Umrao Jan Ada - The Courtesan of Lucknow

Umrao Jan Ada - The Courtesan of Lucknow

Product ID: 18313

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Author: Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa
Translator(s): Khushwant Singh /M A Husaini
Publisher: Vision/Orient paperbacks
Year: 2005/2007
Language: English
Pages: 232
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8122203930


Umrao Jan Ada tells the story of a Lucknawi courtesan, a woman of great charm and a reputation as a poet and singer. First published more than 100 years ago, the novel re-creates the gracious ambience of old Lucknow and takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the palaces of wealthy nawabs, the hideouts of colorful vagabonds and the luxurious abodes of the city's courtesans.

Umrao Jan Ada is one of the most famous works of Indian fiction. In her childhood, Umrao was abducted and sold into the house of the procuress, Khanum Jan. After her training; she was introduced into society and formed a number of precarious liaisons with the city’s nobles, whom she delighted with her exquisite singing and dancing. Her mastery of these arts and her skill in the composition of Urdu poetry even brought her to the attention of Royal Court of Avadh. The events of 1857 dashed her hopes, but she survived the upheavals and lived, so they say, to tell her story to Mirza Rusva, the author of what can justifiably be called the first true Urdu novel.

In the pages of this charming book, we find pieced together an exquisite civilization that will never recur, and warm human emotions that are eternal. This novel is one of the best-known and best-loved works of early Urdu fiction. Its author, Mirza Muhammad Hadi Rusva, was born in Luknow around the time of the 1857 Indian Mutiny, which was a significant turning point not only in the life of the Princely States like Avadh (Oudh), but in the history of the country as a whole.

Compared to many other Urdu novels of the period, Umrao Jan Ada is fresh and vivacious; its plot is uncontrived and its language remarkably lucid and natural.


MIRZA MUHAMMAD HADI RUSWA (1857-1931) was one of the finest Urdu prose writers of his times. To this were added his skills as mathematician, astronomer and theologian. He had a command over Urdu, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, English, Latin and Greek and wrote several tracts on philosophical subjects. He was the head of the literary department of the All India Shia Conference and wore twenty volumes on the Shia religion. His other acclaimed novel is ‘Akhtari Begum’.


KHUSHWANT SINGH, novelist, storywriter, historian, editor, essayist, and translator is one of the best-known contemporary writers of the Indian subcontinent. His writings are a mix of the scholarly and the popular, gravitas and deliberately provocative, but always distinctly Indian. He is considered by many the eminence grise of the Indian literary landscape.


Translator’s Preface
Life of Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa
The Courtesan of Lucknow
Some Historical Personages in the Book
Glossary of Urdu Words