Formerly called the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental college (MAO college), the Aligarh Muslim University was considered to be a major centre for learning and research in the 18th and 19th century. This prestigious university which was founded by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan houses the largest library in the country and offers over 300 educational courses to international and national students.
The university was initially founded to train Muslims and offer them a better future. Over the years, the focus shifted to offering high quality English education to every student disregard of caste, colour, nationality or creed. The university is considered to be one of the best research institutes in India and is also ranked well within Asia.
Aligarh Fort is considered to be one of India’s strongest forts in the region. It was built in the 16th century by the son of the presiding governor in the court of Ibrahim Lodhi. Located on GT Road, the fort is shaped like a regular polygon and is surrounded on all sides by a very broad ditch. Over the years, the fort was rebuilt several times to further expand and strengthen its boundaries.
In the 18th century, under the rule of Madhavrao Scindia I, it served as a prominent training centre for soldiers who were taught European war techniques. It was also the site for the 1857 revolt against the British rule. However, the troops abstained from murdering their officers.
The fort boasts of a mix of Indian and French style architecture. It is now under the control of the Aligarh Muslim University, more specifically, the Botany Department. The inner courtyard has a botanical garden and a variety of other plantations.
The Maulana Azad library is unlike any other library. Officially, it is the main library of the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University. It consists of a central library and over 80 departmental libraries spread across various floors.
These libraries are well-stocked and cater to the needs of postgraduate students and professionals. The library is considered to be the largest in India and the second largest within Asia. The collection of books here not only caters to the needs of the students but also throws light on India’s history and culture.
Especially worth a mention is the library on the seventh floor which is a magnificent old Muslim style building surrounded by well-manicured lawns and gardens. Besides being the largest library in the country, the Maulana Azad library is also considered to be the most beautiful one.
The Jama Masjid was built in 1724 by Sabit Khan, and it is one of the oldest and grandest mosques in Aligarh. It took a total of 14 years to be completed. The mosque is centrally located at the summit of the Balai Qila, which is the highest point of the city. Given its location, it can be viewed from all parts of the city. There are six areas within the mosque where people can offer namaz.
Over the years, the mosque has undergone several rounds of renovations and reflects several architectural influences. The white dome-like structures and well designed pillars are typical features of Islamic art and culture.
The Dor fortress lies in ruins at the city centre of Aligarh. Till the 18th century Aligarh was called Kol or Koil. While the origin of this name is unclear, some historians believe that the city of “Kol” was originally founded by the Dor tribe and that the fort is named after King Buddhsen Dor.
All legal proceedings were held in this fort during his reign. The Dor fortress was considered to be one of the most magnificent forts in ancient times. There are several references in the works of travellers who visited the region of Kol. The fort has a well-planned layout and imposing minarets. There is also a well and stables within the complex.
The Baba Barchi Bahadur Dargah is a 600-year-old dargah that attracts devotees from all religions and faith. The widespread belief is that all wishes of the devotees who pay obeisance here are fulfilled. This is probably the reason it attracts people from all faith and communities. In fact, it is considered to be a symbol of communal harmony.
Sir Syed was a great Muslim visionary, well respected for the significant contributions he made in the field of educational, social and cultural development. He had initially bought the building that houses the academy for his father. Originally a military mess, the building of the Sir Syed Academy was later turned into a memorial.
The museum within the building displays some of the personal belongings of Sir Syed. The museum is divided into different galleries or phases. While most of the museum is dedicated to Sir Syed’s life and teachings, a part also displays important facts and history of the Aligarh Muslim University, a prestigious university founded by him. The university was considered to be one of the most prestigious centres of education in its time.
The Chacha Nehru Gyan Pushp is a well-maintained museum located in the Three Dots School complex. Founded in 1982, the museum is famous for its wide range of biological, geographical and historical displays.
The museum is well equipped with a variety of rocks, minerals, gems, stamps, coins – all important displays for young children to see and learn from. The wide assortment of drawings and modern science equipments make it one of the best modern day museums in the country.
The main visitors are the students from the local schools though tourists too make a beeline. The aim of the museum was to provide children an interactive and informative way to understand the important aspects related to science, the earth and the space better.
Hakim Karam Hussain Museum is one of the major educational attractions at Aligarh. It is known for its spacious layout and a wide range of displays. While the museum is better known for displays related to the history of medicine and science, it also has an exclusive and expansive collection of manuscripts, souvenirs, memoirs of noted physicians and noble prize winners.
The various sculptures on display here belong to various eras and civilizations including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Babylonian and Arab civilization. The museum attracts both historians and tourists.
The Teerthdham Mangalayatan is one of the few non-islamic places of worship in Aligarh and is dedicated to the Jain culture and faith. In fact, it is considered to be the largest ground dedicated to Jain culture in India. The complex spans over 16 acres and is known to promote a progressive socio-religious concept which encompasses prayer, devotion, social service, education and research.
As a result, the complex is not like other traditional places of worship. While there are four main temples within its ground, the rest of the complex is dedicated to research and other causes. This Teerthdham Mangalayatan is located on the Aligarh-Agra highway and is easily accessible to visitors.
Shivrajpur is a small town located in the Kanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Historically, the town became famous when Raja Sati Prasad erected a beautiful temple here in memory of his Queen. This temple is known as the Khereshwar Temple and is an exquisite work of art.
According to historians, the well-structured temple with its elegant carvings and designs was completed within a day. The temple is situated on the banks of the Ganges and also doubles up as a scenic destination. There are other temples and colleges that are also situated close to the site.
Shekha Lake is a beautiful lake filled with rich biodiversity. It is located about 17 km from the main city centre along an irrigation canal. In all, it is a prime source of water for the region. The lake has extensive farmlands on one side and is inhabited by a variety of migratory birds during winter on the other side.
Several botanical experts or bird watchers regularly gather here to study the different species during the winter season. Visitors come here to enjoy the natural beauty of the lake and the surroundings.
Nagliya is a small village in the Aligarh district dedicated to the conservation of several wild species. The Black Deer conservation reserve here is of significant importance. The reserve is spread across a wide area and is dedicated to the shelter, protection and conservation of wild animals.
Another reason that makes the village famous is its higher than average level of education among locals. Most families live comfortably because one or more members have government jobs. The village is well connected by public transport and is easy to access from the Aligarh city centre which is about 15 km away.
As a city, Aligarh is famous for its lifestyle, culture, many educational institutions, museums and natural places of beauty. The city attracts visitors throughout the year who can, apart from sightseeing, shop to their hearts' delight in several active market places.
Some of the most prominent markets include the Centre Point Market, Railway Road Market, Phool Chorha, Halwai Khana, Jamalpur Market, Shamshad Market, Mahavir Ganj, Upper Fort or Uppar Kot, Tasweer Mahal and Amir Nisha.
Most brand outlets and international style shops are located in and around Centre Point Market. Amir Nisha is a major shopping hub while Shamshad Market is known for its educational books. For groceries, Mahavir Ganj is the ideal destination.