Lucknow is caught in a time warp. It exists in an in-between land of the past and the present looking back constantly to the memories of a colonial-Nawabi past. There is at the same time a sense of pride at the thought of being after Delhi, the most important center of power in free India. Politics has indeed been Lucknow's forte but culture has been its historical identification.
Nawabi legacy: Despite the Indo-Persian legacy, Lucknow has a composite Indian culture. The welding of various cultural strains nurtured by centuries of Mughal and later Delhi Sultanate rule, to the folk traditions of the Indo-Gangetic plains has produced a complex, yet rich synthesis. The Urdu language acquired its baffling phonetic nuances and suave perfection here. It was in Nawab Wajed Ali Shah's court that the most advanced of all classical Indian dance forms, the Kathak, took shape. The popular Parsi theatre originated from the Urdu theatre of this city. The table and the sitar were first heard on the streets of Lucknow.
Location: 79-km From Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh
Significance: Capital City Of Uttar Pradesh
Best Time To Visit: September & October
Lucknow-the name can be traced to the epic Ramayana. After 14 years of exile when Lord Ramchandra returned to Ayodhya, he gifted this place to his younger brother Lakshman. Lakshman is believed to have stayed in Lakshman Teela, a high ground near the banks of the river Gomti. Later the region was named after him; 'Lucknow' is derived from the name Lakshman. There are other stories that do the rounds: Lucknow was named after a very influential person called 'Lakhan Ahir' who built the fort 'Qila Lakhan'. The name 'Qila Lakhan' later became Lucknow. Some other source says that one Lakhu Khan who was earlier a non-Muslim by name Laxman Singh has lent his name to Lucknow.
The ravages of time have left its mark on Chowk, the oldest street of Lucknow. But a walk through of the streets is still a memorable experience because of the series of unfolding scenes. The rhythm of hammers beating silver into paper, the smell of flowers, the fragrance of ittar, the fineness of chicken embroidery and the mouthwatering aroma of roasting meat at a kabab shop. Venturing beyond the streets into the bylines you confront a private world of courtesans' houses with their many stories and anecdotes, past and present.
The Raj Connection:
In the annals of Indian history, Lucknow forms the traditional link between tradition and modernity, the decline of the Mughals and the rise of the British. The timing of its rise, however, cut short Lucknow's cultural effluence. The land of etiquette and manners, of the 'pehle alp' these received a serious jolt with the siege of the British Residency during the great revolt in 1857. Eager for revenge, the last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, proved a suitable scapegoat. Awadh was annexed on the pretext of administrative failure and the Nawab was packed off to Calcutta with a pension.