Meerut is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.It is an ancient city with settlements dating back to the Indus Valley civilization having been found in and around the area. The city lies 70 km (43 mi) northeast of the national capital New Delhi, and 453 km (281 mi) northwest of the state capital Lucknow.
Meerut is the second largest city in the National Capital region, and as of 2011 the 33rd most populous urban agglomeration and the 26th most populous city in India. It ranked 292 in 2006 and is projected to rank 242 in 2020 in the list of largest cities and urban areas in the world.The municipal area (as of 2001) is 141.89 km2 (54.78 sq mi) with the cantonment covering 35.68 km2 (3,568.06 ha).The city is one of the largest producers of sports goods, and the largest producer of musical instruments in India. The city is also an education hub in western Uttar Pradesh.
After the archaeological excavations at ‘Vidura-ka-tila’, a collection of several mounds named after Vidura, in 1950–52, a site 37 km (23 miles) north-east of Meerut, it was concluded to be remains of the ancient city of Hastinapur, the capital of Kauravas and Pandavas of Mahabharata, which was washed away by Ganges floods.
Meerut also contained a Harappan settlement known as Alamgirpur. It was also the easternmost settlement of the Indus valley civilisation. Meerut had been a centre of Buddhism in the period of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (r. 273 BC to 232 BC.), and remains of Buddhist structures were found near the Jama Masjid in the present day city.The Ashoka Pillar, at Delhi ridge, next to the ‘Bara Hindu Rao Hospital’, near Delhi University, was carried to Delhi from Meerut, by Firuz Shah Tughluq (r. 1351–1388); it was later damaged in a 1713 explosion, and restored in 1867.
In the eleventh century AD, the south-west part of the district was ruled by Har Dat, the Dor Rajput Raja of Bulandshahr who built a fort, which was long known for its strength and finds mention in Ain-i-Akbari.He was later defeated by Mahmud Ghazni in 1018. A prominent local landmark, the Jama Masjid, dates from this period and is said to have been built by Mahmud’s vizir. Shortly after its capture the city was regained by the local Hindu Raja and part of his fortifications, built for the city’s defence, survived until recent times. The first big invasion on the city came later in 1192 AD, from Mohammad Ghori, when his general Qutb-ud-din Aybak attacked the city, and a much worse fate lay ahead for the district, which came with the invasion of Timur in 1398, during which the Rajputs offered a tough resistance at the fort of Loni, where he fought the Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad Tughlaq. But, eventually they were all defeated. Thereafter he went on to attack Delhi, where he again massacred the local population, and returned to attack Meerut town, then ruled by an Afghan chief, Ilias, and took the city in two days, leading to widespread devastation, before heading north once again.
The city then came under the rule of the Mughal Empire and saw a period of relative tranquility.During the rule of Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great (r. 1556–1605), there was a mint for copper coins here.During the decline of the Mughal Empire, after the death of Aurangzeb, the city came effectively under the control of local chieftains, the Saiyids of Muzaffarnagar in the north, the Jats in the south-east, and the Gujars along the Ganges and in the south-west. The city saw Sikh and Maratha invasions in the 18th century, with interruptions by Jats and Rohillas. Walter Reinhardt, an English soldier, established himself at Sardhana and some parts of the district came under his rule. Upon his death, they came into the hands of Begum Samru. During this time, the southern part of the district had remained under Maratha rule. In 1803, with the fall of Delhi, Daulat Rao Scindia of the Marathas ceded the territory to the British. The city was made headquarters of the eponymous district in 1818.
Meerut is famously associated with the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British East India Company.The famous slogan “Dilli Chalo” (“Let’s march to Delhi!”) was first raised here. Meerut cantonment is the place where the rebellion started when Hindu and Muslim soldiers were given rifle cartridges rumoured to have a coating made of animal fat.
The revolt, which catapulted Meerut into international prominence, started in March, 1857 at Barrackpore, Bengal. Sepoy Mangal Pandey shot and missed two Europeans, failed to kill himself, and was hanged. By April, the fire of Pandey’s Uprising scorched north India and reached Meerut, the second-largest East India Company garrison. Here, Europeans and native sepoys were evenly balanced, with a little more than 2,000 on each side. The European cantonment was separated from the ‘native lines.’ Close by were Sadar Bazar and Lal Kurti Bazar, the latter named after the red uniforms worn by Company soldiers. On 24 April 1857, Meerut’s commander, Colonel CarmichaelSmyth, paraded 90 Indian sepoys of the Bengal Cavalry, hired mostly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. He ordered them to fire the new Enfield cartridges: 85 refused. The cartridges were covered with paper that had to be torn off: Muslims believed the paper was greased with pig and Hindus, with cow fat.
All 85 were stripped of their uniforms, imprisoned for ten years and shackled – this was a major humiliation. The rebels were from the 3rd cavalry: they owned their horses, and were the upper-caste elite. If they could be shackled, what could others expect from the Company? On Sunday, 10 May 1857, Kotwal Dhan Singh Gurjar opened the gates of the prison. These soldiers, along with other imprisoned soldiers escaped prison and declared themselves free, revolted, attacked and killed several of the British authorities to take the city in their control. This marked the beginning of a widespread revolt across northern India as these soldiers marched towards Delhi. 10 May is still celebrated as a local holiday in Meerut.
