In common with other metropolitan cities across India, Lucknow is multicultural and home to people who use different dialects and languages. Many of the cultural traits and customs peculiar to Lucknow have become living legends today. The credit for this goes to the secular and syncretic traditions of the Nawabs of Awadh, who took a keen interest in every walk of life, and encouraged these traditions to attain a rare degree of sophistication. Modern day Lucknowites are known for their polite and polished way of speaking which is noticed by visitors. The residents of Lucknow call themselves Lucknowites or Lakhnavi.
Language and poetry
Although the city’s primary official language is Hindi, the most commonly spoken language is colloquial Hindustani. Indian English is also well understood and is widely used for business and administrative purposes, as a result of India’s British heritage and Commonwealth tradition, as well as globalisation. The Urdu language is also a part of Lucknowi culture and heritage. It is mostly used by wealthier families, the remaining members of the royal family as well as in Urdu poetry and on public signs. The government has taken many innovative steps to promote Urdu. Awadhi, a dialect of the Hindi dialect continuum, has played an important role in Lucknow’s history and is still used in the city’s rural areas and by the urban population on the streets.
Historically, Lucknow was considered one of the great centres of Muslim culture. Two poets, Mir Babar Ali Anis and Mirza Dabeer, became legendary exponents of a unique genre of Muslim elegiacal poetry called marsiya centred on Imam Husain’s supreme sacrifice in the Battle of Karbala, which is commemorated during the annual observance of Muharram.
The revolutionary Ram Prasad Bismil, who was hanged by the British at Gorakhpur jail, was largely influenced by the culture of Lucknow and remembered its name in his poetry. Surrounding towns such as Kakori, Daryabad, Fatehpur, Barabanki, Rudauli, and Malihabad produced many eminent Urdu poets and litterateurs including Mohsin Kakorvi, Majaz, Khumar Barabankvi and Josh Malihabadi.