Oudh State

The Oudh State (/ˈd/,[1] also Kingdom of Oudh, or Awadh State) was a princely state in the Awadh region of North India until annexation by the British in 1856. Oudh, the now obsolete but once official English-language name of the state, also written historically as Oude, derived from the name of Ayodhya, its first capital.

British State of Oudh (1801–1858)
Mughal Subah of Oudh (1732–1801)

Coat of arms
The Kingdom of Oudh in 1760 (Sapphire blue)
StatusIndependent (1732–1801)
Vassal of the East India Company (1801–1858)
Common languagesUrdu
Shia Islam
GovernmentMughal State (1732–1816)
Princely State (1816–1858)
Saadat Ali Khan I (first)
Wajid Ali Shah (last)
5 – 25 June 1858
3 Mar 1859
62,072 km2 (23,966 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Mughal Empire
British East India Company
North Western Provinces

As the Mughal Empire declined and decentralized, local governors in Oudh began asserting greater autonomy, and eventually Oudh matured into an independent polity governing the fertile lands of the Central and Lower Doab. With the British East India Company entering Bengal and decisively defeating Oudh at the Battle of Buxar in 1764, Oudh fell into the British orbit.

The capital of Oudh was in Faizabad, but the British Agents, officially known as "residents", had their seat in Lucknow. The Nawab of Oudh, one of the richest princes, paid for and erected a Residency in Lucknow as a part of a wider programme of civic improvements.[2]

Oudh joined other Indian states in an upheaval against British rule in 1858 during one of the last series of actions in the Indian rebellion of 1857. In the course of this uprising detachments of the British Indian Army from the Bombay Presidency overcame the disunited collection of Indian states in a single rapid campaign. Determined rebels continued to wage sporadic guerrilla clashes until the spring of 1859. This rebellion is also historically known as the Oudh campaign.[3]

After the British annexation of Oudh by the Doctrine of Lapse, the North Western Provinces became the North Western Provinces and Oudh.[4]



Saadat Ali Khan I was appointed Nawab of Oudh on 9 September 1722, succeeding Girdhar Bahadur. He immediately subdued the autonomous Shaikhzadas of Lucknow and Raja Mohan Singh of Tiloi, consolidating Oudh as a state. In 1728, Oudh further acquired Varanasi, Jaunpur and surrounding lands from the Mughal noble Rustam Ali Khan and established stable revenue collection in that province after quelling the chief of Azamgarh, Mahabat Khan.[5]:44 In 1739 Saadat Khan mobilized Oudh to defend against Nader Shah's invasion of India, ultimately being captured in the battle of Karnal. He attempted to cooperate with Nader Shah, but died at Delhi.

In 1740, his successor Safdar Jang moved the capital of the state from Ayodhya to Faizabad.[6] Safdar Jang gained recognition from Persia after paying tribute. He continued Saadat Khan's expansionist policy, promising military protection to Bengal in exchange for the forts at Rohtasgarh and Chunar, and annexing portions of Farrukhabad with Mughal military aid which was ruled by Muhammad Khan Bangash.

As regional officials asserted their autonomy in Bengal and the Deccan as well as with the rise of the Maratha Empire, the rulers of Oudh gradually affirmed their own sovereignty. Safdar Jang went as far as to control the ruler of Delhi, putting Ahmad Shah Bahadur on the Mughal throne with the cooperation of other Mughal nobility. In 1748 he gained the subah of Allahabad with Ahmad Shah's official support. This was arguably the zenith of Oudh's territorial span.[7]:132 [8]:193

The next nawab, Shuja-ud-Daula, further extended Oudh's control of the Mughal emperor. He was appointed vazir to Shah Alam II in 1762 and offered him asylum after his failed campaigns against the British in the Bengal War.[8]

British contact

Since Oudh was located in a prosperous region, the British East India Company soon took notice of the affluence in which the Nawabs of Oudh lived. British dominance was established at the Battle of Buxar of 1764, when the East India Company defeated the alliance between the nawab of Oudh Shuja-ud-Daula and the deposed nawab of Bengal Mir Kasim.[9]:25 The battle was a turning point for the once rising star of Oudh. The immediate effect was British occupation of the fort at Chunar and the cession of the provinces of Kora and Allahabad to Mughal ruler Shah Alam II under the Treaty of Benares (1765). Shaja-ud-Daula further had to pay 5 million rupees as an indemnity, which was paid off in one year.[10]:158[8]:252 The long-term result would be direct British interference in the internal state matters of Oudh, useful as a buffer state against the Marathas. The treaty also granted British traders special privileges and exemptions from many customs duties, which led to tensions as British monopolies were established.

