At the age of 26, Asaf-ud-Daula was made to succeed his father Shuja-ud-Daula as the fourth Nawab of Awadh, shortly after his death. While it may seem that his ascension to the throne was rightful, as he was Shuja-ud-Daula’s eldest son, he actually had to fight for his seat, against his brother Saadat Ali. Both the brothers aided the British East India Company in their fight against the mutineers. In this fight, Asaf-ud-Daula cleverly outmaneuvered his brother, who had to lead an incompetent army against the mutiny, in turn securing Asaf-ud-Daula’s throne.
Before this, he was appointed as Meer Aatish in the Mughal Empire, and was later promoted to the position of Director of Deewan-e-Khas. He also spent some time as a minister.
Asaf-ud-Daula was born in 1748, and spent a glorious childhood under the care of his mother, “Bahu Begum”. He had a complicated relationship with her, as he wanted access to the treasure preserved by his father, which she denied to him, as she had a considerable amount of control over the treasury. She teamed up with his grandmother and made large baseless claims on his father’s treasury. At some point, she was in direct contact with the East India Company, whose aid she acquired to hire ministers who were anti-Asaf. This difference in opinion caused him to make a drastic change in the kingdom, by shifting the capital from Awadh to Lucknow. This is still considered a radical change. At Lucknow, he made an abode of the Daulat Khana, which was a series of irregularly placed buildings.
In 1784, Awadh was hit by a earth-shattering drought that stole many people of their livelihood. Despite being in such a state, the people refused to take alms from anyone, including the King. To take them out of their unemployment, Asaf-ud-Daula ordered the construction of the Imambara, situated in Lucknow. This construction fulfilled its purpose of employing many, and was appropriate to the tastes of the Nawab, as he was quite interested in building monuments across Lucknow. This was a sign of his generous nature.
Aside from buildings, he also showed avid interest in gardens, and planted many of them throughout the city, such as the Chunhat Khoti. He was a connoisseur of all things beautiful, as he was also a poet who wrote multiple poems under the name ‘Asif’, and was truly enamoured by words, with a library stacked with around 300000 books at his disposal.
Under his caring administration, Lucknow emerged higher, teeming with potential. Asaf-ud-Daulah made Lucknow a worthy successor of the esteemed title of the capital.