By Ashfaq Khan:
Iqbal Manzil Palace close to Lucknow City Station in the old locality of Wazirganj ,breathes history and nostalgia .Built in 1928, by the late Maharaja Sir Mohd.Ali Mohammed Khan Bhadur,K.C.S.I.,K.C.I.E.,etc.Riyasat-e-Aliya Mehmoodabad,the grand- father of the present Maharaj Kumar Mohammed Amir Naqi Khan, Walia-e-Riyasat Basaha, an off shoot of the Mehmoodabad Estate in Uttar Pradesh.This grand haveli of a palace owes its name to the third son of the late Maharaja Sir Mohd . Ali Mohd. Khan, popularly known as Iqbal Hasan Khan.
Bluest of the blue blood and scion of the Mehmoodabad Estate dynasty Mohd.Amir Naqi Khan honours the precincts of the Iqbal Manzil Palace and outshines its fame and grandeur. An aristocrat and a Taluqedar ,bestowed with the perpetual title of Maharajkumar and a family lineage going far back to the first Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad through Qazi Nasr Ullah (1345 A.D) and his illustrious paternal ancestors honoured and decorated by the Mughal courts of Delhi to the Nawab Viziers of Oudh.
From the maternal side, through his late honourable mother, Dulhan Rani Razia Sultan Begum,daughter of Nawab Sajid Yar Jung Bhadur of Hyderabad and grand -daughter of Nizam Sir Salar Jung 1st. of Hyderabad, he commands a geneology from both sides,worthy to be proud of !! In pursuance of same refined and cultured virtues ,he married Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum, belonging once again to the distinguished nobility of Hyderabad Deccan.
She is the daughter of Mirza Jawwad Ali Beg and grand-daughter of Mirza Raza Yar Jung of Hyderabad.The couple is blessed with three children,one son and two daughters viz.,Raj Kumar Hussain Abbas Khan of Basaha,Rajkumari Maliha Khan married to Owais Khan of Uttarkhand and Raj kumari Sakina Khan .
Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum being the product of two cultural confluence. By birth inheriting the traits of Hyderabad aristocracy & by marriage, daughter-in-law (Bahu) of Lucknow’s proud cultural heritage is a recognized professional in her own field .Her expertise of Muslim Cuisine, covering a vast field from the authentic Mughlai to traditional Hyderabadi , Nawabi-Lucknowi and original Awadhi delicacies is no hidden secret. In recognition of her culinary proficiency India’s leading luxury hotel group ITC has appointed her as their prime consultant for their flag ship hotels Grand Maratha & Grand Central in Mumbai. Here she is in command of her select discipline ,winning accolade and laurels for her ingenious recipes and tongue tickling food presentations .To propagate her style and share her treasure trove of Bawarchi khana (kitchen) wizardry, she is due to come out with an illustrated Cook Book which for sure, shall satisfy the taste buds of the most fastidious gastronomic connoisseur and leave in reverence, many cordon- bleau chefs awe inspired!!No doubt! Mrs.Sonia Gandhi relishes her preparation of the ‘Kachchi Biryani’ one of the Hyderabadi signature dish and Rani Kulsum Begum’s speciality, perhaps, from her families heirloom recipe. Due to her professional engagements, presently she is Mumbai based, and on every available opportunity loves to share her time with the family at Iqbal Manzil Palace, Lucknow and Hyderabad.
MaharajKumar Mohd.Amir Naqi Khan is the Second Waliy-e-Riyasat (successor) to the erstwhile Estate of Basaha once a part of the whole Mehmoodabad Raj principality, which held a vast territory extending from the district of Sitapur to the borders of Nepal .It is on record that when young Maharaja Sir Mohd.Ali Mohammed Khan ,grand –father of Mohd. Amir Naqi Khan, ascended the Estate of Mehmoodabad on the Ist of January 1906, in the order of protocol this estate, enjoyed the status only next to the Estate of Balrampur in the United Provinces.In all official ceremonies of the British Raj from the coronation to the Delhi Durbar held in the honour of H.I.H King George in 1911, Maharaja was always extended the formal invitation and given the due honours befitting his status and dignity as a major Taluqedar of Oudh and a Member of the Imperial Council.
