Going Beyond the Exotic Lucknow- Power Expressed as Culture

There is much more to Lucknow than the exotic Culture of Nawabs, The next weekend tour with Dr. Navina Jafa is in Early October write by visiting –www.navinajafa.com . Read on…

special-showing-claude-martin
Viewing of a private Chapel

The challenge in curating heritage presentations involves among other nuance, building narratives which link past with present, scripts that break stereotype defined by deep research. Among the most popular medium are Heritage Walks. ‘The art of exhibiting cultures through Heritage Walks requires a great deal of depth and constant academic work. (For further reading read – Performing Heritage Art of Exhibit Walks by Dr. Navina Jafa). As an example this article looks at Lucknow and various elements that can be addressed and factored in.

Lucknow better known as the city in the region of Awadh, was established under a family of Shia rulers as a successor state of the Mughals. The exotic and the grandeur of the Mughals infected the Nawabs of Awadh, which lent itself in an array of cultural expressions. Lifestyles, language, mannerisms, festivities, cuisine, architecture and much else. For the colonial rulers the exotic syndrome of the Nawabs made a writer call it ‘The Orchid House’. Unfortunately the overwhelming syndrome of the exotica of the Nawabs limits the manner Lucknow is presented as a tourist destination or experience. The stereotype tourism is limited to the frozen hyperbolic memories of the Nawabi culture captured in phrases such as evenings of Awadh, or Golden City of India.

noor-jahan-in-jahangirabad
Portrait Mughal Empress – Noorjahan – Private collection

The challenge in curating heritage presentations involves among other nuance, building narratives which link past with present, scripts that break stereotype defined by deep research. Among the most popular medium are Heritage Walks. ‘The art of exhibiting cultures through Heritage Walks requires a great deal of depth and constant academic work. (For further reading read – Performing Heritage Art of Exhibit Walks by Dr. Navina Jafa). As an example this article looks at Lucknow and various elements that can be addressed and factored in.

Lucknow better known as the city in the region of Awadh, was established under a family of Shia rulers as a successor state of the Mughals. The exotic and the grandeur of the Mughals infected the Nawabs of Awadh, which lent itself in an array of cultural expressions. Lifestyles, language, mannerisms, festivities, cuisine, architecture and much else. For the colonial rulers the exotic syndrome of the Nawabs made a writer call it ‘The Orchid House’. Unfortunately the overwhelming syndrome of the exotica of the Nawabs limits the manner Lucknow is presented as a tourist destination or experience. The stereotype tourism is limited to the frozen hyperbolic memories of the Nawabi culture captured in phrases such as evenings of Awadh, or Golden City of India.

Other factors that remain elusive are events related to the National Struggle such as the expression resistance in form of a Kite Competition, or idiosyncrasies of European inhabitants such as the manner of how a particular European engaged himself with Hot Balloons and puppet theatre. While the visit to the Residency creates the image of the suffering of the British, there is very little evidence from the point of view of Indians who revolted in 1857. Such as the fascinating content expressed in the literary heritage of Hindi literary figure Amrit Lal Nagar or the lost letters of the courageous Begum Hazrat Mahal the dancing girl who led the revolt against the British or stories of  common people like barbers, and horse carriages.

ites-lucknow       gadar-ke-phool   amrit-lal-nagarAmrit Lal Nagar

While, one visits the Shia monuments – Imambaras, there is little comprehension about fascinating narratives on incidents, lives of people or lived rituals and observances related to Muharram. Similarly, while the traditional knowledge skills of Chikan embroidery and cuisine is showcased, there is little reference to the art of calligraphy, of culture of music or the unlined, complex and multilayered histories associated with  Tawaifs or cultures of Anglo Indians and other communities such as Kashmiris. Last but not the least, is the now phenomenal but intriguing assertion of the Heritage Parks of the Dalits that coexist with the grand buildings of the Nawabs as representation of the idea of Power and representation. Yes, Lucknow is much, much more than the stereotype world of the Exotic Nawabs.

 

 

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