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Lucknow: A city of Glorious Past

The flowering of high culture in these cities was a result of investments made by their elite in educational and artistic endeavors.  In Europe, it was the mercantile families and the Church, and further east, it was Khalifas and Sultans whose patronage of artists, writers, painters, and craftsman helped create that level of cultural excellence.  Cities which became centers of art and learning were not just prosperous, but were also able to nurture a tolerant society open to new ideas.  The credit must be given to the rich of the city, who patronized the artist, as well as to the average person, who were the consumer of these bold new ideas.

Once these cities, whether Athens, Baghdad, Delhi or Lucknow, faced political and military upheavals, their cultural flowering withered away.  The cultural milieu created by that city’s artists and their patrons was unique and organic, and it was hard to quickly transplant it to other cities or locals.

After the 19th-century Nawabs of Oudh lost their state to British colonial rule, the traditional ruling-family lost their ability to financially support artistic endeavors in Lucknow.  The new rulers, English bureaucrats and army officers, uninterested in indigenous poets, musicians, dancers, and writers, cut these artists off from their royal patronage. These creators sunk into abject poverty, and so too did their cultural capital, assigning Lucknow to the pages of history.

Now, 150 years later, Lucknow is quite a different city, with a growing population and robust financial and industrial sectors. While Lucknow no longer has an extremely rich royal family, it is up to the city’s masses of citizens and their democratized-wealth to fund the next generation of cultural creators, and possibly reclaim their city’s shining past