Awadh & Lucknow


  • Rise of Awadh as an 18th-century regional power was led by the pursuit of political autonomy by a Shia noble of Iranian descent by Burhan-ul-Mulk Saadat Khan. He was appointed subadar of Awadh in 1722.
  • Saadat Khan was frustrated with politics among the nobility in Delhi, he focused on consolidating his authority in Awadh.

Importance of Awadh

  • Controlled rich alluvial Ganga plains.
  • Controlled important trade routes connecting north India and Bengal.
  • Located close to Delhi, the seat of Mughal power.

Policies Of Saadat Khan (Burhan Ul Mulk)

  • Saadat Khan faced strong resistance from rebellious chiefs and rajas in Awadh. He suppressed rebellious local zamindars and chieftains.
  • To ensure loyalty of officials, all important posts in provincial administration were filled by his relatives. He appointed Safdar Jang as Deputy Governor of the province without sanction from Mughal Emperor.
  • Held combined offices of Subadari, Diwani and Faujdari. Thus, he was responsible for managing the political, financial, and military affairs of Awadh.

Safdar Jang

  • Office of Imperial Diwan was abolished and the large number of local Hindus were absorbed into the administration.
  • He annexed the kingdom of Farrukhabad under Afghans and extended control over Rohtas, Chunar, and Allahabad.


  • Achieved greater success in consolidating the frontiers of the province.
  • Sided with Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. Thus, contributed to controlling the march of Marathas in North India. 
  • Combined forces of Nawab of Awadh (Shuja-ud-Daula) allied with Nawab of Bengal (Mir Qasim) and Mughal Emperor (Shah Alam II) against the English in the Battle of Buxar, which the English company won. English forces were led by Hector Munro.

Revenue Administration

  • Right to collect tax was sold to the highest bidders i.e., revenue farmers known as ijaradars for a fixed sum.
  • Revenue farmers were given considerable freedom in the assessment and collection of taxes.
  • Local bankers and Mahajan guaranteed the payment of this contracted amount to the state. 
  • Thus, a new social group of moneylenders and bankers emerged in the province.

Decline of Awadh

  • Nawab Wazir Ali defied the British in 1798. In response, Wellesley annexed half of Awadh as a substitute for subsidy. Loss of fertile land accelerated the bankruptcy of Nawab and made him dependent on taluqdars. Eventually, Awadh Nawabs withdrew from state affairs and increasingly concentrated on music, dance and arts.

East India Company & Awadh

  • EIC saw Awadh as a buffer state(by the treaty of awadh) protecting company rule in Bengal against other Indian powers, especially the Marathas.
  • Treaty of Allahabad allowed the British to interfere in the local politics of Awadh.
  • In 1773, EIC made the Treaty of Benaras with Nawab of Awadh, wherein Nawab agreed to pay Rs 21 Lakhs monthly for each brigade of company troops that would remain present in Awadh or Allahabad. This established the beginning of Awadh’s chronic indebtedness to EIC and EIC’s interference in the region’s politics.
  • Lord Wellesley & Awadh: Nawab of Awadh declared his inability to pay the increased financial demand of EIC. Lord Wellesley used this pretext to force the Nawab to surrender the entire territory to the East India Company. However, after negotiations, EIC was given sovereignty over the Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur, and Doab regions of Awadh (half of Awadh territory). This severely disempowered Awadh which stopped being any threat to EIC’s stability as a territorial power. Devoid of their army and half of their territory, Nawabs focused on cultural pursuits.

Lucknow: Cultural Capital

  • Asaf-Ud-Daula transferred the capital of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow. Asaf was not much interested in the administration.
  • Architecture: Bara Imambara: Asaf-ud-Daula built the Bara Imambara for celebration of Muharram festival in Lucknow in 1784. Imambara is a congregation hall for commemoration ceremonies, especially those associated with the mourning of Muharram. The Imambara complex also has Bhool Bhulaiya, which has been constructed as a maze and similar-looking doors. Construction of the Bara Imambara was started in 1780 as part of famine relief for poor, who got wages for manual labour. Asaf-Ud-Daula held a competition for the design of Imambara and chose architect Kifayatullah.
  • European Confluence and Cosmopolitanism: Asaf-ud-Daula employed many Europeans on good salaries which led to significant European influence in Art and Architecture. Ex. (i) Antoine Polier, Swiss architect of Fort William, lived in Lucknow for 15 years. He built a large mansion called Polierganj and collected manuscripts and paintings of Hindu gods. (ii) Claude Martin, a French officer, accumulated a large wealth through his business prowess. He was a significant collector of art objects and miniature paintings. He is credited with founding three schools, La Martinieres of Lucknow, Calcutta, and Lyon.
  • Urdu Literature: Awadh and in particular Lucknow emerged as the capital of Urdu and reached greater heights in Awadh than in Deccan, Urdu’s place of origin. There emerged a distinct Lucknow style of Urdu poetry mostly contributed by migrant poets in Lucknow. The decline of power meant Mughals could not afford to patronise poets in Delhi. This meant emerging regional kingdoms and their places emerge as new centres of Mughal empire. There was a vibrant literary scene in Lucknow with several mushairas where poetry recitations took place.
  • Famous Poets: (i) Sauda: He left Delhi and became the court poet of Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula in Faizabad. He was given the title of ‘Malik-us-Shaura’. He is recognised for his contribution to Qasida (laudatory) and Hajo (satirical) styles of poetry. (ii) Mir Taqi Mir: Disappointed with the poverty in Delhi, Mir left Delhi and reached Lucknow during the reign of Asaf-ud-Daula. He is popularly called Khuda-e-Sukhan or God of Poetry. (iii) Mir Ghulam HasanPaintings: Reputed London painters like Johan Zoffany and Ozias Humphry spent several years in Lucknow and painted many pictures on commissions from Nawab.
  • Education: Mulla Nizamuddin started a madrasa at Firangi Mahal which emerged as a renowned centre of learning. Subjects taught here included religion, grammar, literature, logic, philosophy and metaphysics. This school taught Sunni theology.Shia Theology: Amjad Ali established an exclusive school of Shia theology named Madarsai Sultania. Its management was in the hands of Shia religious scholars. Students were provided monetary scholarships. Lucknow emerged as a site for Shia religious philosophy in India.Music: Several cities in Awadh like Benaras, Jaunpur etc. were centres of musical training. During Asaf-ud-Daula’s reign, many musicians from Delhi and other places migrated to Delhi. Nawab Wajib Ali Shah was himself trained in music. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah popularised classical North Indian music and thumri. He ignored complicated ragas and dhrupad and easier raginis were encouraged. He composed raginis and a thumri named ‘Kadar Piya’.
  • Calligraphy: Affluent people in Awadh decorated their houses with quotes written in beautiful handwriting. The Nastaliq style of calligraphy was popular in Awadh. Famous calligraphy artists came to India when Nadir Shah invaded India. They established their centre at Lahore from where artists visited Lucknow and were employed by Nawabs.
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