In the late eighteenth century, Lucknow was at the height of its Golden Age. Mughal Delhi, its nearest rival, had been looted and burned by successive waves of invaders and now lay wrecked and ruined. Delhi’s artists and poets and painters had little option but to flee to the flamboyant, newly rich city to the east.
There they sought the patronage of a dynasty of nawabs who had the means to patronise artists with a generosity that soon became legendary. Lucknow’s singers and Kathak dancers were admired as the most gorgeously accomplished; its cuisine and architecture celebrated as the most flamboyantly baroque; its poets much celebrated, if a little gushy, for the more austere taste of Ghalib in Delhi.