Saharanpur district

Saharanpur district

Saharanpur district is the northernmost of the districts of Uttar Pradesh state, India. Bordering the states of Haryana and Uttarakhand, and close to the foothills of Shivalik range, it lies in the northern part of the Doab region. It is primarily an agricultural area.

The district headquarters are Saharanpur town and it belongs to Saharanpur Division. Other principal towns are Behat, Deoband, Gangoh and Rampur.


:See also: History of Uttar Pradesh, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar

Ancient period

The entire Saharanpur district is a part the Yamuna-Ganges Doab region. Its physical features have been most conducive to human habitation. Archaeological surveys have provided evidence of the existence of many settlements over the ages. Excavations have been carried out in different parts of the district, such as Ambakheri, Bargaon, Hulas, Bahadarabad, and Naseerpur. On the basis of artifacts discovered during these excavations, human habitation can be traced as far back as 2000 B.C. Traces of the Indus Valley civilization, and even of earlier cultures, have been found. Archaeologically, Ambakheri, Bargaon, Naseerpur and Hulas were centres of Harappan civilisation. It has witnessed the arrival of Aryans from the present Punjab and the mighty war of Mahabharata in the region of present Muzaffarnagar district; when both were a part of the Kuru (East) Mahajanapada territory and Usinara and Panchala Mahajanapadas were their eastern neighbours. Though the history of the region can be traced to some extent from the days of the Indo-Aryans, a more exact history, the system of administration of the local kings, and the lifestyle of the people will become known only with further exploration.

Medieval period

Most of the empire building invasions, across the vast swathe of Gangetic plains of India, passed through it. During the reign of Shamsu'd-Din Iltutmish (1211-36), the third and greatest ruler of the Slave Dynasty, the region of present Saharanpur became a part of his Delhi Sultanate.

Muhammad bin Tughluq, the Sultan of Delhi (1325-51), undertook a campaign in the northern Doab to crush the Shivalik kings in 1340. According to local traditions and as also stated in the reliable British records (like Gazette of India 1901), he learned of the presence of a Sufi saint on the banks of the Paondhoi river. After visiting the sage, he ordered that henceforth the place would be known as 'Shah-Harunpur', named after the Sufi Saint, Shah Harun Chishti. It evolved into present Saharanpur. However, Akbar was the first Mogul ruler to make the region 'Saharanpur-Sarkar', which was a part of the Delhi province; and it provided the impetus to establish the present city of Saharanpur.

British period

The last of the invaders were the British, who marched into it from the east and Saharanpur passed into the expanding British raj in 1803. It was a very large district at one time, reaching its maximum size when the then Greater Nepal's Dehradun region was added to it after the British-Gurkha War in 1816. The present independent districts of Muzaffarnagar, Haridwar and Dehradun formed a part of Saharanpur district then.

When North India revolted against British occupation in 1857, Saharanpur region was part of this uprising, variously referred to as the First War of Indian Independence or Indian Rebellion of 1857. Those who went on to found the world famous Darul Uloom Deoband participated actively in the revolt, organised the masses outside Delhi and, for a while, were successful in ousting the British from the area of their operations. The centre of their activities was Shamli, a small town in the present Muzaffarnagar District.

After the uprising failed and British retribution followed, social reconstruction started. During this period, the cultural and political history of Muslims began to revolve around Aligarh and Deoband. Deoband, which came to represent Indian Nationalism and opposition to British rule, promoted the concept of Hindu-Muslim unity and a united India. It also supported the revolutionary ideas of legendary reformer Shah Waliullah, for social and political rejuvenation.

Maulana Nanautvi and Maulana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi, both proponents of Shah Waliullah's ideology, established a school in Deoband in 1867, which found recognition and fame as the Darul Uloom. The founders wanted to raise and spread a team of scholars to awaken the religious and social consciousness of Muslims through peaceful methods. Through them, the Deoband Madrassa made efforts to educate Muslims in their faith and culture as well as bring about a feeling of nationalism and unity. The school went on to play an important role in later day revolutionary activities aimed at turning out the British from India; the spirit showed in the Mutiny of 1857 continued unabated. The famous revolutionary, Maulana Mahmudul Hasan, was the first student of the Madrassa and later its senior professor. His student, companion and successor, Moulana Husain Ahmed Madani, was also a famous religious scholar and statesman highly respected by the Indian National Congress. Thus the district came to be associated with the activities of the Ulema of the Deoband School.

The region of Behat had many Riyasats i.e. minor princely/feudal landlord families, like the family of Riyasat Ghana Khandi which was relatively more prominent - this family claims to be descendents of Padhaan Zamindars of 1745 A.D. - and, at present,Dr. Mohd Ashraf is a highly respected member of this family, with son Mohd Ishrat and grandson Mohd Rameez among his descendents.


The district is part of a fertile belt. A well developed irrigation system of Gangetic-canals and tube-wells supports a thriving agricultural economy of multiple crops and bumper yields. In addition to farming of major food grain crops like wheat, rice etc, cash crops like sugar cane and potatoes etc are cultivated on a wide scale. Fruit orchards and horticulture are also important for local and export markets. Even though Dehradun is more famous for basmati rice, a lot of it is grown in the Saharanpur area.

The district has several agro-based industries: paper, tobacco, wood-work etc. A multinational cigarette manufacturing company, the Indian Tobacco Company ( ITC Limited ), is located in Saharanpur.

Cultural and educational aspects

Culturally, Saharanpur district is similar to the rest of western Uttar Pradesh. There is a sizeable Muslim population, with a relatively good reputation in terms of inter-religious communal harmony. The old quarters of cities and towns are predominantly Muslim, whose theological seminaries in Deoband and Saharanpur cities are internationally reputed.

It is home to the Paper and Pulp Technology Institute which is affiliated to the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (formerly Roorkee University).

After losing the university-town of Roorkee to Uttarakhand state in 2000, the district has no fulfledged, comprehensive university with its own campus . However, several colleges in the district, affiliated to the Meerut University, conduct university level courses in a number of important science and arts subjects.

External links

* [ Official district web site]

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