The abiding fame of Faizabad

“Shaharnama Faizabad” offers detailed information about the social and cultural life of the historic town

Published - June 16, 2017 01:25 am IST



Although Faizabad had acquired prominence during the reign of the early Nawabs of Awadh, it lost some of its lustre when, soon after taking over the reins of the kingdom in 1775, Nawab Asif-ud-Daula shifted the capital from Faizabad to Lucknow. Yet, it continued to enjoy a lot of influence until the last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was deposed and banished to Matia Burz near Calcutta (now Kolkata). It was so because of its famed Begums who wielded considerable political and financial clout. However, in the last century, a Begum of a different kind brought the town national recognition when, at the end of every gramophone recording, she would proudly announce: “Mera naam Akhtari Bai Faizabad”. For most of her performing career, Begum Akhtar was known as Akhtari Bai Faizabadi and she truly represented the refined composite culture of Faizabad that abuts the Hindu holy town of Ayodhya.

Last year, Vani Prakashan had brought out an excellent book on Lucknow that offered scholarly research along with useful touristic information. Titled ‘The Other Lucknow: An Ethnographic Portrait of a City of Undying Memories and Nostalgia’, it was edited by Nadeem Hasnain and was based on a research project sponsored and funded by the Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan (Ayodhya Research Institute), an autonomous organisation of the Uttar Pradesh government’s Department of Culture.

Book cover

Book cover

It’s a matter of rejoicing that this year, Vani Prakashan has published a companion volume on Faizabad with the help of the same Ayodhya Shodh Sansthan. The fact that this volume is in Hindi and it offers very detailed information about the historic town, its social and cultural life, and places of religious and cultural significance would warm the cockles of everybody’s heart. Hindi writer Yatindra Mishra, who recently won the President’s Golden Lotus award for his biography of Lata Mangeshkar, has edited this 640-page tome titled “Shaharnama Faizabad” (A Chronicle of Faizabad). A scion of the erstwhile ruling family of Ayodhya, Mishra’s love for Faizabad is evident in the care and fastidiousness with which he has performed this daunting task with the help of many experts including historians Salim Kidwai, Madhu Trivedi and Yogesh Pravin, Islamic culture scholar Mirza Shahab Shah and Kosala Museum’s Deshraj Upadhyaya, to name only a few. Mishra has not only edited the book but has also contributed a large number of detailed comments on the Faizabad region’s history and culture, making use of painstakingly done research into archival material and other sources.

The book is divided into five sections and opens with the history of Faizabad and the way its architecture and culture took shape under the Nawabs. After Nawab Saadat Khan ‘Burhan-ul-Mulk’ was awarded the Suba of Awadh by the Mughal Emperor, he built a temporary fort called Qila Mubarak near Lakshman Ghat in Ayodhya. After some time, he built a cantonment at a distance of five kms from Qila Mubarak and it was known as Bangla. During the reign of Nawab Mansur Ali Khan ‘Safdarjung’, Bangla acquired the name of Faizabad. This section also tells us a very interesting fact about the royal emblem of the Nawabs as it depicted fish (considered to be auspicious) along with the bow and arrow of Ram, the presiding deity of the adjoining Ayodhya. Detailed information about the arts, architecture, music, jewellery and ornaments, and prominent Nawabs and Begums and their Hindu and Muslim courtiers has been provided in this opening section.

The second section is one of the most interesting and valuable parts of this book as it deals with the events and heroes of the great revolt of 1857, often described as the First War of Indian independence.

Ripple effect

As is well known, the deposition of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah had also played an important role in spreading anger and anguish among the sepoys who hailed from the Awadh region in considerably large numbers. Mangal Pandey belonged to village Dugvan-Rahimpur of Tehsil Sadar in Faizabad district. We also come to know about Maulavi Ahmad Ullah Shah alias Danka Shah who, as early as in February 1857, had started condemning foreign rule in his public speeches. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death. Faizabad remained independent till January 6, 1858 and was defeated by the Nepalese army that attacked its forces and subdued them.

While the third section gives detailed descriptions of important religious places belonging to all the religions present in the region, the fourth section offers invaluable historical information about the writers, poets, courtesans, high-brow as well as folk musicians, folk art, village fairs as well as local festivals, bazaars and traditional haats, instruments and their makers, journalists, newspapers, magazines and printing presses of the region. It’s a fairly long list and offers a glimpse into the cultural richness of Faizabad.

The fifth and final section deals with prominent social workers, sportspersons, educational institutions and public libraries, thus completing a full circle. It’s not possible to discuss such a voluminous book in any detail here. Suffice it to say that those who are interested in knowing the history and culture of Awadh cannot afford to ignore this work.

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