Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

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The last Nawab (ruler) of the India's state of Avadh, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1823-1887) was not only a great patron of music and the arts but a talented Kathak dancer and composer in his own right. He…
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The last Nawab (ruler) of the India's state of Avadh, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1823-1887) was not only a great patron of music and the arts but a talented Kathak dancer and composer in his own right. He wrote ragas, including "Jogi," "Jushi," and "Shah Pasand," ghazals, thumris, including the much-loved "Babul Mora Naihar Chchooto Jaay," and the first play, Radha Kanhaiyu Ka Kaissu, in the history of Hindustani Theater. During his reign (1847-1856), Wajid Ali transformed the Avadh capitol, Lucknow, into a thriving center of music, dance, literary arts, and theater. He founded a school (Pari Khana) where girls were taught music and dancing and produced numerous stage shows of his poetry and lyrical compositions. Wajid Ali was drawn to the arts as a child. He studied vocal training under Ustads Basit Khan, Pyar Khan, and Jaffar Khan and Kathak dancing under Thankur Pradadji and Bindadin Maharaj. Although he brought a spirit of creativity to his empire, Wajid Ali's reign came at an unfortunate time. Although he withstood challenges from Baba Uddhardas, ruler of Bheeti, he met a more formidable foe in Lord Dalhouse of the United Kingdom. Appointed to a three-man commission, comprised of representatives of the Hindus, the Muslims, and the East India Company, he delivered a passionate plea for the people of his homeland. His words fell on closed ears as Dalhouse decided to annex Avadh as a British protectorate. Wajid Khan was stripped of his power, given a perpetual monthly stipend, and exiled to far away Matiaburj, a village near Calcutta. While the people of Avadh mourned his loss, Wajid Ali remained committed to the arts and recreated the creative atmosphere of Lucknow in his new home. He died, still in exile, on September 1, 1887.