This article has been extracted from
THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.
OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.
Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts.Many units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.
Head-quarters of the District and tahsil of the same name in the United Provinces, situated in 27 degree 53' N. and 78 degree 4' E., on the grand trunk road, at the junction of a branch of the Oudh and Rohilkhand with the East Indian Railway, 876 miles by rail from Calcutta and 904 miles from Bombay. The native city lies west of the railway and is generally called Koil or Kol, Aligarh being strictly the name of a fort beyond the civil station, on the east of the railway. Population has increased, especially in the last ten years. At the last four enumerations the numbers were as follows: (1872) 58,539, (1881) 62,443, 0891) 61,485, and (1901) 70,434. Hindus number 41,076 and Musalmans 27,518.
Various traditions explain the name of the city as derived from one Kosharab, a Kshattriya, or from a demon named Kol, who was slain by Balarama, brother of Krishna. Buddhist and ancient Hindu remains prove the antiquity of the place ; but nothing is known of its history till the twelfth century, when it was held by the Dor Rajputs, who were defeated by Kutb-ud-din, after a desperate struggle, in 1194. Koil then became the seat of a Muhammadan governor, and is recorded in the Ain-i-Akbari as head-quarters of a sarkar in the Subah of Agra. The later history of the place has been given under Aligarh District.
The fort lies three miles from Koil, and is surrounded by marshy land and pieces of water which add to its strength, especially in the rains. It was called Muhammadgarh in the sixteenth century, after Muhammad, the ruler of Koil under the Lodis. About 1717 it was called Sabetgarh after Sabet Khan, another governor, and about 1757 the Jats changed the name to Ramgarh. The name Aligarh was given by Najaf Khan, who took the place. It was strengthened by its successive holders ; and De Boigne and Perron, the European generals in Maratha employ, took great pains to render it impregnable. In 1803 Lord Lake captured the fort by storm, and said in his dispatch: From the extraordinary strength of the place, in my opinion British valour Never shone more conspicuous.' The native troops at Aligarh joined the Mutiny of 1857 ; and the town was plundered successively by the Mewatis of the neighbouring villages, by the passing rebel soldiery, by Nasim-ullah during his eleven days' rule, and by the British troops.
The town of Koil has a handsome appearance, the centre being occupied by the lofty site of the old Dor fortress, now crowned by a mosque built early in the eighteenth century, which was repaired during 1898-9 at a cost of more than Rs. 90,000, subscribed by residents in the District. A pillar, erected in 1253 to commemorate the victories of Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, was pulled down in 1862. In and about the town are several tombs of Muhammadan saints. Koil contains a general hospital with seventy-nine beds, and a female hospital with eighteen beds; and the Lyall Library, opened in 1889, is a handsome building. The civil station has been adorned by a magni- ficent clock tower and by a fine public hall opened in 1898. The chief want of the city hitherto was a satisfactory drainage scheme, as a large part of it is built on swampy land round the fort, and the excava- tions from which earth was taken have become insanitary tanks. The outfall drains for sullage have now been completed.
Aligarh-Koil was constituted a municipality in 1865. During the ten years ending 1901 the income and expenditure averaged Rs. 64,000. In 1903-4 the income was Rs. 95,000, chiefly derived from octroi (Rs. 81,ooo). Expenditure amounted to a lakh, including general administration (Rs. 9,000), public safety (Rs. 16,000), drainage (Rs. 22,000), and conservancy (Rs. 22,000).
Koil has a considerable export trade in grain, indigo, and cotton, but it is not so important as Hathras. It is, however, becoming to some extent a manufacturing centre. The Government postal work- shop, which turns out numerous articles required by the department, includes a steam printing press, employing 220 men in 1903. There are three large lock factories, employing more than 300 hands, and a number of smaller concerns. Three cotton gins and one press employed 285 workmen in 1903. The dairy farm at Chherat, a few miles away, was opened by Government, but it is now privately owned and employs about 100 hands. There is also a small manufacture of inferior art pottery, and dried meat is prepared for export to Burma.
