Lucknow has been the cultural seat of the country for a very long time. The history of Uttar Pradesh is fascinating, and it has shaped a rich cultural heritage of the state that has emerged as the focal point of the Indian culture. The Mauryans, the Mughals, the British, etc. all brought with them their own cultural traits.
A cultured lifestyle was the essence of the rule of the Muslim Nawabs of Awadh. Music, dance, literature, poetry, arts and crafts flourished under royal patronage.
Writers like Munshi Premchand, Mahadevi Verma, Srikant Verma, poets like Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, Harivanshrai Bacchan, Sumitra Nandan Pant, Mahavir Prasad Dwiwedi, and Upendranath ‘Ashk’; artistes of the stature of the shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan, Kathak wizard Birju Maharaj, tabla maestro Kishan Maharaj, the legendary Baba Allaudin Khan and his disciples Pt. Ravi Shankar and Ustad Vilayat Khan; ghazal singers Begum Akhtar, Rasoolan Bai, Girija Devi and many more have lived and practised their art and craft here.
Uttar Pradesh is the place where one of the six foremost classical dances of India, the Kathak, flourished.
The important Hindu festivals of Uttar Pradesh are Navaratri, Diwali, Shivaratri, Raksha Bandhan and Janmashtami
The most solemn and colourful Muslim function held in the state is Muharram . In all cities and towns Muslims take out impressive processions of colourfully decorated tazias, replicas of the martyr’s tomb at Karbala. The most solemn and impressive Muharram is observed in Lucknow, where gold and silver replicas of old Nawabi times are brought out and men beat their breasts in mourning constantly until blood oozes out. The two Imambaras and Shah Najaf are beautifully illuminated for two days. An impressive event is a fire-walking feat held in one of the Imambaras. After the burial of the tazias on the tenth day, a gathering of mourners in utter darkness is held, known as Majlis Sham-i-Ghariban, one of the most soul-stirring events among Muharram observances. The other occasions of religious importance for Muslims are Id-Ul-Fitr, Ramzan (a month devoted to fasting), Chehlum, Bara Wafat, Shah-i-Barat and Id-Uz-Zuha.
This festival of fasting and feasting falls on nine days after Dussehra, on the fourth day of the Karva Chauthdark fortnight of Kartika. Karva Chauth is held by married Hindu woman for the safety and prosperity of their husbands.
It is the most important Hindu festival celebrating the birthday of Lord Krishna. This festival is followed by Hartalika Teej, Ganesh Chaturthi, Anant Chaturdashi, and Pitra Visarjan Amavasya devoted to making of oblations to the Pitras (dead ancestors) and is called Pitra Paksha.
The cuisine of Uttar Pradesh is just as diverse as its geography. Ranging from simple every day fare to rich, elaborate banquets, the cuisine of Uttar Pradesh has absorbed and adapted a variety of cuisines to create an entire feast of wonderful dishes. Many of the Hindu communities are svegetarians and they have created a vast variety of vegetarian dishes ranging from the all time favourite ‘puri-aloo’ or potatoes and fried wheat bread to savouries and divine desserts and sweetmeats. The Muslims, Kashmiris, Kayasthas and Christian communities cook up a storm of non-vegetarian dishes including a delectable selection of breads, kababs, curries and biryanis. The Muslim cuisine, of northern Uttar Pradesh is very different from the Mughlai food of Delhi. When opened, these dishes release the most fragrant and delicious aromas. Lucknow and its neighbouring towns were put on the culinary map of India thanks to these rich curries, melt in the mouth kababs, fragrant rice biryanis and pulaos and an eclectic variety of leavened and unleavened breads.