Examining the remembrance of old Lucknow in print and public life, this article argues that this historical mythology was at points harnessed for many contemporary purposes, including offering respite from a hostile present, providing a model for Hindu-Muslim political concord, and articulating a distinctively Islamic interpretation of modern religious pluralism.
In introductory remarks imbued with heavy affection, Sharar evoked the court of Awadh, and the urban capital of its heyday from 1775 until 1856, as ‘the last example of eastern refinement and culture (We still have memories and present examples of several other courts, but the court in which the old culture and lifestyle reached its culmination was this court, which reached such heights and then, suddenly and sadly, vanished so fast…
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Many frameworks for the writing of urban history in South Asia have interpreted the city as a space of socio-political organisation, rather than an object of thought itself.
By contrast, this article examines how a mythologised version of Lucknow’s illustrious pre-colonial history, particularly its supposed cultural refinement (), was evoked in the colonial-era city.
Sharar depicts a unique and sophisticated Islamicate civic culture which, as well as being a pinnacle of Indo-Muslim cultural achievement, was also one of successful integration, amalgamating artistic contributions from across South and West Asia, and facilitating engagement from both Muslim and Hindu populations.