Maharaja Sir Mohd.Ali Mohd Khan from his two Maharanies had six children four sons and two daughters.Through the senior Maharani,two daughters Maharaj Kumari Baqar-un-Nissa & Maharaj Kumari Sadiq-un-Nissa, and two sons Maharajkumar Mohd.Amir Ahmad Khan and Maharaj kumar Amir Haider Khan.From his junior
Maharani,Maharajkumar Mohd. Mahmud Hasan Khan commonly called Iqbal Hasan and Maharajkumar Mohd.Amir Ali Khan.Maharaja during his lifetime divided his Riyasat of Mehmoodabad Estate into Four Estates to facilitate ,ease of inheritance.The main and the larger portion still known as Mehmoodabad Estate was given to the eldest son Raja Mohd.Amir Ahmad Khan who after the demise of his father became the successor and inherited Riyasat-e-Aliya Mehmudabad.
The remaining portion was equally divided into three Estates viz.,Basaha Estate,Sehali Estate and other.Maharaja’s third son,Maharajkumar Mohd.Mahmud Hasan Khan Bhadur of Mehmoodabad alias Iqbal Hasan Khan, as per the order of inheritance, was awarded the newly carved out Estate of Basaha and became its First Waliy-e-Riyasat. Basaha comprised of thirty eight villages spread in the Districts of Lucknow and Barabanki .Jn the present city of Lucknow,Basaha Estate extended and covered certain areas of Mahanagar,Nishatganj,Aliganj and miscellaneous patches in the city and its sorroundings.The site where now Karamat Hussain Girls Degree College in Nishatganj exists was also a donation from the Mehmoodabad /Basaha Estate to Karamat Hussain to solely establish, for girls, a muslim educational institution and spread literacy.The endowments from the Mehmoodabad Estate funded its building construction costs and philanthropic charities of the Riyasat were ever extended to cover its initial running expenses during the formative years. It is a tragedy that there remains no record of the patrons who provided land and funds to give birth to this institution…..certainly gratitude should not sleep….credits where due must be respectfully documented & gracefully honoured….not once loved and lost forever to be erased from the pages of history!!
Maharajkumar Mohd Mahmud Hasan Khan Bhadur of Basaha had two wives.The senior Maharaj Kunwar Rani Razia Sultan Begum from Hyderabad Deccan,mother of Waliy-e-Riyasat Maharajkumar Mohd.Amir Naqi Khan Bhadur,Rajkumari Meher Nigar married to Raja Syed Ahmad Hasan of Ashgarabad , Rajkumari Gulzar Nigar married to Nawab Raza Hasan Khan of Sultanat Manzil and Rajkumar Mohd.Amir Ibrahim Khan.The junior Maharaj Kunwar Rani Iqbal Jehan Begum is the mother of Kunwar Amir Taqi Khan,Rajkumari Amir Nigar married to Syed Kausar Rizvi,Rajkumari Hasan Nigar married to Mr.Zaheer Agha,Rajkumari Naheed Nigar married to Mr.Tanveer and Rajkumar Mohd.Amir Alam Khan
After the demise of Maharajkumar Mohd Mahmud Hasan Khan his eldest son Maharajkumar Mohd.Amir Naqi Khan succeeded as the Second Waliy-e-Riyasat of Basaha .He was born to Maharaj Kunwar Rani Razia Sultan Begum in Hyderabad Deccan in his maternal home.He grew up within the walls of the palatial Iqbal Manzil imbibing the traditions and the cultures of his ancestral nobility.Right from infancy Mohd Amir Naqi Khan was accorded all the pomp and dignity of a Prince with an English Governess and tutors in various disciplines to groom the young prince into fine sophisticated and refined gentleman of the age. Humble beginning of learning was made at home through religious texts and practices,scholarly tutors were deputed to make the young Rajkumar conversant and literate in Urdu,Persian and Arabic ,as was the custom prevalent among the Muslim Taluqedar and princely families of Oudh.All efforts were made to kindle in him the pride and spirit of his lineage and ancestry.For the primary education he was admitted to the Lucknow’s premier English medium institution run by the Irish missionary nuns, Loreto Convent, which then had its junior section co-educational.After completing his primary schooling ,for higher classes he shifted to Colvin Taluqdar College ,which prior to the enforcement of Zamindari abolition, was much patronized in Lucknow by the landed nobility of the province and had its own Indian aura of elegance so conducive to the princely style of living with good academic standards.
