The Culture of Uttar Pradesh is an Indian Culture which has its roots in the Hindi and Urdu literature, music, fine arts, drama and cinema. Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, has several beautiful historical monuments such as Bara Imambara and Chhota Imambara. It has also preserved the damaged complex of the Oudh-period British Resident’s quarters, which are being restored.

Uttar Pradesh attracts large number of visitors, both national and international; with more than 71 million domestic tourists (in 2003) and almost 25% of the All-India foreign tourists visiting Uttar Pradesh, it is one of the top tourist destinations in India. There are two regions in the state where a majority of the tourists go, viz. the Hindu pilgrimage circuit and the Agra circuit.

The pilgrimage circuit includes the holiest of the Hindu holy cities on the banks of sacred rivers Ganges and the Yamuna: Varanasi (also considered world’s oldest city), Ayodhya (birthplace of Lord Rama), Mathura (birthplace of Lord Krishna), Vrindavan (the village where Lord Krishna spent his childhood), and Allahabad (Prayagraj) (the confluence or ‘holy-sangam’ of the sacred Ganges-Yamuna rivers).

The city of Agra, gives access to three World Heritage Sites: Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and the nearby Fatehpur Sikri. Taj Mahal is a mausoleum built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. Agra Fort is about 2.5 km northwest of its much more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal. The fort can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city. Fatehpur Sikri was the world-famous 16th-century capital city near Agra, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar the Great, whose mausoleum in Agra is also worth a visit. Dayal Bagh in Agra is a modern-day temple and popular tourist sight. Its lifelike sculptures in marble are unique in India.

The state is home to a very old tradition in dance and music. During the eras of Guptas and Harsh Vardhan, Uttar Pradesh was a major centre for musical innovation. Swami Haridas was a great saint-musician who championed Hindustani Classical Music. Tansen, the great musician in Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court, was a disciple of Swami Haridas.

Kathak, a classical dance form, involving gracefully coordinated movements of feet along with entire body, grew and flourished in Uttar Pradesh. Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh, was a great patron and a passionate champion of Kathak. Today, the state is home to two prominent schools of this dance form, namely, Lucknow Gharana and Banaras Gharana.

The common state-language of Uttar Pradesh is standard Hindi. While standard Hindi (Khari boli) is the official language, several important regional Hindi ‘dialects’ are spoken in the state and among these are: Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Braj, Kannauji, Kaurvi, Gurjari, Bagheli and Bundeli, besides several local dialects that do not have a formal name. Urdu is prominent in Uttar Pradesh as Lucknow was once the centre of Indo-Persianate culture in north India.