Wali Aasi one of the modern poets of Lucknow, accurately describes the real peril Lucknow is going through presently. The development has brought a lot of fame to the city but at the same time it has affected the old royal art forms. Lucknow has been home to many cultural values and traditions and it has since forever carried the unique forms of art along with it. But sadly, these arts are dying a slow death, the day is not far when all these arts will be nothing more than just some pieces kept in the museums. Here is a list of art of Lucknow that is on the verge of getting lost.
Chandi Ka Warq (Fine Silver Foil)
A fine silver foil used for decorative purpose in the mughlai dishes. The Arabic word, ‘Warq‘ means leaf. This silver foil is quite thin and light as a leaf, it adds taste to sweets and the mughlai dishes. The art of making ‘chandi ka warq’ evolved in Lucknow. This is very important ingredient in the sweet delicacy ‘Sewain’ made in the festival of Eid. Preparing ‘Chandi ka warq’ is a tedious process and involves physical labor. Thin silver sheets are beaten into a super fine foil. This is achieved through precision hammering with wood within a leather cover for over five hours. This art is now vanishing with the number of artisans decreasing. Machines have replaced the artisans but the real texture and the quality of handmade ‘Warq’ is getting lost.
Kanghi or Comb
image credit – Lucknow Society
Kanghi or Comb-making is another art that is on its way of decline today. This art is a special one as it had a whole lane dedicated to it. The ‘Kanghi Wali Gali’ in old Lucknow flourished as it was most popular during the nawabi era. Its said that approximately hundred artisans or ‘Kanghi karigars’ used to live in that lane and hence the name. But now this profession is completely lost and the lane’s name is all that is left. The art is unique because it involved a lot of work as choosing the best animal horn, washing and drying them, and then continuously beating them into the required shape, followed by cutting teeth on them, and, finally, sharpening these teeth. The work was tedious and yet was appreciated a lot in those days but now it has lost its value.
Calligraphy or Khattati
Lucknow has served as the most important center for Urdu calligraphy. Beautiful writing in Urdu, Persian and Arabic is known as ‘khushnavisi’. The art of Calligraphy or Khattati has been derived from Khushnavisi. Calligraphy found its way in Lucknow under the patronage of Awadh King, Nawab Saadat Ali Khan. The calligraphers of the nawabi era were masters in this art. Numerous monuments in Lucknow are decorated with the art of calligraphy. The art of calligraphy is loosing its touch now with declining interest of the people. The art does not have any monetary value now and is now limited to just wedding cards and nameplates.
Chikankari is a traditional embroidery style of Lucknow, which has its eternal roots in this Awadhi land. Believed to have been introduced by Nur Jahan, wife of Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. The major market for chikan is in the textile industry right now. Once very famous the chikan work has its major center in chauk area in Old Lucknow. The chikan work or Chikankari is a hand done embroidery on a variety of textile fabric like muslin, silk, chiffon, organza, net, etc. White thread is embroidered on cool, pastel shades of light muslin and cotton garments. Nowadays chikan embroidery is also done with coloured and silk threads in colours to meet the fashion trends and keep chikankari up-to-date. Lucknow is the heart of the chikankari industry today and the variety is known as Lucknawi chikan. It has more than 35 types of stitches making the Lucknow chikan work completelty unique.
Lucknow’s Nawabi culture is slowly declining, with the speeding developments all around. Tanga/Ikka is a horse pulled cart that was used earlier as a means of transport but now with all the development, the tanga is no more visible in the markets of Lucknow. This means of transport has disappeared. You might see some tangas/Ikkas in the old Lucknow, which is nothing more than just a means for attracting tourists now. The tanga was two seater while, ikka was for a single person and bhagghi being the largest, had space for more than two. Once considered a luxury ride, It has now lost its importance.
Another unique work of art that was fancied a lot in the awadhi period. A very delicate hand work of golden embroidery on the clothes giving them royal touch of nawabs. The name in itself explains the art, ‘Zardozi’ is made up of two words, ‘Zar’ and ‘Dozi’ where they stand for ‘Gold’ and ‘Work’ respectively. Zardozi embroidery work involves making elaborate designs, using gold and silver threads along with studded pearls and precious stones. This royal art is also lost somewhere in this developing fashion world. The zardozi work has not much value now but is still adored by the people for its royal touch.
Its hurting to see them drifting away. Art forms of Lucknow are on the verge of becoming a forgotten dream, a part of our culture has already been destroyed and what is left is dying. In a few years the traditions, culture and the aforesaid artisans will be lost forever amidst the fast developing Lucknow.