Aishbagh, a small locality in the backyard of old Lucknow – known for its lush green forest cover and a beautiful lake known as Motijheel – will have the distinction of hosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of the festival of Dussehra at its sprawling Ramlila Maidan on Tuesday.
In choosing to celebrate the festival at the low-profile destination, Modi has become the first prime minister to step out of New Delhi for Dussehra.
But why Aishbagh? Though speculations are rife about his motive, there is no denying that Aishbagh serves a combination of rich syncretic tradition of Oudh and a unique history of social harmony.
Old timers in Lucknow would recall a saying deeply buried in their memory, that goes like, “jisko na de maula use de Asaf-ud-Daula (those denied by God, are rewarded by Asaf-ud-Daula instead).” The munificence of Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula, the eighteenth century wazir of Oudh, was legendary.
The story of Asaf-ud-Daula assumes significance in the current context for many reasons. For instance, in Aishbagh, the Nawab donated lands for the purpose of celebrating Ramlila and Idgah, which exist cheek by jowl even today.