Living memoirs of an Exile

The colonial history of the City is intriguing to say the least. Hidden in her streets, lanes and bylanes are fragments from a time that is past, but the remnants still have silent stories to narrate, if the ear is willing to listen.

This post is a tribute to the troubled past, where a usurped ruler came to the City and left an imprint on her. Not many have explored this trail but it is significant no doubt.

In the days when the power of the colonial rulers was on the rise, the Nawab of Oudh Wajid Ali Shah found himself exiled from his capital Lucknow, and in the city of Calcutta. The ousted ruler was a very different ruler compared to the other kings of his times. A man of refined taste, Wajid Ali Shah aroused the ire of the British rulers, being identified as a hurdle in their plans of acquiring absolute power in the subcontinent. Unscrupulously they labelled him as an inefficient ruler, and got rid of him.

So Wajid Ali Shah with his entourage landed in Calcutta on 6th May 1856,to plead his case with the rulers, but sadly went onto breathe his last in this city, a disheartened and broken man in 1887.

A view of the Bichali Ghat in the Metiabruz area where the ship bringing the Nawab is supposed to have anchored. 

Metiabruz in the Garden Reach area, is where some of the remnants of this exiled Ruler and his legacy still exist.

Out on a walk with friend Shaikh Sohail, who grew up in this area and knows much about it, the flashback into the past evoked a sense of nostalgia as well as loss for what could have been. The helplessness of a ruler who had lost his realm and his native clime, who found himself in a City so vastly different from his own, is tangible from the naaration of what ensued in the days after his exile.

The remnants of the exiled ruler and his family are basically centred around Imambaras –  (the most grand being the Sibtainabad Imambara), and a couple of others, along with a quiet chapel like Shahi Masjid or Mosque built by Wajid Ali himself.

Some of the property is under litigation and therefore not accessible, and some of the remnants could well do with some urgent restoration work from the government, given the nature of the significance of the legacy.

The post offers a few glimpses of the various locations that one comes across on the walk, should you seek to explore this aspect of the city too.

The Bait-Ul-Nijat Imambara

This Imambara was built by Wajid Ali Shah to observe the solemn occasion of Muharram.

The opulent interiors of the Qasr-ul-Buka Imambara- built by one of the wives of the Nawab.



The famous Shahi Masjid built by the Nawab. It has a quiet chapel like feel to it.

Apparently the paan makers to the Nawab also have their descendants here – The Saini Paan shop who wrap up much colour and history in their betel leaves.
The coat of arms of the Nawab of Oudh atop the Sibtainabad Imambara

The Sibtainabad Imambara houses the mausoleum of the Wajid Ali Shah.

The grand interiors of the Imambara


The amazing mosaic tiled interiors of the Begum Umda Mahal Imambara. The intricacy of the remnants indicate wonderful crafstmanship.






A sincere word of gratitude to Shaikh Sohail who took us literally through the labyrinths of time, to peruse through a forgotten chapter in the history of the city. He can be contacted at 9073902933.



One Comment Add yours

  1. Shopkhoj says:

    What a fascinating capture of Wajid Ali Shah and historical connection with the city. I would love to read more about the food that has survived generations and still thriving in Kolkata… Maybe there is still some special food from the Nawab’s time that’s on our plate and we don’t know about it

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