Wajid Ali Shah

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah
Mirza (Royal title)
Nawab of Awadh
Flag of Awadh.svg 5th King of Awadh
Reign13 February 1847 – 11 February 1856
PredecessorAmjad Ali Shah
SuccessorBirjis Qadra (son)
Born(1822-07-30)30 July 1822
Lucknow, Oudh
Died21 September 1887(1887-09-21) (aged 65)
Metiabruz, Garden Reach, Calcutta, British India
Full name
Abul Mansoor Meerza Muhammed WAajid Ali Shah
FatherAmjad Ali Shah
ReligionShia Islam
Silver rupee of Wajid Ali Shah, struck at Lucknow in AH 1267 (1850–51 CE) and showing the Awadh coat of arms on the reverse. The two figures holding the pennants are intended to be fish, seen also on the Awadh flag.

Wajid Ali Shah (Urdu: واجد علی شاہ‎) (30 July 1822 – 1 September 1887) was the tenth and last Nawab of Awadh, holding the position for 9 years, from 13 February 1847 to 11 February 1856.[1][2]

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah's first wife was Alam Ara who was better known as Khas Mahal because of her exquisite beauty. She was one of two Nikahi wives.

His kingdom, long protected by the British under treaty, was eventually annexed bloodlessly on 11 February 1856, two days before the ninth anniversary of his coronation. The Nawab was exiled to Garden Reach in Metiabruz, then a suburb of Kolkata, where he lived out the rest of his life on a generous pension. He was a poet, playwright, dancer and great patron of the arts. He is widely credited with the revival of Kathak as a major form of classical Indian dance. He is survived by many descendants.

As a Nawab

Wajid Ali Shah as Nawab

Wajid Ali Shah succeeded to the throne of Awadh when the kingdom was well past its heyday. The British had annexed much of the kingdom under the treaty of 1801, and had impoverished Awadh by imposing a hugely expensive, British-run army and repeated demands for loans. The independence of Awadh in name was tolerated by the British only because they still needed a buffer state between their presence in the East and South, and the remnants of the Mughal Empire to the North.

Wajid Ali Shah was most unfortunate to have ascended the throne of Oudh at a time when the British East India Company was determined to grab the coveted throne of prosperous Awadh, which was "the garden, granary, and queen-province of India"- the royal predecessors and successors of Awadh were one of the major threats to the Mughal Empire before Britain's attempt at usurping full political control in India.

In different circumstances perhaps, he might have succeeded as a ruler because he had many qualities that make a good administrator. He was generous, kind and compassionate towards his subjects, besides being one of the most magnanimous and passionate patrons of fine arts in the Indian tradition. When he ascended the throne, he took keen interest in the administration of justice, introduced reforms, and reorganised the military. Wajid Ali Shah was widely regarded as a debauched and detached ruler, but some of his notoriety seems to have been misplaced. The main case for condemnation comes from the British Resident of Lucknow, General William Sleeman, who submitted a report highlighting "maladministration" and " "lawlessness" he described as prevailing there, although Sleeman himself was strictly opposed to aggressive annexation for reasons political, financial and ethical.[3]. This provided the British with the facade of "benevolence" they were looking for, and formed the official basis for their annexation. Recent studies have, however, suggested that Oudh was neither as bankrupt nor as lawless as the British had claimed. In fact, Oudh was for all practical purposes under British rule well before the annexation, with the Nawab playing little more than a titular role. The British officered Bengal Army was recruited largely from Oudh; while, under direction by the Governor-General Lord Dalhousie in 1855, any tax revenue from Oudh not required for state government costs was appropriated by the East India Company.[4]

In his book "Awadh Under Wajid Ali Shah", Dr. G.D. Bhatnagar[5] gives the following assessment of this ill-starred prince:

Cast by providence for the role of an accomplished dilettante, he found himself a misfit for the high office to which he was elevated by chance. Wajid Ali Shah's character was complex. Though he was a man of pleasure, he was neither an unscrupulous knave nor a brainless libertine. He was a lovable and generous gentleman. He was a voluptuary, still he never touched wine, and though sunk in pleasure, he never missed his five daily prayers. It was the literry and artistic attainments of Wajid Ali Shah which distinguished him from his contemporaries.

Dr. G.D. Bhatnagar, Awadh Under Wajid Ali Shah