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The Royal Insignia
An Article on the Nawabs of Oudh ....
Reproduced from :
Repertoire On Wajid Ali Shah & Monuments of Avadh
Avadh Cultural Club
Lucknow, 1974



NAWABS OF OUDH & THEIR SECULARISM
- Dr. B. S. Saxena

Nawab Saadat Khan (1722-39 A.D.)

 

The founder of the Awadh dynasty was a Persian nobleman named Mohammad Amin, who came to India in 1705 A.D. and soon won the favour of the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. He was appointed the Governor of Awadh in 1722 A.D. The Sheikhs of Lucknow were subdued by the new governor. He had to struggle hard to carve his state. He fought many battles to subdue the unruly elements. He was a benevolent ruler. He resided at Faizabad and Lucknow both. He spent most of his time in the consolidation of Awadh than any other governor.

 

Nawab Safdar Jang (1739-54 A.D.)

 

Nawab Abul Mansur Khan Safdar Jang, who succeeded his uncle Nawab Saadat Khan, had acted as deputy (Naib) in the province of Awadh during the reign of Saadat Khan. He had to stay at Delhi for sometime on the order of the Mughal emperor. During this period Awadh was ruled by his deputy Raja Newai Raj. He died in Delhi and was buried there.

 

Nawab Shuja-ud-daula (1754-75 A.D.)

 

Mirza Jalal-ud-din Haidar, i.e. Shuja-ud-daula, was the only son and successor of Nawab Safdar Jang. He was a man of great courage and promise and a statesman of no mean ability. He took keen interest in the contemporary politics of the country. Ali Gauhar, the Mughal crown prince, took shelter with him and the Nawab Wazir later crowned him as the emperor of India. Shuja-ud-daula was also made the Wazir of the Empire. He took part in the battle of Buxar in A.D. 1764 which sealed off the fate of Shuja-ud-daula and of the Mughal Emperor. Later he extended the boundaries of the Awadh empire. He died at Faizabad and was buried in a beautiful mausoleum better known as Gulab-bari.

 

Nawab Saadat Ali Khan (1797-1814 A.D.)

 

Saadat Ali Khan, half brother of Asaf-ud-daula replaced Wazir Ali. He is considered to be the best ruler Awadh ever had. The sixteen years of his reign were marked by ability and sagacity. The result of his good administration was that people became contented and prosperous. Most of the buildings between the Kaiserbagh and Dilkusha were constructed by him.

 

King Ghazi-ud-din Haider (1814-27 A.D.)

 

Saadat Ali Khan was succeeded by his 'do-nothing and see-nothing' son, Ghazi-ud-din Hyder. He was the last Nawab-Wazir of Awadh. He received the title of 'King' from the Marquis of Hastings in A.D. 1819. The Chief feature of his reign was that Awadh was formed into a distinct territory. He constructed the famous Chuttar Manzil and Moti Mahal. Qadam Rasul and the Shah Najaf in which he was buried.

 

King Nasir-ud-din Haider (1827-37 A.D.)

 

King Nasir-ud-din Haider succeeded King Ghazi-ud-din Haider. His reign was uneventful. He spent his days in pitiless pursuits of pleasure. In his time all decency, all propriety banished from the court.

 

King Muhammad Ali Shah (1837-42 A.D.)

 

King Nasir-ud-din was succeeded by Muhammad Ali Shah. He was the patron of architecture, he constructed the famous Husainabad Imambara (Chotta Imambara), in which he lies buried. Many other buildings were also erected by him.

 

King Amjad Ali Shah (1842-47 A.D.)

 

Muhammad Ali Shah was succeeded by his son Amjad Ali Shah. He constructed the road from Lucknow to Kanpur. He also built Hazratganj, where he erected a mausoleum for himself. At Lucknow Amjad Ali Shah had established a college in the premises of Imambara of Asaf-ud-Daula at a monthly cost of Rs2600/- for teaching the tenets of Shia faith.

 

King Wajid Ali Shah (1847-56 A.D.)

 

Born on 30th July, 1822 A.D. Wajid Ali Shah ascended the throne on February 13th, 1847 A.D. at the age of 26. He was the son of king Amjad Ali Shah from Nawab Taj Ara Begum (Malika-I-Kishwar Fakhr-uz-Zamani). By this time Awadh was completely in the hold of Britishers. King could not even appoint or dismiss a servant without prior permission of the East India Company's political Agent, the Resident. Yet in the administration of Justice, king Wajid Ali Shah started a noble idea by placing petition boxes at important public thoroughfares in Lucknow, and His Majesty himself dealt with the daily complaints from the public. He had employed 1700 men of letters and 500 physicians and scientists. During the reign of Wajid Ali Shah the metalled road between Lucknow and Kanpur was constructed. Another road between Lucknow and Faizabad was also ordered to be metalled. King used to spend large amount on the maintenance of Hospitals of Lucknow for the welfare of his subjects.

