elements and portrayed different scenes, often with changing settings and locales.
  • On the other hand, Raas was a religious form of Kathak. Dhrupad, a form of classical music, was primarily sung during Raas performances, which began with its singing.
  • It was during Wajid Ali Shah’s reign that the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak emerged. The Lucknow style of Kathak is characterized by graceful movements, elegance, natural poise, and a focus on abhinaya (expressions). 
  • Wajid Ali Shah made Kathak the official court dance and also popularized it among the people. 

Contributions to literature

  • The famous poet Mirza Ghalib received gracious patronage from Wajid Ali Shah. 
  • Wajid Ali Shah himself was a prolific writer, utilizing a simple language that conveyed meaning to all, often incorporating Awadhi, the local dialect.
  • His most significant work, Sawat-ul-Qalub, comprises a collection of 44,562 couplets.
  • Among his notable works, the autobiographical Huzn-i-Akhtar holds great importance. It portrays the unfavorable and unceremonious treatment he faced at the hands of British authorities.
  • Another significant work by Wajid Ali Shah is Bani. It serves as a treatise on Music and Dance, offering insights into the mushairas (poetic gatherings) held at Matiya Burj (Calcutta). 

Previous Year Question (2014)

Q. Consider the following pairs:

1. Garba – Gujarat

2. Mohiniattam – Odisha

3. Yakshagana – Karnataka

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: (c)

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