His grand father Maharaja Sir Mohd.Ali Mohd Khan Bhadur of Mehmoodabad was infact a major figure in the establishment of the Colvin Taluqdar College and ever remained its patron. To do his Senior Cambridge and finishing school he changed over to the renowned La Martiniere College,Lucknow ,one and only institution in the world to have the credit of winning “ The Battle Honours”.In December 1963 from this institution he sat for the University of Cambridge Overseas –General Certificate of Education (GCE) O Level –Examination, which he successfully cleared to move over to Aligarh Muslim University for further higher education. It was once again the institution which his grand father had financially supported and so successfully transformed from the Muslim Anglo Oriental College into Aligarh Muslim University and had so passionately strived for as the president of the Mohemmaden Educational Conference since 1909.Though H.E.H Sir Agha Khan was its known founder but the credit of bringing the Aligarh Muslim University into virtual function goes to the Raja Saheb of Mehmoodabad,Sir Mohd Ali Mohd Khan who was in appreciation of his sacrifices, unanimously elected to be its very First Vice -Chancellor.
Aligarh Muslim University offered young scholar Mohd Amir Naqi Khan a graduation in humanities along with all those interests which transformed his personality and left an indelible impression on him for a life time. In the corridors of the University he discovered in himself the soul -stirring ,nascent love for his Heritage & Culture, admiration for Fine and Performing Arts ,appreciation for Stage and Dramatics and reverence for the Deserving but less Fortunate!! On returning back to his beloved Lucknow and settling down as the Second Waliy-e-Riyasat of Basaha Estate,he aspired to translate many of his dreams into reality .Untimely abolition of the Zamindari, hindered his zeal and enthusiasm ,nipping many an ambitious plan in the bud. A portion, including the magnificent main gateway to the Iqbal Manzil Palace, bearing the bas-relief twin fish emblem of the Royal Nawabi Awadh Insignia,under which once caparisoned ceremonial elephants passed, changed ownership in 1967. This did not make much of a dent in the grace and aura of the remaining Iqbal Manzil Palace, nor in the spirit of its owner.The charm and charisma of Mohd.Amir Naqi Khan survived every adversity and his regal virtues,talents,hospitality and fame radiated its glory far and wide. He with his many faceted interests and philanthropy carved a niche of love and affection ,respect and admiration in the hearts of the innumerable multitude,rich and poor alike, belonging to all walks of life.
To satisfy his inherited urge of propagating education which his father and grand -father had always stood for and had been the torch bearers .In the lower portion of his spacious palace he runs an institution , imparting quality education to the deserving and diverting its earnings for various charities and philanthropic activities,which have always been so dear to him. He personally manages the school along with his able faculty and staff giving his undivided attention to maintain and upgrade its high standards.This keeps him occupied for a major part of the day as a devoted educationist.
His other favourite passions are the preservation of the historical monuments of Lucknow,reviving the gradually vanishing art and culture of the Nawabi Awadh through every means possible and promoting the courtly customs and traditions of Lucknow which once epitomized the very Nawabi Period of the yester – years. His interests in preservation has led him to interact with the INTACH Lucknow chapter and be a successful partner in many of its projects. To popularise Dastaan-Goyee (story telling), organise Marsiah & Noaha Khawani (recital of Holy dirges) and other socio religious functions so common to the local Ganga-Jamuni culture, he has made commendable contribution. His interest in Fine Arts leads him to restoration work of Paintings and other Awadhi artefacts. His expertise and knowledge has been used by research scholars Indian and Foreign in their quest for authentic Nawabi Awadh Glimpses in their treatises.Rehearsals for many scenes of “ Umrao Jaan” the classic movie,by Muzzaffer Ali of Kotwara ,on the famous Urdu novel of Hadi Ahmad Ruswa depicting Lucknow’s elegance ,through courtesan life and culture of 1857 Nawabi period, were infact finalized in consultation with the Maharajkumar and in the Iqbal Manzil Palace.It was here that the Heroine of the movie Rekha belonging to the south, learnt the Lucknowi andaaz and aadaabs of the Mujra Mehfil ,the mannerisms and coquettishness of a sophisticated Umrao Jaan ‘Ada’,to breathe life in the character,which transformed the dusky beauty Rekha into an iconic legend and movie ,a roaring success for times to come,copied but never equalled!!