 

Brijis Qadr

 

Born in 1845, at his birth his grandfather Amjad Ali Shah had ordered to honour his birth by a salute of the fire of 11 guns. Following the annexation of Awadh in 1856 king Wajid Ali Shah left Lucknow with his sons leaving Prince Birjis Qadr to represent him in the kingdom. He fought the battle of independence along with his mother Begum Hazrat Mahal. By the thundering sound of 21 guns in Lucknow on 5th July 1857 A.D. he was declared as the ruler of Awadh. The imperial recognition of the king by Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah 'Zafar' was again celebrated on August 6, 1857 A.D. by 21 guns salute. But, unfortunately, the battle of independence was lost by them and they (Birjis Qadr and the queen) proceeded to Nepal where in 1879 Begum Hazrat Mahal died. After the death of the Queen he (Birjis Qadr) came to Calcutta where he was treacherously assassinated.

 


 

Akbar the Great and Dara Shikoh of the Mughal dynasty and Zain-ul-Abidin ( the Akbar of Kashmir) are the famous Muslim tolerant rulers to be remembered forever. They were not only tolerant but had all the kind feelings for the people of other religions. Akbar and Dara Shikoh had great interest in other religions and philosophies. The latter had very good knowledge of Sanskrit and had translated many Sanskrit works into Persian and Arabic. Akbar's court was adorned with many noteworthy Hindus i.e., Raja Mansingh, Raja Birbal, Raja Todarmal and Tansen.

It is surprising to note that the Nawabs of Awadh too, followed the footprints of Akbar the Great to get the confidence of the Hindus for the solid foundation of their empire. The founder of the Awadh Royal House, Nawab Saadat Khan had many Hindus in his service who time to time helped him to achieve his goal. Durjan Singh Chaudhary of Kora had long been in the service of Saadat Khan. In 1729 A.D. Raja Gopal Singh of Bhadwariya helped Saadat Khan against Hindu Singh in a battle. Raja Lachmi Narain who was the Wakil of Saadat Khan, was also very friendly with Nawab Safdarjang. Diwan Atma Ram who hailed from Punjab was a great friend of Nawab Saadat Khan. Raja Newal Rai, too, attained considerable prominence during his regime.

As noted above Saadat Khan raised many Hindus and partronised them to high and responsible positions. In fact he trusted Hindus more than Musalmans.

Nawab Safdar Jung, too, adopted the policy of his predecessor. During his reign Raja Newal Rai reached to the apex of his glory. Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah summoned Nawab Safdar Jang to the capital in 1743 A.D. and the Nawab left for Delhi leaving Raja Newal Rai in command of his army and provinces. Later on he was designated as the Deputy Governor of Awadh. This is probably the single example when a Muslim ruler had left his state entirely in the hands of a Hindu official. It is worth mentioning that Raja Newal Rai had founded a town named Newal Ganj. The town was adorned with four majestic gateways and many other imposing buildings. After the sad demise of Nawab Safdar Jang, when Shua-ud-daula became the Nawab, Newal Ganj was destroyed by the Nawab as he was unhappy with Newal Rai. It appears that Newal Rai did not favour him for the succession. But when Asaf-ud-Daula became the Nawab he again rehabilitated Newal Ganj and constructed the gateways and many buildings therein acknowledging the loyal services of Newal Rai. This is for the first time, we find that a Muslim ruler had done so much for his Hindu minister. Jagat Narain, a grand son of Diwan Atma Ram had once saved Nawab Safdar Jang in the battlefield.

All the Diwans of Shuja-ud-Daulah were Hindus, as also most of the high officers as well as clerks in the revenue and finance department. One of his five Naibs was a Brahman and this man remained in office more than any other naib under Shuja-ud-daula. Among less than two dozens of his first rate military officers of various nationalities, six were Hindus none of whom commanded less than a thousand troops, some of them being placed at the head of four to five thousand disciplined horses and fort. Shuja-ud-daula did not impose undue restrictions on the personal freedom of Hindus as well as on the public celebrations of their religious festivals. It is said that many Hindu saints who came to Ayodhya were allowed to settle down and granted plots of land for the erection of temples and Dharmashalas for pilgrims. Five Jain temples constructed by Kesari Singh treasurer of the Nawab, of course, with Shuja-ud-daula's permission, stood "even amongst the very mosques and tombs of the faithful". An order under Nawab Shuja-ud-daula's own signature conferring a plot of land in Ayodhya on a Hindu hermit named Abhai Ram Bairagi for laying out a garden and constructing a Dharmashala for the use of Hindu pilgrims has been preserved.

Nawab Asaf-ud-daula was the most benevolent ruler. He also gave the Hindu grandees the same high position in the administration of the state as they had in his predecessors time. Among the Hindu Diwans of Asaf-ud-daula Maharaja Tikait Rai commanded the highest positions. In some respects his place was equal to that of Raja Newal Rai. Maharaja Tikait Rai founded the towns of Tikait Nagar and Tikait Ganj. Besides temples he also constructed many mosques and bridges all over the state. Many tanks caused to be dug by him can still be seen. Another Diwan, Raja Jhao Lal, too, was very close to the Nawab. He constructed the bridge of Jhao Lal. Asaf-ud-daula was so much attached with Raja Jhao Lal that when the latter was forced to exile from Lucknow by the pressure of the Britishers, people wept on this decision and it is said, it also became the cause of the death of the Nawab. This was the position of the popularity of Raja Jhao Lal. At Saraya Sheikh there is a temple built of Lakhauri bricks and plastered with lime and mortar. This Jagannathji's temple, as it is locally called, was according to local traditions constructed by Nawab Asaf-ud-daula.

