Avadh is claimed to be among the most ancient of Hindu states. According to popular legend, Ramchandra of Ayodhya, the hero of the Ramayana, gifted the territory of Lucknow to his devoted brother Lakshman after he had conquered Sri Lanka and completed his term of exile in the jungle. Therefore, people say that the original name of Lucknow was Lakshmanpur, popularly known as Lakhanpur or Lachmanpur.
The city of Ayodhya itself, forty miles away from Lakshmanpur, was reported to be full of great riches: "Its streets, well arranged, were refreshed with ceaseless streams of water ~ its walls, variously ornamented, resembled the checkered surface of a chess-board. It was filled with merchants, dramatists, elephants, horses and chariots. The cloud of fragrant incense darkened the sun at noonday: but the glowing radiance of the resplendent diamonds and jewels that adorned the persons of the ladies relieved the gloom!.." (Ramayana).
The ancient metropolis of Ayodhya was situated on the banks of the Ghagra, a river as wide as the Ganges at Chunar and its extensive ruins can still be seen. There is no record of when and how Ayodhya came to be deserted or allowed to decay : the legend is that Rama ascended to heaven, carrying with him all the population of the place. So large had the city been that Lakshmanpur was described as its suburb!
Taking a descent through the mists of time we alight upon Ayodhya again in the record books of the Emperor Akbar. It is a prodigious descent in time -from fifteen centuries before the Christian era to fifteen centuries after. Incredibly though, not much is known about the history of Avadh during this time. We know that after the conquest of Kanauj by the Afghans at the. end of the twelfth century, Avadh submitted to the Sultan of Ghazni, and so became part of the empire of Delhi. Avadh then as- serted its independence for a while under a Muslim ruler, but he was over- thrown by Babur, and Avadh became a subah or province of the Moghul empire.
As the Moghul power declined and the emperors lost their paramountcy and they became first the puppets and then the prisoners of their feudatories, so Avadh grew stronger and more independent. Its capital city was Faizabad.
Of all the Muslim states and dependencies of the Moghul empire, Avadh had the newest royal family. They were descended from a Persian adventurer called Sadat Khan, originally from Khurasan in Persia. There were many Khurasanis in the service of the Moghuls, mostly soldiers, and if successful, they could hope for rich rewards. Sadat Khan proved to be amongst the most successful of this group. In 1732, he was made governor of the province of Avadh. His original title was Nazim, which means Governor, but soon he was made Nawab. In 1740, the Nawab was called Wazir or vizier, which means Chief Minister, and thereafter he was known as the Nawab Wazir. In practice, from Sadat Khan onwards, the titles had been hereditary, though in theory they were in the gift of the Moghul emperor, to whom allegiance was paid. A nazar, or token tribute, was sent each year to Delhi, and members of the imperial family were treated with great deference: two of them actually lived in Lucknow after 1819, and were treated with great courtesy.