Nawabs of Awadh
Nawab Saadat Khan (1722-1739)
The power of the shaikhzadas remained paramount and unchallenged until Saadat Khan stepped into Lucknow. Being appointed Subedar in 1722 Saadat Khan laid the foundation of Awadh dynasty of the Shia Nawabs of Iranian lineage based first at Faizabad and later at Lucknow. He died in 1739 A.D. in Delhi. Although he died a natural death due to the chronic pain in his leg caused by a tumor, which was probably cancerous, yet his sudden death gave rise to the calumny that he committed suicide by consuming poison because of loss of credibility both with the victor and the vanquished during the invasion of India by Nadir Shah.
Nawab Safdar Jang (1739 – 1754)
Saadat Khan was succeeded by his son-in-law, Safdar Jung who set up his military head-quarters at Faizabad. His rule of fifteen years (1739 – 1754)saw no peace as he was constantly engaged in struggle against the Bangash Nawabs of Farrukhabad. Safdar Jung had to leave the Delhi court due to conspiracies. He returned to Awadh in 1753, but died within a year at Rupar ghat, near Sultanpur in 1754. His mausoleum, which is one of the finest pieces of the architecture of the period, is in New Delhi.
Nawab Shuja ud-Daula (1754-1775)
Safdar Jung was succeeded by his son, Shuja – Ud – Daula, who stayed mostly at Faizabad but was always eager to extend his dominion up to Bihar. He made several efforts to this end, by supporting Shah Alam II, and subsequently Mir Kasim but was defeated in the battle by the English at Buxar in 1764. The defeat compelled him to enter into a treaty with the East India Company. The agreement not only paved the way for British advent on the soils of Awadh but also their gradual ascendancy to real power. The Nawab first gave up the fort of Chunar, and then ceded the Banaras region and the revenues of Ghazipur in 1775. Safdarjang was a restless, ambitious and impulsive ruler who was engaged in violent disturbances which brought momentous vicissitudes for his reign ( 1754 – 1775 ). Shuja-Ud-Daula died early in January 1775 and was laid at his mausoleum at Gulab-Bari, Faizabad.
Nawab Asaf ud-Daula (1775-1798)
The accession of Asaf-Ud-Daula, the fourth Nawab, brought a great change in Awadh politics. He moved the court of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1775. When the court moved to Lucknow, the kernel of the court, as if, shed its old husk and acquired a new one and the city largely grew in and around the existing town to accommodate the influx of the people. There emerged a powerful Shia culture, in constant interaction with Shia heart lands of Iran and Iraq. The increasing number of Shia emigrants from Iranian cities veritably transformed Lucknow into a great intellectual center.
The Nawab constructed Daulat Khana, the large palace – garden complex as residence for himself, the major mosques like Asfi Masjid, enlarged the Chowk and set up dozen major markets to form the core of royal quarter of the city. He built the gateway, Rumi Darwaza and Bara Imambara to provide succor to the victims of famine of 1784. The arched roof of Imambara, built without a single beam or pillar for support, is one of the largest of its kind in the World. The Bhul Bhulaiya at Imambara is a unique labyrinth of intricate balconies and passages, with 489 identical doorways, which make one feel being lost. Asaf- Ud-Daula also built Bibiyapur Kothi and Chinhut Kothi. Overwhelmed by the design of Constantia built by Claude Martin he purchased it, offering to give ten lakhs of gold coins. However, before the transaction could be completed, the Nawab died in 1798 and was laid to rest in the magnificent Imambara built by him. The British absorbed Allahabad and the adjoining region in the same year.
Nawab Wazir Ali (1798)
Wazir Ali became the Nawab of Awadh after the death of Asaf – Ud – Daula. His succession was disputed on his being an illegitimate son of Asaf-ud-Daula, whose brother Sadat Ali Khan made overtures to the British who finally deposed and imprisoned Wazir Ali at Vellore as the latter did not toe their lines and revolted against the British.
Nawab Saadat Ali Khan (1798-1814)
Sadat Ali Khan was made Nawab on 21st January 1798 at a grand darbar held at Bibiyapur kothi. As a mark of gratitude, the Nawab formally ceded lower Doab, Gorakhpur and Rohilkhand. While Awadh shrank half in size, the powers of British Resident grew in inverse proportion. The resident gradually arrogated to himself the right to hold a darbar or court and assumed the de-facto guardianship of wasiqadars or pensioners against the Nawab himself.
Sadat Ali Khan, though a miser, was nevertheless an enthusiastic builder and he commissioned many palaces, including Dilkusha, Hayat Baksh Kothi, Farhat Baksh Kothi as well as Lal Baradari. He also constructed, Chhatar Manzil, Kothi Dil Aram, Munawar Baksh, Khursid Manzil and the Chaupar Stables abandoning the Mughal style by adopting European Innovations in architecture.
In 1814, Sadat Ali Khan died and was buried with his wife Khursheed Zadi in the twin tombs of Qaiserbagh adjoining the Begum Hazrat Mahal Park.
Nawab Ghazi-ud-Din Haider (1814-1827)
Ghazi-ud-din Haider became Nawab in 1814. He broke the frayed ties between the defunct Mughal empire and Awadh and declared it an independent state in 1819. He was now called King, but for all formal and ceremonial purposes, the Resident was deemed his equal. The Resident even had an edge over the king; he could threaten and bully while the King could only sulk and occasionally protest.
