Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Who was Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

Mains level: NA


Central Idea

  • An exhibition, heritage walk, and talk will be held in Kolkata to commemorate the bicentenary year of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last king of Awadh.

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

  • Mirza Wajid Ali Shah (30 July 1822 – 1 September 1887) was the eleventh and final King of Awadh, reigning from 13 February 1847 to 11 February 1856.
  • He is remembered as a poet, playwright, dancer, and patron of the arts who made significant contributions during his rule.

Reign and fall

  • Ascension to the Throne: Wajid Ali Shah became the King of Awadh in February 1847, assuming the position during a period of decline for the kingdom.
  • British Annexation: The British East India Company annexed Awadh on 11 February 1856, just two days before the ninth anniversary of Wajid Ali Shah’s coronation. He was subsequently exiled to Garden Reach in Metiabruz, near Kolkata, living on a pension.

Patron of the Arts

  • Contributions to Music: Wajid Ali Shah was a generous patron of music and a talented composer. He nurtured the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak dance and enriched the light classical form of thumri. He composed ghazals and introduced new ragas, leaving a lasting impact on Hindustani music.
  • Kathak Dance: Wajid Ali Shah’s patronage elevated Kathak dance in Lucknow. He emphasized artistic expression, incorporating drama, emotion, and literature. The king popularized Kathak as a court dance and made it accessible to the common people.
  • Hindustani Theatre: The king established the Jogia Jashan, a grand pageant, and staged Rahas (dance-dramas) filled with poetry, lyrical compositions, and Kathak performances. His contributions laid the foundation for the development of Hindustani theatre.

Literary Pursuits

  • Prose and Poetry: Wajid Ali Shah was a prolific writer in both Persian and Urdu. His works covered various subjects, including history, literature, and personal reflections. Notable works include “Huzn-i-Akhtar,” an autobiographical piece, and “Bani,” a treatise on music and dance.
  • Patronage of Writers: The king patronized numerous poets and writers in his court, including Mirza Ghalib. He granted pensions to renowned literary figures and encouraged the production of works that reflected the culture and life of the era.

Exile Years and Legacy (1856-1887)

  • Exile in Metiabruz: After losing his kingdom, Wajid Ali Shah settled in Metiabruz near Kolkata. He created a miniature version of Lucknow and maintained his lavish lifestyle. Matiya Burj, a magnificent complex, served as a reminder of his beloved city.
  • Enduring Impact: Wajid Ali Shah’s compositions, including his famous thumri “Babul Mora Naihar Chhooto Jaay,” remain influential and have been performed by various artists. His contributions to music, dance, literature, and theatre continue to shape the cultural landscape, preserving his legacy.


  • Mirza Wajid Ali Shah, the last King of Awadh, reigned from 1847 to 1856 before being exiled.
  • His patronage of the arts, including music, dance, theatre, and literature, left an indelible mark on the cultural heritage of Awadh.
  • Despite the challenges he faced and the loss of his kingdom, Wajid Ali Shah’s artistic endeavors and enduring legacy continue to inspire and enrich the region’s cultural identity.

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