Culture of Lucknow – Exploring the City of Nawabs



Lucknow has had a rich history and background which has deeply influenced its culture. In the past, Lucknow has been ruled by various dynasties and empires, which includes the Mughals, the Nawabs of Awadh and the British who all have left their mark on the city and have greatly influenced its culture. Lucknow’s culture is a rich and diverse blend of various things including its architecture, cuisine, language, people, art forms, literature, handicrafts, etc. It attracts tourists from all over the world to explore its cultural heritage, traditions and history. This makes the city worth exploring to gain knowledge and get to know about its past and its culture. Let’s have a look at the culture of Lucknow.   

History & Background of Lucknow

Lucknow- The City of Nawabs- History
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Lucknow was founded by the Mughal emperor, Akbar, in the 16th century and was later ruled by the Nawabs of Awadh. They were the patrons of art and culture and encouraged the growth and progress of music, dance and poetry. They were also famous for their love for food and developed a new cuisine which mixed the Mughal and Awadhi flavors. The city became a center of Islamic culture and produced many well-renowned artists like Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Ghalib, etc. The British also influenced Lucknow’s culture significantly when they came in the 19th century. They introduced new architectural styles and established institutions such as schools and colleges. The city is home to Mughal and Nawabi architecture. The language and dialect spoken in Lucknow is very different and is known as Lucknowi Urdu and Awadhi. Lucknow was one of the major centres and an important part of the Indian rebellion of 1857 and India’s independence movement.    

People of Lucknow

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The people of Lucknow are known for their warm hospitality, values and etiquettes also known as “tehzeeb” and their culture. Their values, tehzeeb and their way of talking and welcoming guests and outsiders is one of the most distinctive aspects of the people of Lucknow. It is deeply ingrained in them and their values are reflected by their language. People there are also known for their courteous behavior, respect to elders, and generosity towards guests and how they also refer to themselves as ‘hum’. People there often refer to themselves as “Lakhnawis” or “Nawabs’ ‘ which is connected to the city’s historical past. The city is home to a large Muslim population and has rich Islamic heritage but otherwise has a diverse population with people from different religions and ethnicities living together in harmony.

Languages of Lucknow

Lucknow- The City of Nawabs- Language
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Language plays a very important role in Lucknow’s culture. Urdu is the official language of Lucknow and is considered an integral part of its cultural identity. It is one of the most widely spoken and the most prominent languages in Lucknow. Apart from Urdu and Hindi, there are several other languages spoken in different regions and parts of the city such as Braj, Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Koeli. It is a Persian influenced language which developed during the Mughal era. Urdu is poetic and lyrical in nature and is used in music, literature and art. The city has many renowned poets and writers. It is often used to express the city’s rich culture, history and values.  

Food in Lucknow

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Lucknow is known for its rich and delicious cuisine, inspired by its Mughal heritage. The city’s cuisine is a blend of flavors and spices from different places such as Central Asia, Persia and the Middle East. Lucknow is famous for its kebabs, especially Tunde Kabab as well as Seekh kebabs and Galouti Kebabs. These are made with minced meat, which is marinated in spices and grilled and cooked over charcoal. Biryani is another famous dish of Lucknow, cooked with a variety of spices, meat and vegetables. Another very popular dish of Lucknow includes Nihari, which is a mutton stew cooked overnight. Among vegetarian options, the most famous dishes include Navratan Korma, sheermal which is a type of sweet paratha, creamy and rich Rabri and to end it with the very famous desert, Makkhan Malai, which is a creamy sweet delicacy made and sold during winters.

Suggested Read – 10 Lucknow Food Delicacies that Will Make You a Foodie for Sure!

Art & Craft in Lucknow

Lucknow- The City of Nawabs- Art & Craft
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The city is famous for its traditional art and handicrafts, including chikankari embroidery, zardozi work, jali work and pottery. Starting with chikankari embroidery, it is a famous traditional embroidery technique which involves delicate and intricate hand thread work on fabrics like cotton, silk and muslin. It is known for its floral patterns and is used to create a range of clothing, including sarees, kurtas, salwar kameez and dupattas. 

Zardozi work is a type of embroidery that involves the use of metallic threads and sequins to create intricate patterns on fabrics like silk, velvet and chiffon. This type of embroidery is often used in creating stunning bridal wear and other dresses. 

Jali work is a type of lattice work which involves the use of intricate designs to create a perforated pattern in wood or stone. It is often seen in buildings like palaces and tombs and is a unique feature of Lucknow’s architectural heritage. 

Pottery is another well-known art and craft of Lucknow. It is crafted by local artisans and often decorated with beautiful designs and motifs and is used to make items like vases, bowls and plates.  

Dance & Music in Lucknow 

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Lucknow’s traditional dance and music forms reflect the city’s cultural heritage, its rich history and they are a vital part of the city’s culture. The Mughals and Nawabs of Awadh greatly influenced the city’s culture and traditions.

Starting with the Indian classical dance form, Kathak, this originated here and was patronized by Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh. It is made up of graceful movements, intricate footwork and expressive hand gestures. The city is one of the main centers for Kathak dance and has given birth to many renowned Kathak dancers who have carried forward the tradition and art form with them like Pandit Birju Maharaj and Lachhu Maharaj. 

Coming to traditional music, we have Ghazal and Qawwali. Ghazal is a type of poetry that originated in Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals. It is characterized by its lyrical beauty and is often set to music. Qawwali is a form of devotional music that is popular in Sufi culture and is characterized by its rhythmic beats. 

Another such type of music is known as Thumri, which is a genre of classical vocal music that originated in the Awadh region. It is a semi-classical music characterized by light classical melody and romantic lyrics. The city has produced many ghazal, qawwali and thumri singers.     

Best Places to Visit in Lucknow

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Some of the tourist attractions in Lucknow include the Residency, Bara Imambara, Chhota Imambara, Rumi Darwaza and Hazratganj which is one of the old and best market place in Lucknow. Some other places include Chattar Manzil, Ambedkar Park, Indira Gandhi Planetarium and La Martiniere College, if anyone is interested in architecture. 

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