Meerut was also the venue of the controversial Meerut Conspiracy Case in March 1929, in which several trade unionists, including three Englishmen, were arrested for organising Indian-rail strike. This immediately caught attention back in England, inspired the 1932 play titled Meerut Prisoners, by Manchester street theatre group, the ‘Red Megaphones’, highlighting the detrimental effects of colonisation and industrialisation Electricity was brought to Meerut in 1931.In the 1940s, Meerut cinemas had a “Don’t Move” policy during playing of the British national anthem. The last session of the Indian National Congress before Indian independence was held at Victoria Park in Meerut on 26 November 1946. It was in this session that the Constitution-making committee was constituted.
The city and district also suffered from communal (Hindu-Sikh) riots in 1984 and (Hindu-Muslim) riots in 1982 and in 1987, during which the Hashimpura massacre took place, in May 1987, when personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) allegedly shot dead 42 Muslims, the trial of the case is still pending. In 2006, a fire at a consumer electronics “Brand India” fair in Victoria Park Stadium killed at least 100 people, with authorities already confirming 45 fatalities, although a specific figure on a toll was difficult to put and was predicted to be much higher.
Tourist destinations in and around Meerut include:
Jain temples of Hastinapur – Located on the banks of old ravine of Ganges, Hastinapur is considered one of the holiest places on earth by Jains. It is believed to be the birthplace of three Jain Tirthankaras. There are many ancient Jain temples in Hastinapur. Shri Digamber Jain Mandir, Jambudweep, Kailash Parvat, Shwetambar Jain Temple are the main and famous temples in Hastinapur. Apart from Jain temples, Pandeshwar temple, Historical Gurdwara and Hastinapur Sanctuary are worth being seen.
St. John’s Church – This church was established by Chaplain the Reverend Henry Fisher on behalf of the East India Company in 1819 in the cantonment area and was completed in 1822. It is considered one of the oldest churches in North India. The Church was dedicated to the people by Bishop Wilson. It has a seating capacity of 10,000 people.During the war of 1857, this church was the scene of heavy fighting between Indians and the British forces.
Augarnath Temple – This temple (also known as Kalipaltan Mandir locally) is located at the site where the soldiers of the war of 1857 planned their operations. The temple also houses a memorial built to honour the martyrs of the revolt of 1857, Indian Rebellion of 1857. The old temple has been replaced by a modern version.
Jama Masjid – The Jama Masjid was built by Hasan Mahdi, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi’s Wazir (chief minister) in 1019 AD (older than the Qutb Minar). That makes it the first Masjid in North India. And although it was restored by Humayun,it is one of the oldest Muslim mosques in India.
Martyr’s Memorial (Hindi: शहीद स्मारक Shaheed Smarak): The memorial is a 30 metres (98 feet) high pillar of marble situated at Bhainsali. Functions are organised at the memorial around the national holidays of India.The memorial complex also houses the Government Freedom Struggle Museum which is dedicated to the first war of Indian independence.
Gandhi Bagh – This centrally located garden has a very beautiful and serene environment. Locally known as “Company Garden”, it has been present since before independence, when it got renamed to its current name. It runs a musical fountain show every evening.The park also houses a small water storage chamber and motor which is noted to have been removed from The Red Fort in Delhi and erected here.Earlier, the garden used to have multiple entrances like the one shown on the right, which were always kept open, and there was no entry fee. But now, only one entrance is kept open and a ticketing system with nominal charges has been put in place.
Shahpeer’s Mausoleum (Hindi: शाहपीर की दरगाह Shahpeer ki dargah) – This is a Mughal mausoleum erected by the empress Nur Jahan in 1628 in honour of a local Muslim Hazrat Shahpeer.It is a red stone structure that was partly built and is incomplete till date.The tomb is adorned by intricate nakashi (stone painting). There is no roof on the main tomb. People[who?] say that Shahpeer was the teacher of Mughal Emperor Jehangir. The tomb is listed by the Archaeological Survey of India as a national heritage monument.
Shahi Eid Gaah (Hindi: शाही ईदगाह) – It was built by Nasir ud din Mahmud, the youngest son of Iltutmish, and the eighth Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate. It is about six hundred years old and has a capacity of about one lac people to offer prayers (Namaz) on Eid. There is Nakkashi on the walls of Eidgah which reflect the Sulatani Gulam era.
Parikshitgarh – The place is associated with and derives its name from King Parikshit of Hastinapur (the grandson of Arjuna). The fort was built by Parikshit and restored by Gurjar King Nain Singh in the eighteenth century.
Dargah of Baley Miyan (Hindi: बले मियाँ की दरगाह Bale Miyan ki Dargah) – This dargah was built by Qutb-ud-din Aybak in 1194 in the memory of Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud (known locally as Baley Miyan). An Urs is organised annually at the Dargah during the Nauchandi fair.
Suraj Kund – This is a pond, built by a businessman Lawar Jahawar Lal in 1714. It is filled with water from the Ganga Canal. It is surrounded by several temples, including the Baba Manohar Nath temple, which is said to have been built during the period of Shahjahan.It is also believed that there are a total of five ponds(kunds) in India out of which Suraj kund of meerut is the biggest. The pond was naturally filled with the sacred water but with time it evaporated and the pond was left all vacant. Presently the nagar nigam has transformed it into a public place of visit with entry ticket at a very low cost.
Other places of interest include Mansa Devi Temple, Baleni, Basilica of Our Lady of Graces, Sardhana and the Chandi Devi Temple which was built by holkar queen Devi Ahiliyabai Holkar.