UMRAO JAAN ADA is an Urdu novel by Mirza Hadi Ruswa first published in 1899. It is considered the first Urdu novel by many and tells the story of a real life courtesan and poetess by the same name from 19th century Lucknow. As the novel suggests, the story of Umrao Jaan was recounted by her to the author, when he happe…ned to meet her during a mushairah (poetry gathering) in Lucknow. On listening to her couplets, the author along with Munshi Ahmad, a novel and poetry enthusiast present at the gathering, convinces Umrao Jaan to share her life story with them. In the course of time, Mirza starts noting down her story and shares the text with her. She agrees to correct it. Thus the novel is written in first person as a memoir.
The book was first published by Munshi Gulab Singh and Sons Press in Lucknow in 1899. Incidentally, Umrao Jaan Ada herself also published a novel titled ‘Fasan-e-Ruswa’, which describes the love story of Mirza Hadi Ruswa with a French woman Sophia Augustan. Umrao Jaan Ada became popular in the courts of the Nawab of Awadh for its Urdu poetry and composition. It is known for its elaborate and insightful portrayal of mid-19th Century Lucknow – its decadent society, and the moral hypocrisy of a patriarchal system where Umrao Jaan becomes the symbol of a nation, attracts many suitors but everyone is only looking to exploit her.