Kanpur Travel Guide

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The city of Kanpur is made famous to the world because of the Indian Institute of Technology(IIT Kanpur), one of the premier institutions established by the Government of India located there.

Kanpur, the industrial centre of Uttar Pradesh, known for its cotton and woollen textile and leather industries is situated on the southern bank of the Ganga. Kanpur is a metropolitan city, sprawling over an area of 300 sq. km. Kanpur, it is believed by some, derived its name from Kanhiyapur, the town of Kanhiya (Lord Krishna). In the course of time, Kanhiyapur probably was abbreviated as Kanhapur and subsequently as Kanpur (the anglicized spelling of which was Cawnpore during the British rule). Others believe that the name is derived from Karnapur and is associated with Karna, one of the heroes of Mahabharata. Duryodhana made Karna a king, seeing him as a fitting match to Arjuna, and gifted him this area; hence the name Karnapur, which later became Kanpur.

Kanpur's growth until the thirteenth century is shrouded in the mists of time. It is interesting to note that while no reference to Kanpur is found in history, the history of two of its suburbs, Jajmau and Bithoor, can be traced back to legendary times. Bithoor is located about 20 km upstream of the river from the city. Jajmau is about 8 km east of Kanpur city. According to Hindu mythology, just after creating the universe, Lord Brahma performed the Ashvamedh Yajna (Horse Sacrifice) at Bithoor (also known as Brahmavart) and established a shivalingam there. Moving further to later times, another mythological site at Bithoor is the Valmiki Ashram, where the famous sage Valmiki is supposed to have written the Sanskrit epic Ramayana. According to this epic, queen Seeta, on being exiled by King Ramachandra of Ayodhya, spent her days in seclusion at the ashram bringing up her twin sons Lava and Kush. At Jajmau there are remains of an ancient fort, now surviving as a huge mound. Some recent excavations on this mound tend to prove that the site is very ancient indeed, perhaps dating back to the Vedic age. Popular legends have it that the fort belonged to Yayati, a king of the ancient chandravanshi race, the eighth in succession to Lord Brahma. The famous Siddhnath temple of Lord Shiva and Siddha Devi temple at Jajmau belong to the Buddhist period. The place for a while was known as Siddhpuri.

In 1207 AD Raja Kanti Deo of Prayag who was attached to the throne of Kannauj established the village Kohna, which later came to be known as Kanpur. Kanpur continued its association with Kannauj during the reins of Harsha Vardhan, Bhoj, Mihir, Jai Chand and early Muslim rulers. Later it came under the Jaunpur rulers and the Sur Dynasty. The first mention of Kanpur was made in 1579 during Sher Shah's regime. From 1773 to 1801, it was part of the Oudh kingdom and then came into the hands of the British. In 1803 Kanpur became a district and also an important military station of the country. South of Parmat were the British infantry lines and the parade grounds. Indian infantry occupied the space from the present Chunniganj to the Christ Church College. The Company Bagh was laid in 1847 and the construction of the Ganga canal was commenced in 1854.

Kanpur was an important centre during the great revolt of 1857 when Nana Saheb Peshwa succeeded in liberating the city from the British for a short period. Sati-Chauraha Ghat (Cantonment) from where the British were to leave Kanpur was a scene of a terrible conflict and consequently came to be known as Massacre Ghat; so was Bibi Ghar where some British families were taking shelter. The bodies of those killed were thrown into a well, which is located in the Nana Rao Park and is at present covered by concrete. The waves of industrialization reached the city in 1858 and the first major industry, the Harness and Saddlery was established in  1860. The Elgin Mills, The Cawnpore Woollen Mills (Lal Imli at present) and the Victoria Mills were set up in 1864, 1870 and 1885 respectively. After the First World War, several mills, the Swadeshi, the JK and the Lakshmi Ratan Cotton Mills were established. The first re-rolling mill of India was established in 1928 by the Singh Enginnering Work. The Second World War gave fresh impetus to industrial complex. To cope with the industrial growth a second thermal power station was built at Panki in 1966 for augmenting the older riverside power station. Panki now produces a total of 284 MW of power.

The post independence years changed the face of Kanpur from a town of millowners and millworkers to that of a city consisting of large middle class population of entrepreneurs and artisans. The city has two universities, viz. Kanpur University and Chandra Sekhar Azad University of Agriculture and Technology, a Medical College and a number of technical institutions such as the National Sugar Institute, the Central Textile Institute, the Government Leather Institute besides the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. The oldest educational institution in the city is the Christ Church College which started as a high school and became a degree college in 1919. At present there are twelve degree colleges, two of which are exclusively for women. Kanpur municipality came into existence in 1884 and became a municipal corporation in 1959. In 1975 a Development Authority was established by the State Government. Kanpur has also made significant contribution in the literature and fine arts. The legendary Birbal, a minister in the court of Akbar and known for his wit and wisdom was born in a village, Takuapur, of Kanpur District. Hindi literature reveals various names of writers and poets that belonged to this area. Kanpur had been the centre of patriotic Hindi magazines and newspapers such as Brahman, Saraswati, Vishwamitra, Veer Arjun and Pratap.

IIT-Kanpur is located on the Grand Trunk Road, 15 km west of Kanpur City and measures close to 420 hectares. This land was gifted by the Government of Uttar Pradesh in 1960 and by March 1963 the Institute had moved to its current location. If someone had visited it then, he/she would have seen a standing crop, acacia woods, a long winding line of stately mango trees, flocks of peafowl and a conventional country side scene of India. The residential campus is planned and landscaped with a hope for environmental freedom. Halls of residence, faculty and staff houses and community buildings surround the central academic area to provide flexibility in movement and communication. The person who brought this mammoth transformation was Mr.Achyut Kanvinde, a Pune-based architect. Since the beginning, the Institute has attracted scholars from across the country. The rich cultural diversity of India is reflected in the campus activities of IIT-K as well.

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: www.iitk.ac.in

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