Aligarh represents an anomaly in the regular statistics of smaller Indian populaces. Aligarh Muslim University was established in 1875. It was modelled on the University of Cambridge by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who, after the revolution of 1857, felt the need for the westernised education of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent.

Aged mostly between 17 and 25—with the exception of the older, middle-aged Ph. D. students that are here on grants, living with their families—these 30,000-odd students make, often out of their meagre means, a home out of small campus rooms and dormitories that the university provides at marginal costs.

While the doors to education provided by A.M.U. are open to those of all castes and creeds, it sees a massive influx of Muslim students—almost 80 per cent—not just from every corner of India, but also from all across south-east Asia, west Asia and Africa. Students throng here from Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Malaysia, and other countries. They form their own communities and follow their own traditions and cultures. Some of them find the rich Indian food that is served in the dining halls of the hostels not to their palette. They also don’t find compatibility with local students very easy, due to language and social barriers.

These images are the by-product of an attempt to study the universe that is the Aligarh Muslim University; an attempt at exploring the town, and getting to know the students here; to see how they live and create for themselves the small havens that they end up with. This town has a unique air of solitude and singularity, though it has never dealt with anything but the plural, further marking great individuality within the throngs that study here.


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Manish is a Ph. D. student, finishing his literature thesis on John Steinbeck.

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The study hall in Sir Syed Hall, named for the University’s founder.

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Professor Imtiaz Husnain, from the Department of Linguistics.

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A room in Mohsinul Mulk Hall at the University.

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The student warden at Ambedkar Hall.

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Ayman Takhayinh, a student from Jordan.

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The bearer quarters at the University.

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Thai student Kujasmin, who loves revamping old scooters.
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The graveyard on campus.

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Students spending time on recreational activities outside of class.

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Meston swimming pool at the University, which is regarded as India's oldest indoor swimming pool.

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Thai student Heesam Keeia is doing his Bachelors in Linguistics. He stays off-campus with his friends.

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Jamal Kaid Ali Noman is a Ph. D. student from Yemen. During the revolution in Yemen, he watched developments in his country on a Yemeni TV news channel.

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The room of Omani student Jamal Salim.