The municipality manages three schools and aids two others, attended by 1,000 pupils. The District board maintains the District and tahsili schools with 287 and 175 pupils respectively, three branch schools with more than 300 pupils, and two girls' schools with 50. Aligarh is, however, chiefly celebrated for the Muhammadan Anglo- Oriental College.
This institution owes its foundation to the labours of the late Sir Saiyid Ahmad Khan, K. C.S.I. , to improve the condition of his co-religionists. He founded a society, called the Aligarh Insti- tute, with the primary purpose of inquiring into the objections felt by the Musalman community to the ordinary education offered by Govern- ment. In 1875 a school was opened, which was attended by 59 boys during the first year. Notwithstanding opposition and apathy, the movement progressed rapidly, and Sir Saiyid ultimately obtained support from all parts of India. The school was affiliated to the Calcutta University up to the First Arts standard in 1878, and up to the B.A. standard in 1881. It was subsequently affiliated to the Allahabad University, which was not founded till 1887. In 1904 there were 353 students in the school, 269 in the college, and 36 in the law classes ; 76 of the total number were Hindus. Since the foundation-stone of the permanent buildings was laid in 1877 there have been large extensions. The college now includes five quadrangles of students' quarters, and also hires several houses for students, and it contains a magnificent hall and a hospital. The income and expendi- ture amount to about a lakh, and the Government grant is Rs. 18,000 annually. Students come from all parts of India, and even from Burma, Somaliland, Persia, Baluchistan, Arabea, Uganda, Mauritius, and Cape Colony. Between 1893 and 1902 the number of degrees in Arts taken by students of the Aligarh College was 24 per cent, of the total number conferred on Muhammadans in the whole of India. The Aligarh Institute society is extinct ; but the Gazette, which was formerly issued by it, is now issued by the honorary secretary to the college.
Kathpula and the socio-political divide
It was on Kathpula that poet Neeraj's iconic song “Karvan guzar gaya gubar dekhte rahe“ was filmed more than 50 years ago. The movie, “Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal“, was shot on the AMU campus and acclaimed for its progressive message. The bridge was then made of `kath', wood. Now it's a concrete structure. The times have changed.
Kathpula virtually straddles two time zones. “Lack of education, com munal polarisation and regressive traditions seem to be the features of one. On the other side Civil Lines (that includes AMU) is free of these ills,“ says Md Asim Siddiqui of the university's English department.
Aligarh has a history of communal trouble. Civil Lines residents insist trouble always starts on the other side. “Rarely has Civil Lines been under curfew,“ says Mirza Asmer Beg, also an AMU professor.
On the other side in the `Shahr', signs of the communal divide are visible. Shops with signboards Harigarh, not Aligarh, are common. VHP wants the town renamed. Nearly 49% of Aligarh is Muslim, 51% Hindu. The two Aligarhs speak different languages.Most of `Shahr' uses khadi boli, a sprinkling of Braj. In the Civil Lines, it's largely Hindi. “We're considered the elite,“ says Ayesha Muneer Rasheed, associate professor of English, AMU, and is from Kolkata. The composition of the faculty could explain why Shahr's many residents believe they're deprived. Over twothirds are from outside.
“Losing opportunities results in frustration. They are prejudiced. But we too are to blame. We're insular,“ Siddiqui explains. Another professor claimed the representation of Aligarh Hindus in the faculty is more than local Muslims. Hence the heartburn among the deprived. While students from elsewhere in the country outnumber locals in many departments, in courses such as management, engineering and medicine, the difference is glaring. For every 20 outsiders here, there's just one local. “It's not that people across the bridge aren't studying. But they haven't come out of their orthodoxy ,“ says Pratibha, a research scholar from Aligarh who stays in the AMU hostel, more at ease on campus than in the Shahr.