He built two houses in Moti Mahal complex, Mubarak Manzil and Shah Manzil. He got built for his European wife a house named Vilayati Bagh in European style. Near it was constructed Qadam Rasul which supposedly bears the foot prints of Muhammed on black stone. Owing to his religious fervency, he also constructed a holy mausoleum, Najaf, the replica of Ali’s burial place at Najaf in Iraq. He was buried there on his death in 1827. Later, his three begums were also buried at Shah Najaf Imambara.
Nawab Nasir-ud-Din Haider (1827-1837)
Ghazi-ud-din Haider’s son, Nasir-ud-din Haider ascended the throne in 1827. The administration of the kingdom was left to hands of wazir Hakim Mahdi and later to Raushan-ud-Daula. The king kept himself busy in debaucheries and inventing religious rites. He lived mostly in womens quarters and even dressed like a woman. He had a colourful court and led a very lavish life.
His strong belief in astrology and astronomy led him to set up an observatory at Lucknow — Tarawali Kothi. He added Darshan Vilas, a European style Kothi to the Farhat Baksh complex in 1832 and reproduced a Karbala at Iradatnagar for his place of burial.
In 1837, he was poisoned to death by his own friends and favourites. Nasiruddin Haider had died without any offspring and his queen Badshah Begum put forward Munna Jan as a claimant to the throne though both Ghaziuddin Haider and Nasir uddin Haider had refused to acknowledge him as belonging to royal lineage. Badshah Begum forcibly enthroned Munna Jan at the Lal Baradari. The British intervened and exploited the situation to their advantage. They arrested Munna Jan and Badshah Begum and arranged for the accession of Nasir-ud Din Haider, the son of late Nawab Sadat Ali Khan, who promised to pay a large sum of money to the British for this.
Nawab Mohammad Ali Shah (1837-1842)
Muhammad Ali Shah was 63 years of age when he ascended the throne. He was an experienced man and had seen the glorious days of his father. He started to economise and set right the administrative machinery. He built the Husainabad (Chhota) Imambara in 1838 and created Hooseinabad Endowment Fund to support it.
Muhammad Ali Shah had resolved to make Lucknow into veritable Babylon. He started building in the neighbourhood of the present Clock Tower, an edifice similar to Babylon’s minaret or floating garden and named it Satkhanda, but it reached only its fifth storey in 1842 when Muhammad Ali Shah died.
Nawab Amjad Ali Shah (1842-1847)
After Muhammad Ali Shah, his son Amjad Ali Shah ascended the throne. He had received an excellent education which made him a devout Muslim but fell short of making him a capable ruler. He became a deeply religious, circumspect and abstinent ruler of Awadh. As a result, the system of administration toned up by Muhammad Ali Shah became completely disorganised while the vicious officers had their day. His ability to rule was considerably undermined by the competing power structure created by the East India Company and its large scale interference in the affairs of the kingdom. The situation progressively sapped the authority of the king.
Amjad Ali Shah died in 1848 due to cancer and was buried at the Imambara Sibtainabad in western part of Hazratganj, a quarter which he had himself established.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1847-1856)
Wajid Ali Shah, the eldest son of Amjad Ali Shah, became the king of Awadh in 1847. Wajid Ali Shah was himself a great theatre genius and had set up a Pari Khana for training artists. He was also a great patron of artists, singers and musicians. He lived in an atmosphere of gaiety and merriment. Wajid Ali Shah was completely given to pleasure in the closing years of his reign. He was devoted to his large harem, his boon companions, his columbary, and his large and impressive menagerie.
Wajid Ali Shah was greatly interested in architecture. He started building the Qaiser Bagh palace complex as soon as he came to power. The inner court yard of Qaiser Bagh, with its lawns was called Jilo Khana. In the center was a Baradari flanked by two mermaid gates (Lakhigate) on eastern and western ends. On the right end was Chandwali Baradari, which was paved with silver and the Khas Muqam and Badshah Manzil, which used to be special residence of the king. The buildings at Qaiser Bagh quadrangle were occupied mainly by the ladies of his seraglio. To the left of western Lakhi Gate was Roshan-ud Daula Kothi built by the Wazir of Nasiruddin Haider. Wajid Ali Shah confiscated it and named it Qaiser Pasand, where one of his wife Mushuq Mahal used to live. He purchased Chaulakhi Kothi from Azimulla Khan. During the first war of independence, Begum Hazrat Mahal held her court from this Kothi.
The British were looking for an opportunity to annex Awadh. About Wajid Ali Shah, Lord Dalhousie once wrote: “The king of Oudh seems disposed to bumptious. I wish he would be. To swallow him before I go, would give me satisfaction”. He referred to Awadh as the “luscious cherry” that will drop into their mouth one day especially if the British continued shaking the tree to help it down.
They found an opportunity. Hindu – Muslim rupture over Hanuman Garhi at Ayodhya created so much tumult for the secular-minded king that the British got an excuse to annex Awadh on the self – righteous ground that “British Government would be guilty in the sight of God and man, if it were any longer to aid in sustaining by its countenance an administration with evil to millions.” The British annexed Awadh on 11th February 1856 deposing Wajid Ali Shah.