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Lucknow University– Lucknow’s tryst with higher education.

Volume: 6, No: 08 ; August-2012

Lucknow University that extends over a huge area of 90 acres made a modest beginning in 1864 as Canning High School, at the behest of the elites of Lucknow. The Lucknow University’s main campus is located in a small portion of Badshah Bagh. In fact it is the third venue of this educational institution which started as a school in a palace in Aminabad on May 1, 1864 and promoted two years later as Canning College, it was shifted to the Pari Khana at Qaiser Bagh. Maharaja of Kapurthala who purchased the Badshah Bagh from the British government [at an auction] for a throwaway price of Rs.35,000 after the uprising of 1857, gave 90 acres of the garden land to Canning College on lease (with just Rs.3 as annual rent). It later became the Lucknow University.

Some details of the short period of the prime glory of Badshah Bagh are available from the accounts of Fanny Parkes, a French lady [who visited the gardens in 1831] and Sheikh Azmat AN Nami of Kakori, a contemporary chronicler. They speak of an ochre coloured Baradari with white marble pillars and chequered floor at the centre of the royal gardens, along with the zenana quarters for the royal ladies and a grand square house near the Jilo khana.

The high walled garden also had two gateways. A wide canal flowed in front of the Baradari which was filled with rose-scented water and small coloured fishes were seen gliding or leaping through its clear white sparkling waters. [A pretty small bridge was placed over the canal]. The beautifully laid flower beds contained a variety of plants and bushes and had their floored walks (paths) illuminated with silver lanterns in the evening. The lanterns were fixed to bright coloured lamp posts.

Badshah Bagh also served as a mini zoo with different varieties of singing birds and rare birds not generally seen in this area along with wild animals retained in beautiful cages or enclosures for the delight of visitors. Small animals like rabbit, white mice and furry squirrels moved playfully as pets on the green lawns of the gardens. Often partridge and cock fights were held for the pleasure of visiting guests. The contemporary writers appear much impressed by the female gardeners (maalin) who were in majority amongst the five hundred or so employed at the Badshah Bagh. They were given two sets of different coloured garments each week, with strict instructions that no old dresses were to be worn on duty. The maalin had silver handles fixed on their gardening implements and the chief of maalin had them studded with jewels.

Badshah Bagh also witnessed the tragic suicide of the Queen Qudsia Mahal, who was just twenty-four years old at the time. Thereafter Badshah Bagh lost its attraction for the King. Badshah Bagh also played a very important role in the freedom struggle of 1857-1858.

The idea of starting a University at Lucknow was first mooted by Raja Sir Mohammad Ali Mohammad Khan, Khan Bahadur, K.C.I.E. of Mahmudabad, who contributed an article to the columns of “The Pioneer” urging the foundation of a University at Lucknow. A little later Sir Harcourt Butler, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E, was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces, and his well-known interest in all matters under his jurisdiction, specially in matters educational, gave fresh life and vigour to the proposal. The first step to bring the University into being was taken when a General Committee of educationists and persons interested in university education appointed for the purpose, met in a conference at Government House, Lucknow, on November, 10, 1919. At this meeting Sir Harcourt Butler, who was in the chair, outlined the proposed scheme for the new university.

A discussion followed, and it was resolved that Lucknow University should be a Unitary, Teaching, and Residential University of the kind recommended by the Calcutta University Mission, 1919, and should consist of Faculties of Arts, including Oriental Studies, Science, Medicine, Law, etc. A number of other resolutions was also passed and six sub-committees were formed, five of them to consider questions connected with the University and one to consider the arrangements for providing Intermediate Education. These sub-committees met during the months of November and December, 1919, and January, 1920; and the reports of their meetings were laid before a second Conference of the General Committee at Lucknow on January 26, 1920; their proceedings were considered and discussed, and the reports of five of the sub-committees were, subject to certain amendments, confirmed. The question of incorporation of the Medical College in the University, however, was for the time being left open for expression of opinion. At the close of the Conference donations of one lakh each from the Raja of Mahmudabad and Jahangirabad were announced.

