The Celebration of ‘Hazratganj Sundays’

Abhineet Seth

Any historical city in the world stands out because of its heritage, culture, cuisine, languages, dialects, people and the typical style of living. Lucknow city, a unique concoction of all such factors is also a representative of the British influence that makes Lucknow a well-known city on the map of Indian tourism. Every city bears a disparate blend of charm and essence, an air about their ambiences, which are its earmark and make them unique in its own way. The parks, markets, monuments, public buildings, which are the essential part of the identity of any city.

Hazratganj is not only a market, but also a representative of the city’s rich heritage and culture, which still continues to attract the generation as it used to era’s back. The true essence of the Nawabi era can be relished completely by spending an evening at this place. This ravishments evening can be termed as ‘Ganjing’ and one can truly comprehend with it if he/she is a true Lucknowite at heart.

The 200+ year-old elite shopping and entertainment zone has seen quite a happening past. It was in 1810 that nawab of Oudh, Saadat Ali Khan came up with such a place in his mind and this dream of his was nurtured by Nawab Naseer-ud-Din Haider who is accredited with construction of numerous Kothis and buildings in that area. The area known by the name Munawwar Baksh, probably because of Munawwar Kothi of that are was later on renamed to Hazrat Ganj years later in 1842, rendering its name from the fourth king of Oudh, Amjad Ali Shah who was often lovingly called ‘Hazarat’

As the marketplace witnessed 100 years of its completion, it saw a massive changeover in European style designed buildings. In order to bring uniformity the complete area was repainted into the same colour-coordinated theme of cream and pink, benches were fixed at every few metres along with elegant European style lampposts and fountains and railings that replicate the Victorian age broad walk. The motive behind this beautification was to uplift and restore the dying popularity of the place. The idea was to restore the place back in its ancient and traditional look along with a touch of modernity.

The District Administration of Lucknow just decided to give back Lucknow its old charm of the perfect blend of the Mughal era and the Victorian feel when they planned the Ganjing Carnival, encapsulating almost all the lineaments of the Hazratganj of the bygone era.

It was on Sunday, May 24, 2015, that Hazratganj witnesses a massive change, the roads were made out of bound for all kind of vehicles, from the main crossroad near GPO till the office of the Chief Post Master General. The announcement of Hazratganj being a no vehicle zone on Sundays along the stretch has already brought back excitement around the boulevard, particularly to those who prefer Hazratganj over swanky shopping malls.

The preparation began from the early morning itself and what lead to the place by the evening left everyone awe struck. The excitement among the crowds was worth taking a note. It was an initiative that was taken to bring the city together for not only reviving the good old days but to inculcate togetherness, joy, laughter, song and what not to count, among the clan and the kin, but coming together of 30,000 souls on a hot summer evening in the heart of the city was surely one unexpected thing to witness. The scorching heat was of no good to keep the enthusiasm of the Youngers to a restricted zone or timing. The city saw the best of fashion and spirit combined in this one evening. The cherry on the cake was a remarkable management of the show with no report of crime or any kind of uneventful circumstances. Every side lane that opened into the main street had police personnel deployed. There were scores of civil defence personnel. A wonderful view was to see the Policemen riding horses for patrolling. What might have helped to ensure safety and checking any untoward incident was the installation of CCTV cameras on the lampposts. It helped in keeping a tab on the small bunch of mischief-makers and spoilsports.

The duration of the Ganjing Carnival was five hours, starting from 5:00 PM till 10:00 PM. The setup included a central stage at the main crossroad for music and dance performance, which was enough to take away hearts of millions by the dazzling decoration and performance to be conducted. Food court, photo exhibition, selfie zone, art gallery, nukkad natak, flash mobs, kid zone, show your talent are just a few to name. You name it and find it at one or the other place in the overall scenario. The place was not just perfect for the fun lovers but was of equally lively for the food lovers. The food zone was set up in front of L.I.C building, where one can find all kind of food to relish their taste buds starting from the Tunday Kebabi to Raheem’s; from ZamZam Biryani (Meeraj) to Naushijaan, and the icing on the cake were the Prakash Kulfi and Gloria Ice-Cream to beat the scorching heat. Where the youngsters were lost in the music and dance, the aged were going down the memory lane to their times when the older version of carnival used to take place, in 1990s, and continued for a week-long time. It used to start during the Christmas duration and was purely based on the pattern of the Goa carnival. The DJ replaced the cassette players, modern music replaced the shehnai performance, art show replaced the puppet show, and the camel rides etc were a few changes that took place in the years that followed.

The fun filled evening was not only a change for the whole of the Lucknow but also gave city a chance to meet a few exciting and enlightening campaigns and programmes too. When the city was found shaking their head over the grooving music there was too found a bunch of youngsters, volunteering for Global Dreams, who were spearheading a campaign to make Lucknow fully literate and propagating the message of- ‘Each One, Teach One’ among the visitors to eradicate illiteracy. A literacy booth was setup and inaugurated by the CDO, Yogesh Kumar where he made an announcement: “The administration is working hard in association with Devi Sansthan to make Lucknow the first fully literate district”. Not only this, but a bunch of young students from various schools including City International, CMS and City Hall came forward and organized a Nukkad Natak that highlighted the importance of literacy.

Considering present weather conditions, available resources and effort needed to keep the tradition of ‘Ganjing’ alive, district administration has decided to organize the carnival once a month. It was even decided that within three week’s time, even free Wi-Fi service would be provided to the visitors. The services would be available from Parivartan Chowk till the middle of Hazratganj, which would be free for first 20 minutes, and will be charged at a minimal rate after that.

The event was such a huge success among the citizen of Lucknow that the district administration has decided to hold the event once a month during summers and twice a month during rainy season and winters. In summers, the carnival will take place on the second Sunday of month and will be held on alternate Sundays rest of the year. Carnival will not take place during the Lucknow Mahotsava. Accordingly, timing for no traffic zone in Hazratganj was also decided 6pm to 11pm in summer (Mar-Oct) and rainy seasons and 5 pm to 10 pm in winters (Nov-Feb).

Writer is a candid photographer and a film maker

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 2 Issue 16, Dated 05 July 2015)

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