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Satyajit Ray's film Shatranj ke Khilari, based on a novel by Premchand, perhaps provides the best possible cinematic footage for the city that Lucknow was.

Lucknow was a bystander of those last proud days of Muslim rule in India, before it and the rest of Oudh, was summarily annexed by the British. The fall of Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Oudh and the seige of Lucknow during the 1857 Mutiny have given Lucknow special mention in all history books.

The Nawabs of Lucknow are a footnote in Indian history for their degenerate, idle and lavish lifestyle... A lifestyle typical of many rulers of that era who squandered away their empires to the British -- in the manner of the famous scene from Ray's film that depicts Wajid Ali Shah leisurely playing chess as the British soldiers marched in . But yet these much-maligned Nawabs were responsible for nurturing Lucknow's culture of poetry, dance, music and art and inventing the famous Lucknowi traditions.

Therefore the marred and faded, pockmarked and aged -- but grand -- monuments of gracious Lucknow -- Bara Imambara, Rumi Darwazaa and more -- are a must see. They are symbols of the remarkable culture that Lucknow possessed and of the battles that Lucknow bravely fought 100 years ago.

Born: There has been a settlement continuously at this site from 15th century onwards. However is believed that this spot on the banks of the Gomti river was settled as early as 1500 BC perhaps.

Avadh, to which Lucknow belonged, is claimed to be among the most ancient of Hindu states. It is believed that Lucknow derives its name from Lakshman, brother of Ramchandra of Ayodhya. This theory is supported by the presence of Lakshman Tila, a mound, which lies on the north west border of the city.

After the downfall of the Suryavanshies of Ayodhya, the region of Avadh lacked stable administration for a long time. Various dynasties and empires were quarreling over their claim to the area.

The Sheikhzadas reigned the region during the 15th century. Thereafter the Nawabs of Oudh came to power. During their dynasty, Lucknow rose to prominence as the capital city of the Nawabs. In 1775 Asafuddaula shifted his capital from Faizabad to Lucknow and by 1857 when the British took the reigns of power, Lucknow had grown from an inconspicuous town to "the cultural star in the northern firmament."

Population: 1, 700,000

Language: Hindi is the local language. English is quite widely spoken or at least understood.

Time: Five and a half hours ahead of GMT

Climate: Between November and February Lucknow is quite cold. April to June is quite hot. The monsoons hit Lucknow in June and last till September.

Best times to visit: Lucknow is at its best during in the post monsoon months, as well as in winter -- anywhere from October to March.

Dress sense: Light suits for business meetings in summer and woollen suits for winter meetings. Casual clothes are quite appropriate for evening appointments. Shorts and tank tops are best left at home.

Be wary of: Beggars, pickpockets and cheats.

Inputs from Seema Pant in Lucknow. Photographs by Dheeraj Dhawan

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