Maharajkumar Mohd Amir Naqi Khan is a lover of vocal as well as Indian instrumental music,classical,light classical and folk all are appreciated by him and in the old tradition of Taluqedars patronises Singers and Musicians.Promoting and offering opportunities to notable artists and sponsoring their talents to various musical conferences he has never failed to miss an opportunity.In his own palace he quite often arranges musical soirees for his esteemed guests of Haveli Tourism in collaboration with U.P.Government ‘s elite promotional venture and for his own select mehfils.
Since his growing days he has had the pleasure of witnessing great artists performing ,from Shambhu Maharaj to Kathak Queen Sitara Devi and vocalists Ustad Amir Khan to Padam Shri Begum Akhtar .He enjoys Thumri & Ghazals and Sufiyana Kalaams in Persian and Urdu with the same éclat as the Hori & Kajri in Awadhi. Sufi Qawwals from near and far have graced his evenings, late Master Murli Qawwal and ghazal exponent Zarina Begum of Lucknow were in his regular attendance for the often organised palace musical evenings.Apart from appreciating performances and listening to good music, he has been himself a virtuoso and an acclaimed classical Tabla player and has given accompaniment (sangat) to late Munnawar Ali Khan the master table player of yore.Alas! It has been over two decades that he has stopped playing the table and now restricts to listen and regale the performances.
To be an epicurean and a gourmet is in itself a distinguished attribute,but Amir Naqi khan ,has aspired to bestow honour and continue the past traditions of the authentic Mehmoodabad Dastarkhwan and its famous inimitable hospitality. Here ,once during the life time of his grandfather Maharaja Sir Mohd.Ali Mohd Khan, when he played host in 1928 to the members of the Nehru Commission and to Lord Montague ,Secretary of State for India, he baffled his most honourable guests by serving a dinner of 42 courses.In his autobiography “Roses in December” the jurist of international repute and a former Union Minister (Late) Mohammed Currim Chagla writes,” I remember the first evening when we sat down to dinner,our host was the Maharaja of Mehmoodabad,a prince famed for his hospitality…….we started with western soups,fish,meat and continental dishes.Then came Muslim food Murgh Mussalam,Biryani and all the famous dishes of the North,and finally Hindu Food with Puris and vegetables and then Hindu sweets.When I started I thought the dinner consisted only of English courses,and I ate my fill.When the Muslim and the Hindu dishes arrived,I could only sit and watch. Motilal Nehru & Tej Bahadur Sapru who were relatively old men,kept pace, however, and did justice to whatever was served at the dinner.I still remember Motilalji telling me: ’Young man, how will you fight for your country if you don’t know how to eat?” This was the glory of the Mehmoodabad family whose scion Amir Naqi Khan happens to be.
Like -wise Khan Bhadur Maharajkumar Mohd.Mahmud Hasan Khan,father of Rajkumar Amir Naqi Khan was famous for his “Surprises & Riddle Dinners”which were a novelty in their own, adding fun and curiosity to the diners. Each dish of the menu was pre-planned meticulously, right from the basic ingredients to the garnishing and the final presentation… the preparation was kept a closely guarded secret from the kitchen to the table or the service Dastarkhwan. Exotic names were given to these dishes to conceal their recipes and more than often guests failed to recognise it … Egg Whites from cold thickened milk and lemon grass with saffron for the yolk offered to the guests would be so well camouflaged that it was difficult to decipher it as an Egg Curry or a Dessert, the confusion thus caused, would be the source of laughter and entertainment for one and all present. There were many other similar preperations ingenuinely crafted to perfection in these Awadhi Paheli Ka Khana dinners,which Amir Naqi Khan still loves hosting in his Dinner Menus to make the occasions personalised and memorable.
