Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

The year 2023 will mark the bicentenary of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh.
About Nawab Wajid Ali Shah:
  • Wajid Ali Shah, the twelfth and final King of Awadh, reigned for nine years, from February 13, 1847, until February 11, 1856.
  • His realm, which had been safeguarded by the East India Company under contract for many years, was acquired by the East India Company on February 11, 1856, two days before his coronation.
  • This was in line with Dalhousie’s Doctrine of Lapse, in which the British would take over a kingdom if there was misrule also.
Doctrine of Lapse: The doctrine of lapse was a policy of annexation followed by the British Empire in India. This policy stated that any territory not under direct British rule would be automatically annexed to the empire. As a result, many Indian states were annexed into the British Raj, including Hyderabad and Junagadh.
  • The Kingdom of Awadh was annexed in February 1856.
  • The Nawab was banished to Garden Reach, then a suburb of Kolkata, where he received a substantial annuity for the remainder of his life.
  • Despite the reality that Wajid Ali Shah was a capable ruler, British authorities erroneously misrepresented his inability.
Major Contributions:
  • He was a poet, writer, dancer, and a patron of the arts.
  • He is recognized for reviving Kathak as a significant genre of Indian classical dance.
  • Kathak is one of the eight major forms of Indian classical dance.
  • It is the classical dance form from Uttar Pradesh.
  • Kathak developed under the influence of both Hindu and Muslim cultures.
  • The genre developed during the Bhakti movement, the trend of theistic devotion which evolved in medieval Hinduism.
  • The Kathakars communicate stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions and eye work.
  • This performing art that incorporates legends from ancient mythology and great Indian epics, especially from the life of Lord Krishna became quite popular in the courts of North Indian kingdoms.
  • Three specific forms of this genre that is three gharanas (schools), which mostly differ in emphasis given to footwork versus acting, are more famous namely, the Jaipur gharana, the Benaras gharana and the Lucknow gharana.
  • He was also greatly interested in architecture.
  • He started building the Qaiser bagh palace complex as soon as he came to the throne.
  • Paintings:
    • Awadh style of painting is created on paper using watercolours. Some other paintings famous were;
    • Miniature Painting: Miniatures were originally painted on palm leaves, so the work had to be small enough to fit. These paintings often illustrated religious texts such as the Holy Quaran, as well as ancient myths.
    • It originated in India around 750 AD, during the rule of the Pala Empire.
    • Mughal Painting: Mughal also spelled Mogul, style of painting, confined mainly to book illustration and the production of individual miniatures that evolved in India during the reigns of the Mughal emperors (16th–18th Century).
  • He enriched the light classical form of thumri.
  • He had received vocal training under great Ustads like Basit Khan, Pyar Khan and Jafar Khan.
 Pyar Khan, Jafar Khan and Basit Khan were the direct descendants of Mian Tansen.
His last years in Calcutta:
  • After losing the kingdom, the King first went to Kanpur and then progressed to Calcutta in a steamer accompanied by his close relatives and large entourage comprising musicians, nautch girls, cooks and animals from his menagerie and came ashore at Bichali Ghat near Metiabruz, Calcutta on 13 May 1856.
  • A year later when the Indian Rebellion of 1857 spread to Lucknow and rebelling sepoys, he installed one of his sons to the throne of Awadh whereas Wajid Ali Shah was imprisoned in Fort William by the British along with his Prime Minister, due to apprehensions that he would become a rallying figure for the sepoys.

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