Sharar begins with a history of the Avadh dynasty, and the relations of its rulers - who ranged between extremes of political wisdom and dissolute instability - with the Mughal Emperors in Delhi and with the British at a time of rising British power in India. He also describes the development of Lucknow people's culture and social institutions to a degree of richness that may be compared with the levels attained by the most admired of the great civilizations of history. There follows a virtual 'anatomy' of the everyday life and artistic achievements of Lucknow during the period, covering an astonishing variety of topics: religion, education, medicine, ceremony and etiquette, dress, the culinary arts, calligraphy, dance popular speech and the practice of story-telling; such pastimes as kite- and pigeon-flying and the arts of combat and self-defence; the evolution of the Urdu language and its prose and poetry; architecture, music, pottery, theatre and other forms of entertainment. The culture of which Sharar writes was still alive in his day; it died out completely only in 1947, with the ultimate collapse of the feudal system.
The editors provide extensive annotation that includes much background information for the benefit of both Western and Eastern readers, and takes account of scholarship on a number of subjects over the half-century that has elapsed since the original work was written. Among the attractive and varied illustrations are some particularly valuable early photographs of Lucknow buildings, a number of which were completely destroyed during the Mutiny.
Publisher: Oxford University Press