Lucknow, the golden city of the east' retains an old-world charm that fascinates one and all. Regarded as one of the finest cities of India, Lucknow emanates a culture that combines emotional warmth, a high degree of sophistication, courtesy, and a love for gracious living. This sublime cultural richness famous as 'Lucknowi Tehzeeb' blends the cultures of two communities living side by side for centuries, sharing similar interests, speaking a common language -Urdu. Many of the cultural traits and customs peculiar to Lucknow have become living legends today. The credit for this goes to the Nawabs of Awadh, who took keen interest in every walk of life and encouraged them to attain a rare degree of perfection.
For centuries Lucknow has been famous for its various handicraft works. The Nawabs of Awadh were great patrons of fine arts of which the most well-known is the exquisite Chikan work. Chikan is a unique craft involving delicate and artistic hand embroidery in a variety of textile fabric like muslin, siIk, chiffon, organza, doriya and argandi. There are 36 types of stitches used in chikan work. of which murri, bakhia, jali, tepchi, tappa, dhum, katao are widely used to produce exquisite designs. Lucknow has produced many renowned artisans of chikan work like Ustad Faiyaaz Khan and Hasan Mirza Saheb.
Apart from kurtas. sarees. salwar suits, topis, hankeys and dupattas, chikan embroidery is being used on new items like table covers, tray covers, napkins etc. The demand for these exquisite art pieces is ever increasing both in India and abroad. In Lucknow, the main concentration of chikan work is to be found in the chowk locality and Daliganj. Besides chikan work the Zardozi and Kamdani works of Lucknow are also appreciated far and wide.
These hand embroidery works with gold and silver thread are done on sarees, dupattas, lehengas, cholis, caps, shoes etc. From time immemorial Lucknow is known for its jewellery and enamelling work.
Exquisite silverwares like bowls, tea-sets, salt cellars with patterns of hunting scenes, snakes and roses are immensely popular. The Bidri and Zarbuland silver works of Lucknow find expression on excellent pieces of huqqa farshi, jewel boxes, trays, bowls, cufflinks, cigarette holders, etc. Life -like ivory and bone carvings from Lucknow with motifs of flowers, leaves, creepers, trees, birds, and animals are widely appreciated. The master craftsmen create intricate items like knives, lamp shades, shirt pins and small toys. In fact, the ivory works from this city continue to find a place at museums and private collections of connoisseurs Fine pottery from Lucknow is yet another work of art that has captured the imagination of the consumers. The long-necked water pitchers and huqqa farshi are especially popular. 'Attar'('Itr') or perfumes which were introduced in India by the Muslims, reached a new hight in Lucknow. From the 19th century the Lucknow perfumers experimented and succeeded in making attar with delicate and lasting fragrances Created from various aromatic herbs, spices, sandal oil, musk essence of flowers, and leaves the famous Lucknowi fragrances are khus, keora, chameli, zafran and agar Apart from perfumes, Lucknowi Paan, Zarda (chewing tobacco), and Khamira produced by the local tobacconists are hot favourites among consumers. Another craft that has reached a high level of artistry in Lucknow is Kite making. Although Kite making is popular throughout India, this activity has attained perfection only in Lucknow. Under Nawabi patronage this form of art flourished in Lucknow and different types of Kites and flying strings were developed. Besides these well-known craft works, mention must be made to some other flourishing crafts like gota weaving, dyeing and calico printing, silver varq making, woodworks and tazia making. Beautiful tazias of zari, gold and silver paper are made by master craftsmen to mark the solemn occasion of Moharrum. All in all, with these multifarious craft specialities Lucknow promises to be a shoppers' delight that is hard to resist. In their own distinctive wav these crafts have provided employment to thousands, delighted many more and continues to keep alive the invaluable traditions of a magnificent city
'Lucknow', this name is synonymous with architectural beauties of 'Lakhauri' bricks, the fragrance of 'itra', musical notes, the sound of dancers' trinklets, the sweetness of 'dussheri' mangoes, 'malai' and 'gulab revadis', and of course it's 'Mehman Nawazi'. Known for its refinement in speech, entertainment, dresses and manners, Lucknow is also called the 'City of Adab'. In fact, it is here that one can experience hospitality in the true sense of the term. Various cultural ingredients have contributed to the richness of this unique city. Mention must be made of the Urdu language. Gazals, Shairi, expressive dance forms, colourful festivals, buzzing chowks and various exciting games like Patangbazi, Baterbazi & Kabutarbazi.