Wajid Ali Shah composed numerous songs, which were generally sung on the occasion of various ceremonies connected with births and marriages and the language of those songs is generally a mixture of Awadhi, Raja Bhasha and Khari Boli. He prepared a ballet known as "Rahas" based on the traditional love story of Radha and Lord Krishna. He had spent much money on it. It is said that the Mukut crest of Lord Krishna was prepared at the cost of a lakh of rupees. Inder Sabha a play written by Amanat, a famous Urdu poet was also staged during his reign. This play was based on the story of Indra, the king of Hindu gods and his Apasaras.

Hindus and Muslims used to celebrate each others festivals and there was not restriction on the Hindus. Mrs. Meer Hasan observes that the tazia was an object of respect among the Hindus. Among the Hindus specially the state functionaries and the wealthy bankers, who had a direct dealing with the Nawab and the ministers spent large sums on Muharram observances and illuminations. The king and the Muslim ministers used to participate freely in the Hindu festivals. There were numerous instances recorded in King Muhammad Ali Shah's Diary of the king's orders for setting free a number of prisoners on the auspicious occasion of Divali and himself participating in the Dussehra procession asking the heir-apparent and other members of the royal household to watch it. There is a firman of king Muhammad Ali Shah referring to the order showing his benevolence.

Firman

The firman is in possession of Pandit Ram Ratna Avasthi, resident of Mohalla Birhana, Lucknow. The firman is in Persian and contains 13 lines of writing, in addition to the seal of the Qazi and the tughra respectively on the left and right hand top corners of the deed. It is dated on the 27th of Rajab 1253 A.H., in the first year of the reign of Muhammad Ali Shah, who reigned from 1837to 1842 A.D.

The firman is in fact an order passed by the King on the petition of one Mahant Sukhram Das Bairagi. He had been permitted by an earlier firman, issued in the same month, to raise subscription money evidently some kind of levies, the nature of which is not specified here - to meet the expenses of 'duwazdihi' festival and for feeding the Sadhus attending the same. It was brought to the notice of the King that certain officials were hampering the collection of the subscription money. A strict warning has been issued to them by the present firman.

It is said that Mahant Rama Lal Saran was held in great esteem by the Kings of Awadh, and had started, with the patronage about 1814 A.D., the celebration of the Ramalila festival during the Dussehra at Aishbagh (Lucknow). (The Aishbag Ramalila continues to the present day). A large number of sadhus used to assemble there on the occasion and the Mahant made elaborate arrangements for their stay. According to Pandit Ram Ratna, the concessions granted in the firman were for the feeding of those sadhus and for the celebration of the Ramalila.

The firman is another proof of the tolerant policy of the Nawab Wazirs of Awadh in religious matters.

 

Translation
 

The seal in the left hand top corner.

"Qazi Syed Raza Ali, the servant of the Muhammadan Law, 1232 H."

 
 

Below the seal:

"duplicate copy with the seal of the Qazi of the Kingdom, 1253H."

 

Text of the Firman
 

The exalted firman of the presence of the Shadow of the Glorious one, the Deputy of the Compassionate one, may Allah perpetuate his kingdom, written on the 27th of Rajab, 1253 H. Let all the officials and state agents, present and future, throughout the guarded royal dominions, know that there has come to the royal notice a petition from Mahant Sukh Ram Das Bairagi to the effect that early in Rajab, 1253 H. an exalted firman had the honour of being issued granting him, as a charity (Sadqa) of the royal head, subscription money for the purpose of holding (the "Duwazdihi") festival referred to in the firman may either be some festival celebrated on th occasion of Dussehra or the Muharram festival and meeting the expenses of the sadhus (attending that festival) and further that he is now thinking of arranging a "Duwazdihi" gathering (majlis), and that, although in the previous firman it was expressly stated that never and by no Kotwal or official should any dispute be raised about revision (of the amount of subscription money), yet, some officials raise objections about renewal of the Sanad; wherefore is issued this emphatic warning that looking upon the royal command as the very wrath of God, let all of them arrange for payments from their holdings and levies on the areas under their charge. If ever in future there is a dispute about the revision of the Sanad or non-procurement of the fixed amount of subscription from the area (Ilaqa) under any one's charge, that one shall be deemed as guilty of treason towards the King.

Let all of them act with renewed vigour in accordance with what is written herein.

 



 

Raja Darshan Singh, Raja Mewa Lal and Maharaja Balkrishna Saxena were the other famous Hindu Diwans who held posts in Revenue department.

Besides these Diwans or revenue ministers a large number of taluqdars were Hindu Rajputs and in the Government offices large number of Mutsaddis or revenue accountants were Kayasthas.

 
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