The resolutions of the first Conference together with the recommendations of the sub-committees as confirmed at the second Conference were laid before a meeting of the Allahabad University on March 12, 1920, and it was decided to appoint a sub-committee to consider them and report to the Senate. The report of the sub-committee was considered at an extraordinary meeting of the Senate on August 7, 1920, at which the Chancellor presided, and the scheme was generally approved. In the meantime the difficulty of incorporating the Medical College in the University had been removed. During the month of April 1920, Mr. C.F. de la Fosse, the then Director of Public Instruction, United Provinces, drew up a Draft Bill for the establishment of the Lucknow University which was introduced in the Legislative Council on August 12, 1920. It was then referred to a Select Committee which suggested a number of amendments, the most important being the liberalising of the constitution of the various University bodies and the inclusion of a Faculty of Commerce; this Bill, in an amended form, was passed by the Council on October 8, 1920. The Lucknow University Act, No. V of 1920, received the assent of the Lieutenant-Governor on November 1, and of the Governor-General on November 25, 1920.

The Court of the University was constituted in March, 1921, and the first meeting of the Court was held on March 21, 1921, at which the Chancellor presided. The other University authorities such as the Executive Council, the Academic Council, and Faculties came into existence in August and September, 1921. Other Committees and Boards, both statutory and otherwise, were constituted in course of time. On July 17, 1921, the University undertook teaching — both formal and informal. Teaching in the Faculties of Arts, Science, Commerce, and Law was being done in the Canning College and teaching in the Faculty of Medicine in the King George’s Medical College and Hospital. The Canning College was handed over to the University on July 1, 1922, although previous to this date the buildings, equipment, staff, etc., belonging to the Canning College had been ungrudgingly placed at the disposal of the University for the purposes of teaching and residence. The King George’s Medical College and the King George’s Hospital were transferred by the Government to the University on the March 1, 1921.

The following three Colleges provided the nucleus for the establishment of the University :

  • The King George’s Medical College. (Now Known as King George’s Medical University)
  • The Canning College.
  • The Isabella Thoburn College.

This was a rich inheritance for the new-born University in 1920, both materially and intellectually, and it brought with it also the richest of all heritages “a fine tradition of some fifty-five years in the case of the Canning College and some nine years in the case of the King George’s Medical College.” To this the generous taluqdars of Oudh added an endowment of nearly thirty lakhs. The support from Sir Harcourt Butler’s Government was strong and hearty. Since then the Government of the United Provinces has annually contributed a substantial share towards the maintenance of the University.

University of Lucknow is not a modern structure, but rather a carefully planned building that combines the architectural and esthetic appeal with multiple domes, arched doorways, high ceilings and wooden staircase in the original halls. The breathtaking view is visible from the road and it is one of the existing un-spoilt landmarks in post 1857’s Lucknow. Today university might be known for many bad reasons, but then it also has been producing some of the greatest people such as Shankar Dayal Sharma (former President of India), Surjit Singh Barnala (Governor of Tamil Nadu), Syed Sibtey Razi (Governor of Jharkhand), Harish Rawat, (Member of Parliament and Minister of State for Labour – Government of India), Zafar Ali Naqvi (Member of Parliament – India Govt), K.C. Pant (former Union Minister and Dy Chairman Planning Commission), Vijayaraje Scindia (late Rajmata of Gwalior), Arif Mohammad Khan (former Union Minister), Ahmed Ali (English novelist and Urdu short story writer), Brajendranath De, esq., ICS (Magistrate and Collector of Hooghly also Commissioner Burdwan), Isha Basant Joshi (India’s first lady IAS), Nitya Prakash (Novelist and Author of Dear I Hate You & In the Name of Love, Rest in Peace, Poet), Swami Chinmayananda (founder of Chinmaya Mission), Vinod Mehta (journalist) and many others.


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