People and Homes of Aligarh

People and Homes of Aligarh

“Material culture is the history and philosophy of objects and the myriad relationships between people and things.” - Bernard Herman, material culture scholar.

I have always had a fascination with old homes. I grew up in one – Abid Manzil in Aligarh, built in 1935. Well-known as the home of Aligarh Muslim University, the town in western Uttar Pradesh saw many Indian Muslims migrate there in the early 1900s from different parts of the erstwhile United Provinces. This included the Muslim zamindar elites who came from neighbouring principalities as well as working-class and middle-class families from eastern Uttar Pradesh. Many wanted to give their children the chance of a good education at the university. These people brought their cultures and histories with them, blending with the Islamic yet liberal intellectual philosophy propagated by AMU and spearheaded by its founder, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. The homes of these people, mostly built in the 1930s, are evidence of this syncretic tradition.

On my most recent visit to Aligarh I realised that these pre-Partition houses were gradually disappearing. I met with some of the remaining families, who wanted to talk about the rich history of their homes, the culture and ways of life they embodied, and the measures they were currently taking to secure a future for their homes and themselves. This photo essay tells the story of these homes and the people who live in them.

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