Samples of Turkish calligraphers who practised Tughra calligraphy were brought to India by pilgrims and traders.
Calligraphy is a sacred art form that flourished across India during the Mughal era and the major art centres of those times were Delhi, Lahore and Lucknow. During the 18th century, when Lucknow was being nurtured into a cultural hub, Urdu calligraphy seamlessly assimilated itself into the Awadhi artistic heritage. It is believed that under the patronage of the nawabs, this city became the sole promoter of Zoomorphic Tughra and Tughra-nawisi in the country. So move over the orthodox idea that calligraphy is just fancy handwriting and tag along with us as we explore the intricacies of Tughra calligraphy!
From Ottoman Art to Awadhi culture
Samples of Turkish calligraphers who practised Tughra calligraphy were brought to India by pilgrims and traders and these were displayed at the Imambadas of Lucknow. With the increase in the demand for this exotic art form among the common people, local calligraphers started imitating the style and that's how Lucknow emerged as an important centre for Tughrakari.
Tughra calligraphy is different from other calligraphy styles, for it ensures that the outlines resemble any structure, animal or otherwise, bearing a positive connotation. Lucknow's artisans added their touch to Tughrakari with precise, delicate and elegant brush movements while adorning ghazal verses and likes of it, on different types of writing bases.
Look for calligraphy here in Lucknow
Lucknow is home to several monuments which trace their origin to the era of nawabs, hence, many of them bear calligraphic inscriptions that art lovers can witness. While Chota Imambada's premises display one of the finest examples of calligraphy in Lucknow, other monuments that give a glimpse of this art form are Sheikh Ibrahim Tomb and Nadan Mahal.
Readers of calligraphic inscriptions in Lucknow are reducing day by day, for very few individuals make an effort to decipher Urdu, Persian and Arabic. Since these are the main languages in which Islamic calligraphy is practised, the number of practitioners of this art form is also declining. The least that can be done to save Tughrakari from oblivion, is knowing about this art form and appreciating the skillfulness required to practice it!
-With inputs from academia.edu and lucknow.me