Awadh, also known as Oudh is a region of today’s Uttar Pradesh and a sensitive political area that kept on enthralling the rulers and politicians before and after independence, and even at present. It derived its name from Ayodhya, the kingdom of Ram, the moniker with which this region was famous until the Mughals came to the fore in the 16th century. It was ultimately Nawab Saadat, the Persian adventurer who glorified Awadh as an eminent subaah or province of the Mughal Empire.
On his appointment as the Nizam or governor of Awadh in 1722 AD, Nawab Saadat Khan founded Faizabad and named it as the capital city of Awadh. Later on, Nawab Asaf Ud-Daula transferred the capital of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow. Notably, Saadat Khan is the founder of the Awadh Dynasty of Shia Nawabs representing the Iranian lineage Nawab Dynasty, which reined Awadh for 136 glorious years, with Faizabad and Lucknow as the consecutive capitals. For sure, this dynasty laid the foundation of the charismatic Shaan-E-Awadh, throughout these times.
Here is a brief description of the lives and times of the eminent Awadh rulers who continued to grace the towering image of Awadh, sometimes with their ruling abilities and the other times through individual contributions from 1722 AD to 1858 AD.
Born as Muhammad Amin, the first Nawab of Awadh was conferred with the titles of Saadat Khan Bahadur and Burhan-Ul-Mulk by Muhammad Shah for his dedication to work and profitable management policies. Throughout his tenure as the Governor of Awadh, he continued to face disruptions from his opponents within the state. After spending a bulk of his time in expanding Awadh, Saadat Khan died in 1739.
Muhammad Muqim, the son in law of Burhan Ul Mulk became the heir to the throne after the latter’s death. He was also compelled to face the problem of rebellion kings, corrupt policies, and the welfare of his civilians and soldiers. However, he tried his best to maintain peace in the Awadh and was also award with the titles of Meer E Aatish and Safdarjung by Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah for his efforts. He died in 1754. His mausoleum in Delhi is among the foremost and finest architectural marvels of the 18th century.
Nawab Shuja-Ud-Daula gave tough fight to the East India Company together with Shal Alam-II and later on with Mir Kasim. However, his defeat in the battle of Buxar in 1764 tend him to sign a treaty with the British Empire, which ultimately paved way for them to enter the precincts of Awadh and work on their motive to capture the throne gradually. Shuja-Ud-Daula died in 1775 and was buried in Faizabad’s Gulab-Bari mausoleum. His mother, Nawab Begum, and wife Bahu Begum, were eminent personalities and are hitherto remembered for their contributions in consolidating the government of Shuja Ud Daula.
The fourth Nawab Wazir of Awadh, Muhammad Yahya Amani, titled as Nawab Asaf Ud-Daula shifted the capital of Awadh from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1755. He transformed Lucknow into a splendid city with the construction of memorable structures like Residency, many baghs, mahals, bazaars, etc. The pick of his architectural wonders were Imam Bara and Rumi Darwaza. Both these structures were designed by architect Kifayatullah as a famine relief effort in 1784.
He was the adopted son of Asaf-Ud-Daula who held the power after Asaf’s death. His mother was a servant in Harem (Ladies palace). His rule spanned only for four months after which he was imprisoned in Chunar Fort for revolting against the British.
After giving consent to follow the orders of East India Company, the son of Asaf-Ud-Daula, Yamin-ud-daula-Nawab Saadat Ali Khan was crowned as the next Nawab. He became a responsible ruler in the later years of his reign. His love for architecture inspired him to commission myriad palaces prominent of which include Hayat Baksh Kothi, Munawar Baksh, Farhat Baksh Kothi, Lal Baradari, Dilkusha, Chhatar Manzil, Kothi Dil Aram, Khursid Manzil, and the Chaupar Stables. In all these structures, he abandoned the Mughal style of architecture and adopted European Innovations. He died in 1814 and was buried in twin tombs of Qaiserbagh with his wife Khursheed Zaidi.
After 5 years of his tenure as Nawab, Gazi-Ud-Din Haider shunned ties with the Mughals and declared Awadh as the independent state in 1819, with the support of the British Empire. He now became the king of Awadh. He built Mubarak Manzil and Shah Manzil in the Moti Mahal Complex. He also constructed Vilayati Bagh for his European wife and Qadam Rasul next to it. Other of his precious constructions included Shah Najaf Imambara where he was buried with his three wives.
His fondness for women, wine and lavish lifestyle helped British to enter the Darbar (court) politics. However, he was a compassionate ruler and always helped the needful. His renowned constructions included Tarawali Kothi, Darshan Vilas, and Iradatnagar Karbala. He was poisoned to death by his own dear ones in 1837.
After the death of Nasiruddin, his uncle and the brother of Ghaziuddin Haider, Mohammad Ali Shah was made the third king of Awadh at the age of 63 years. However, he had to sign a written assurance to abide by the treaty proposed by the Governor General. His accession came after the declaration of Munna Jan as the king by Nasir’s wife Badsha Begum was rejected by the Company. He constructed Jama Masjid, Imambara and pond in Hussainabad, many canals, wells and other buildings.
The well-educated and highly religious son of Mohammad Ali Shah, Amjad Ali could not become a successful ruler. Under his rule, a significant portion of Awadh shifted to the hands of British rule. He built the Iron Bridge on Gomti River, and Lucknow to Kanpur Metal road. He died at 48 years of age, and was buried at the Imambara Sibtainabad in Hazratganj, which was one of his own constructions.
The eldest son of Amjad Ali Shah preferred to live a luxurious lifestyle, all engrossed in the atmosphere of gaiety and merriment. His non-serious attitude gave the British a solid reason to depose him as the king. They finally took over complete charge of Awadh on Feb.11, 1856. However, the king was highly revered by his own people, from Raja to Raiyat. He was a staunch lover of literature and penned down 50 books himself. He was also a fluent Urdu poet and used the title ‘Akhter. His eminent constructions included Qaiser Bagh palace complex including Qaiser Bagh quadrangle and Jilo Khana. He also purchased a Chaulakhi Kothi, which became his wife Begum Hazrat Mahal’s court during the first war of independence.
Begum Hazrat Mahal declared her son Mirza Birjis Qadra as the heir to the throne of Awadh when he was just 12 years old. However, due to rising British influence in Awadh, both of them left Lucknow and went to Nepal. Here, he married the granddaughter of the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah Zafar, Nawab Mahtab Ara. Birjis came to Calcutta in 1893 where he was poisoned to death.
After the 136 years of Nawab Dynasty, Awadh came in the hands of the British Government in entirety and lost its geographical existence. The East India Company named it as the United States of Agra and Awadh, and later on renamed it as United Provinces, which is now better known as Uttar Pradesh.