With changing times the elaborate Kitchens of the Iqbal Manzil Palace having a retinue of over a dozen specialised Bawarchies and their Supervisory Daroghas has been considerably reduced. The ancient recipes once formulated for remedial and nutritious health values by the Unani Hakeems are religiously retained and instilled in the present day cuisine .Best of the cuts,purest of the pure herbs,quality spices and aromatic vegetables are judiciously sourced to provide the right balance of raw material to the proposed dish. The cooking medium and the procedure of slow cooking on wood fire and particular grade of charcoal in large traditional utensils is till today practised, guided and supervised by the Rajkumar himself for formal dinners of the palace and the result is always an exclusive exhibition of culinary art and a banquet laid for the king….pleasant to suit all the refined gastronomic senses and a joy to indulge in its flavours & aromas!! These dinners have brought him immense fame and popularity in India and abroad to become the Hall mark of the Iqbal Manzil Palace & Haveli Tourism and has been featured in prominent Magazines worldwide, culinary or otherwise.
The most popular Mughlai dishes from his kitchen have been the Qormas, Qaliyas, Kebabs,Pulaos,Seasonal Tarkari Preperations,Desserts and Roties of different varieties.Once the table fowl was reared for the Royal tables of Mehmoodabad ,exclusively on aromatic feeds of saffron ,jasmine and pineapple pellets to infuse aroma into their meat and tenderise their flesh.Urad ki Daal was tempered with a gold sovereign,precious and semi precious stones ,gold and silver foils were freely used to enhance the flavours and curative properties of the dishes.Those were the days….now one has to relish and be satiated with his improvised recipes of Lab-e-Mashooq,Hari-man –Bhari desserts and an array of melt in the mouth Kebabs: Galawati,Shami,Gola,Pateeli,Kofta,Ghutvan,Nargisi,Kakoori,Seekh,Boti,Pasanda and Zamin Dozi to name a few.Similar is his range of Dum Pukht and Yakhni Pulao varieties and other authentic cuisines of Lucknow & Avadh .Being a celebrated connoisseur of Mughlai and Lucknowi Food he in association with his wife Rani Kulsum Bagum since 1992 has been organising Food Festivals to popularise and take these recipes to the masses .So far twelve such festivals have enjoyed success, popularity and recognition .Many more are on the anvil to follow soon.
Amir Naqi Khan through his forte of cuisine and culinary expertise has put Lucknow as a must- stop -over destination on the tourist circuit of Indian & Foreign traveller. The Government of Uttar Pradesh,Deptt.of Tourism for his noteworthy contribution towards tourism has made him a non-official member of U.P.Tourism Policy and Planning Cell and a partner in Haveli Tourism.Well…….Who could be a better choice than the Rajkumar of princely estate,to promote the legendary Lazzat (taste) of the Awadhi food and the Nafasat (refinement) of the Nawabi Lucknow.
Walking down the memory lane,in an elegant Sherwani and Churidar Paijama , Rajkumar reminiscences the good time of his ancestors when Iqbal Manzil Palace was in its full glory.The first floor of the residential section had a Tennis Hard Court for the ladies of the house and their guests with curtains to check the ball going over and a semi-circular platform for a band-stand. Imagine a game of Tennis being played on a roof top by the graceful ladies to the strains of music composed by Mozart & Beethoven , to the notes of The Swan Lake & the flow of The Blue Danube !!Today it seems a fantasy which yesterday was a reality of refined taste ,leisure and pleasure.!! Tennis court is no more and at its site lies the wide courtyard with ornamental potted plants, a venue ,to hold open air parties, under the star lit summer sky . Becoming nostalgic he also remembers his father’s penchant for the Hookah (hubble-bubble) ////