Lucknow became the focal point of a cultural renaissance with the shifting of capital from Faizabad to Lucknow in 1776. Under royal patronage Kathak, Thumri, Khayal, Dadra, Gazals, Qawalies and Sher-o-Shairi reached their zenith point. As a centre of Islamic learning Lucknow witnessed the formation of Lucknow school of poetry under renowned poets like Anes, Dabeer, Imam-Buksh 'Nasika', Mirza Mohd. Raza Khan Burq, Atish, Mirza Shauq Asar, Josh and others. Apart from Gazals, another form of long narrative poem for which Lucknow is famous is Masnavi. Elegy writing in Urdu also reached a new height through the three forms-'marsiyas'. 'salams' and 'nauhas'. Urdu as a language attained a rare degree of perfection in Lucknow and slowly Lucknow emerged as a cradle of unforgettable gazals, masnavi, elegy, hazal and dramas.
Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, himself composed a number of songs and dramas under the pen name of, 'Akhtari Pia'. Of the famous Indian dance styles kathak is strongly associated with Lucknow.
This devotional dance style of pre-Mughal days was transformed into a highly eclectic dance form under the patronage of the Nawabs of Awadh. Pandit Iswari Prasad Mishra of Handia is said to be the founder of the Lucknow gharana of Kathak.
The Kathak school founded by him was perfected by his sons Thakur Prasad, Durga Parsad. Bindadin. Kalka Prasad and the three sons of Kalka -Achchhan Maharaj, Lachchu Maharaj and Shambhu Maharaj. Today Pandit Birju Maharaj is the living doyen of this glorious house of Lucknow.
Turning to the festivals that make, Lucknow one-of-a-kind, mention must be made to the Moharrum festival.
District Lucknow has almost uniformed tropical climate. The temperature varies from 45 Celcius maximum in summer to 5 Celcius minimum in winter season. Rainfall is 100 cm. per annum. The forest area is negligible in the district. Shisham, Dhak, Mahua, Babul, Neem, Peepal, Ashok, Khajur, Mango and Gular trees are grown here. In fact, different varieties of mangoes specially Dashari are grown in Malihabad block of the district and exported to other countries too. The main crops are wheat, paddy, sugarcane, mustard, potatoes, and vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, tomato, brinjals are grown here. Similarly, sunflowers, roses, and marigold are cultivated on quite a large area of the land. Apart from this many medicinal and herbal plants are also grown here.
Commemorating the death of Imam Hussain, Moharrum witnesses emotional processions of tazias (models of Imam Hussain's mausoleum at Karbala, Iraq) & Alam's.
Not only festivals, the people of this beautiful city 'indulge in various exciting contests that have come down from the time of the Nawabs. Kite flying is one such sport. Kites of different shapes, sizes, colours take to the skies leading to all round excitement and enjoyment the art of training pigeons which was perfected by the nobility of yesteryears is prevalent even today. The pigeon flying event is yet another exciting game that is eagerly awaited. No account of Lucknowi culture is complete without a mention of the famous 'Chowk' of Lucknow.
The term 'Chowk' has become synonymous with Lucknow. 'Chowk' has played a vital role in the development of the Lucknowi culture. It is the pivotal point around which the traders, engravers, painters. artisans, weavers, singers, and nautch girls flourished and grew. This main bazar of yester years has not changed much. but transformation is there. Its humming and lively characteristics represent Lucknowi culture in its modern-day context.