Under the leadership of Warren Hastings, the Treaty of Benares (1773) sold the Mughal provinces of Kora and Allahabad, over which the British held de facto control, back to Oudh for 5 million rupees, increased the cost of Company mercenaries, and aided Oudh militarily in the First Rohilla War to expand it as a buffer state against Maratha interests.[9]:65[10]:75 This move was unpopular among the rest of Company leadership.

In 1801, Saadat Ali Khan II ceded further land in Rohilkhand and the Lower Doab under the pressure of Lord Wellesley to the British in lieu of the annual tribute.[11] The cession halved the size of the polity.

The kingdom became a British protectorate in May 1816 (However, the state was an unofficial British protectorate since 1764). Three years later, in 1819, the ruler of Oudh took the style of padshah (king), signaling formal independence under the advice of the Marquis of Hastings.

Throughout the early 1800s until annexation, several areas were gradually ceded to the British.

British annexation

On 7 February 1856 by order of Lord Dalhousie, General of the East India Company, the king of Oudh (Wajid Ali Shah) was deposed, and its kingdom was annexed to British India under the terms of the Doctrine of lapse on the grounds of alleged internal misrule.[12]

Between 5 July 1857 and 3 March 1858 there was an upheaval by the son of the deposed king joining the Indian Rebellion of 1857. At the time of the rebellion, the British lost control of the territory; they reestablished their rule over the next eighteen months, during which time there were massacres such as those that had occurred in the course of the Siege of Cawnpore.[13][14]

After Oudh's territory was merged with the North Western Provinces, it formed the larger province of North Western Provinces and Oudh. In 1902, the latter province was renamed the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, and in 1904 the region within the new United Provinces, corresponding to the former North Western Provinces and Oudh, was renamed the Agra Province.[12]


Feudatory states

The following were feudatory estates —taluqdaris[15] or parganas— of Oudh:


The first ruler of Oudh State belonged to the Shia Muslim Sayyid Family and descended of Musa al-Kadhim originated from Nishapur. But the dynasty also belonged from the paternal line to the Kara Koyunlu through Qara Yusuf. They were renowned for their secularism and broad outlook.[20]

All rulers used the title of 'Nawab'.[21]

Subadar Nawab

  • 1732 – 19 Mar 1739 Borhan al-Molk Mir Mohammad Amin (b. c.1680 – d. 1739) Musawi Saʾadat ʾAli Khan I
  • 19 Mar 1739 – 28 Apr 1748 Abu'l Mansur Mohammad Moqim Khan (1st time) (b. c.1708 – d. 1754)

Nawab Wazir al-Mamalik

  • 28 Apr 1748 – 13 May 1753 Abu'l Mansur Mohammad Moqim Khan (s.a.) (acting to 29 Jun 1748)

Subadar Nawab

  • 5 Nov 1753 – 5 Oct 1754 Abu'l Mansur Mohammad Moqim Khan (s.a.) (2nd time)
  • 5 Oct 1754 – 15 Feb 1762 Jalal ad-Din Shojaʾ ad-Dowla (b. 1732 – d. 1775) Haydar

Nawab Wazir al-Mamalik

King (Padshah-e Awadh, Shah-e Zaman)


