Lucknow: The Nawabs of Avadh have been known for their grand Holi celebrations, a symbol of communal amity between Hindus and Muslims, and their descendants say they are continuing with the tradition despite the "harsh" realities of changing times to keep the 'ganga-jamuni tehzeeb' alive.
'Holi' Of Nawabs Of UP's Avadh Kept Alive By Generations
These families residing in the old Lucknow localities have been celebrating the festival since the days of yore.
Though the celebrations have become subdued over the years, they still maintain the tradition of joining Hindus in the festivities. "The old and the young come over to our place on the festival day and exchange colours to mark the festival.We offer them sweets like gujhiyas which are synonymous with Holi ," Nawabzada Syed Masoom Raza of the erstwhile royal family of Avadh told PTI.
Hindus and Muslims celebrate all festivals together in the Awadh tradition and "we have kept it going", he said, adding that this time too it will be no different as he and his family will await the 'tolis' (groups of Holi revellers) with colours and delicacies. "Unlike other places, Lucknow's culture has been guided by the Nawabs who considered both the communities equal," said Raja and cited the story of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula (1775-1797) who, it is claimed, came out in public in the evening for the festival when it had once coincided with Muharram, the Islamic month of mourning observed with sincerity by the Nawabs who were Shias. Things have changed tremendously over the years with the "advent of the new kind of politics" as well as migrants in Lucknow from all over. "It has eclipsed the local dialect and culture to a great extent," Raj Kumar Amir Naqi Khan of Mehmoodabad estate said.
"Up until the abolition of the Zamidari system, Holi was a grand affair with all friends, irrespective of their faith, collecting at our place and playing with natural colours derived from 'tesu' flowers , sharing lunch and enjoying the cultural show in the evening," Khan said.
Till today the festival is celebrated in his house with dry colours , 'abir' and 'gulal' (scented colours smeared on Holi) but the grandeur is, of course, missing. Begum Naseema Raza, who is the wife of Syed Masoom Raza and belongs to the family of the law minister of the first nawab of Avadh Nawab Mir Shah Ali Khan , says that the younsters offer gulal on the feet of the women folk and seek their blessings.
For the women, there are fun filled get-togethers in the evening to enjoy the Holi delicacies of gujhiyas, papads , dahi badas among others, Naseema Raza said, adding that the day cannot be over without the Holi dinners in the house of their Hindu friends.
"Preparations are already underway with the white attire worn on the festival day to highlight the colours of Holi being readied and abir and gulal being bought from the markets," she said.
Though for Raj Kumar Amir Naqi Khan this year also the festival is unlikely to be any different from previous ones, he fears for how long they will be able to maintain the traditions which have been part of Lucknow's distinct cultural identity. "The new generations of our families too have migrated to bigger cities. Besides the culture around us has also been changing fast under the influence of people from other towns. What we see today is very different from the Lucknow in which we had grown up," he said.
Masoom Ali is, however, more optimistic. He says all festivals which give a message of brotherhood, camaraderie and a chance to even those who have been forced to tread wrong path to come together, will continue to have a place in the society.