Metiabruz heritage walk held on 16.07.2023.
I participated in a walking tour in Matiabruz, commemorating 200th birth anniversary of Wajid Ali Shah. Shaikh Sohail of Break Free Trails and Soumyadeep of Heritage and Art Walks Kolkata started the heritage walk on July 16,2023 from the Garden Reach clock tower, covering remaining structures from the era of Wajid Ali Shah, including the Shahi Astabal Masjid, Qasrul buka Imambara, Bait-un-Nijat Imambara and Sibtainabad Imambara.
The life (1822-1887) of the Nawab is almost symmetrically divided into two halves — the first of which he spent in Lucknow and the second in Kolkata’s Metiabruz. These two halves are divided into two sides of the installation, in the form of a story told by two fish (the emblem of Awadh). The first fish narrates the story of the Nawab’s life in Lucknow. The second section of the tale is told by the fish from Bengal. The Nawabs of Awadh are Shia, unlike most (87%) people in India, who are Sunnis. About 90 percent of Iranians practice Shiaism, the official religion of Iran. The first Nawab of Awadh, Sadaat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk, was a Persian noble from Khorasan, Iran (Uzbekistan was part of Khorasan, apart from Afghanistan and N East Iran).
Wajid Ali Shah brought/introduced the following to Kolkata :
1. Awadhi art and literature,
2. Poetry (Urdu)
3. Kathak Dance
4. Sports - Kabutar bazi (Pigeon flying) and Kite flying,
5. Fashion (Tailoring)
The Legacy Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in Calcutta
The first Nawab of Awadh, Sadaat Khan Burhan-ul-Mulk, was a Persian noble from Khorasan, Iran, who came to India in 1708 . The last was Wajid Ali Shah, who spent the last 31 years of his life in Calcutta. After Awadh was annexed in 1856 by the English East India Company on a false charge of maladministration, its last king Wajid Ali Shah decided to come to Kolkata with his mother Malikah Kishwar. Shah decided to live in Kolkata and chose Metiaburj as the burbling Hooghly river reminded him of the Gomti in Lucknow and gave some solace to his broken heart.
1&2. Urdu flourished and grew exponentially when thousands of citizens of Awadh flocked to Metiabruz. The settlers spoke chaste Urdu and its sweetness spread quickly. Shah passionately promoted and patronised this language by encouraging writers and poets. Events like mushairas (poetic symposiums), ghazals and qawalis became very popular. The patronage gave rise to a new generation of talented poets, writers, singers, and narrators elevating Kolkata as an important centre of Urdu.
Talented local artists like Raja Sourindra Mohan Tagore and Pandit Jadu Bhatta benefitted from this musical atmosphere
3. The king in the true regal style held regular Kathak dance programmes in his parikhana .
The babus of Bengal, impressed by this, built their jalsaghar (dancing halls) where such programmes were regularly held. As the rich Bengalis started extending their patronage to artists, the spin-off was the popularity of classical dance.
4.The pastime of kite flying was introduced by Shah in Kolkata, where it caught the imagination of the rajas, maharajas and zamindars of 19th-century Bengal and became their favourite hobby. Although this sport has few takers now, still there are many units active in Metiabruz producing thousands of kites which are supplied all over India. A large number of women operating from their houses are involved in this trade.
Other pastimes like flying pigeon (kabootar bazi) also became extremely popular. A lot of time, money and energy was spent on rearing and training pigeons. Some indulged in cross-breeding pigeons to produce champions. Even now, in many homes, men take an active interest in this sport. Like kite flying, the sport of flying pigeons is fading but there is still a band of enthusiasts who indulge in this fascinating hobby. I actually witnessed a programme in New Town where prizes were distributed among the winners. I got to know from them that it is a very popular Sport.
If you do not believe it,see this :
5. The rulers and nobilities of Awadh were fashion-conscious and Shah brought with him the fine art of Lucknawi tailoring. To cater to their demand, many tailors from Awadh settled close to Metiabruz.They excelled in stitching sherwani, churidar, kurta-pyjama and shalwar-kameez. One generation handed over the skills to the next and gradually a huge army of tailors emerged. There are hundreds of shops selling clothing materials and other accessories making it one of the biggest manufacturing centres for unbranded garments in Asia generating revenue of Rs 15,000 crore annually. The dresses manufactured here are sold in leading boutiques of the country besides being exported.
6. If there is one thing the people of this state remember and love Shah the most for is the introduction of delectable Awadhi cuisine in general and biryani in particular. Some of the talented chefs who accompanied him prepared dishes like pulao, korma, kebabs, biryani, sheermal and shahi tukra. His chefs introduced the traditional Awadhi style of cooking, known as Dum Pukht, in Kolkata.
7. Alipore Zoo : He had his private zoo, first of its kind in Kolkata (there are stories how a tiger escaped and swam across the Hooghly to Botanical garden), which were later transferred to Alipore Zoo.
Interesting Shah died in Kolkata. His wife ('nikah wife') died in Kathmandu and his mother died in Paris.
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