  • Nathaniel Middleton 1773–1774
  • John Bristow 1774–1776
  • Nathaniel Middleton 1776–1779 (second time)
  • Purling 1779–1780
  • John Bristow 1780–1781 (second time)
  • Nathaniel Middleton 1781–1782 (third time)
  • John Bristow 1782–1783 (third time)
  • Edward Otto Ives 1784–1793
  • George Frederick Cherry 1793–1796
  • James Lumsden 1796–1799
  • William Scott 1799–1804
  • John Ulrich Collins 1804–1807
  • John Baillie 1807–1815
  • Richard Charles Strachey 1815–1817
  • J.R. Monckton 1818–1820
  • Felix Vincent Raper 1820–1823
  • Mordaunt Ricketts 1823–1827
  • Thomas Herbert Maddock 1829–1831
  • John Low 1831–1842
  • James Caulfield (interí) 1839–1841
  • William Nott 1841–1843
  • George Pollock 1843–1844
  • Archibald Richmond 1844–1849?
  • Sir William Henry Sleeman 1849–1854
  • Sir James Outram 1854–1856


In the early eighteenth century, the population of Oudh was estimated to be 3 million. Oudh underwent a demographic shift in which Lucknow and Varanasi expanded to become metropolises of over 200,000 people over the course of the 18th century at the expense of Agra and Delhi. During this period the land on the banks of the Yamuna suffered frequent dry spells, while the Baiswara did not.[22]:38

Although it was ruled by Muslims, a majority, roughly four fifths, of Oudh's population were Hindus.[7]:155[23]



The cities of Allahabad, Varanasi, and Ayodhya were important pilgrimage sites for followers of Hinduism and other Dharmic religions. The town of Bahraich was also revered by some Muslims.[24]

See also


  1. Oudh – definition of Oudh in English from the Oxford dictionary
  2. Davies, Philip, Splendours of the Raj: British Architecture in India, 1660–1947. New York: Penguin Books, 1987
  3. Michael Edwardes, Battles of the Indian Mutiny, Pan, 1963, ISBN 0-330-02524-4
  4. Ashutosh Joshi (1 January 2008). Town Planning Regeneration of Cities. New India Publishing. p. 237. ISBN 978-8189422820.
  5. Srivastava, Ashirbadi Lal (1933). The First Two Nawabs Of Oudh (a Critical Study Based On Original Sources). Lucknow: The Upper India Publishing House, Ltd.
  6. Sarvepalli Gopal (15 October 1993). Anatomy of a Confrontation: Ayodhya and the Rise of Communal Politics in India. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 39–. ISBN 978-1-85649-050-4.
  7. Jaswant Lal, Mehta (2005). Advanced Study in the History of Modern India: 1707-1813. Sterling Publishers. ISBN 9781932705546.
  8. Markovits, Claude (ed) (2005). A History of Modern India 1480–1950 (Anthem South Asian Studies). Anthem Press. ISBN 1-84331-152-6.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. Ramusack, Barbara N. (2004). The Indian Princes and their States. Cambridge University Press.
  10. Grover, B.L.; Mehta, Alka (2018). A New Look at Modern Indian History (From 1707 to the Modern Times) (32 ed.). S. Chand Publishing. ISBN 9789352534340.
  11. Treaty with the Nawab of Oudh for cession of Territory in commutation of Subsidy, concluded by Henry Wellesley and Lieut.-Col. William Scott 10th Nov. 1801
  12. Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. V 1908, p. 72
  13. Ben Cahoon. "Princely States of India – Oudh". Worldstatesmen.org. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  14. William Barton, The princes of India. Delhi 1983
  15. The Feudatory and zemindari India, Volume 17, Issue 2. 1937. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  16. Balrampur (Taluqdari)
  17. Bhadri (Taluq)
  18. Itaunja – Raipur Ekdaria (Taluq)
  19. The Indian Year Book, Volume 29. Bennett, Coleman & Company. 1942. p. 1286. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  20. Dr. B. S. Saxena (1974). "Repertoire On Wajid Ali Shah & Monuments of Avadh – Nawabs of Oudh & their Secularism". Avadh Cultural Club (Lucknow).
  21. Ben Cahoon. "List of rulers of Oudh". Worldstatesmen.org. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  22. Cole, J. R. I. (1989). Roots of North Indian Shīʾism in Iran and Iraq: Religion and State in Awadh, 1722-1859. Comparative Studies on Muslim Societies. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520056411.
  23. Defence Journal, Volume 5, Issues 2-4. p. 88. On the contrary the annexation of Oudh in 1856 was viewed by the Muslim elite and the Hindu majority population of Oudh
  24. Surya Narain Singh (2003). The Kingdom of Awadh. Mittal Publications.

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