The nomenclature of Meerut District is shrouded in conjectures and surmises. It is generally assumed that Ravana’s father-in-law, Maya, christened the district formerly known as Maidant-ka-Khera. Occupying an area of 2521.6 sq. km, Meerut spans across the coordinates 28°98’ North latitude to 77°0 7’ East longitudes.
Situated between Ganga and Jamuna, close to the imperial capital, Meerut Distt. has been a centre of varied activities throughout the course of history. The fertility of the soil, its temperate climate and its proximity to Delhi bestowed orderly progress in the times of peace and wrought bloody upheavals in times of political commotions. Inhabited by sturdy Tyagis, Rajputs, Vaishyas, Jats, Gujjars, etc. – all of whom have contributed towards its progress by either agricultural skill, enterprise and sweat, the people of Meerut faced the onslaught of Qutub-ud-din and Timur with courage and tenacity.
Coming under the control of the ‘Company’s Government’, the Meerut district assumed its present geographical features in 1836. Prior to 1836, it formed a part of Moradabad and then Saharanpur. In 1818 it was separated from Saharanpur, in 1824, Bulandshaher was separated from Meerut and finally, in 1836, after the death of Begum Samru, Sardhana was added to it’s territory.
Meerut leapt into international prominence during the revolt of 1857, when on 24 April, 1857, eighty-five troopers out of ninety of the third cavalry refused to touch the cartridges and after court martial, were sentenced to ten years imprisonment. This marked the beginning of a general movement of freedom from the British yoke, with the support of the civilian populace.
However, the events of 1857 established the British authority firmly and they began to create an elaborate system of transportation and communication; and a chain of English schools to turn out an army of intermediaries between the rulers and the ruled. Since Meerut was the most important town in the western part of the United Provinces, and a better centre of commerce, education and politics, it contained a higher proportion of men engaged in the liberal professions, in the judiciary and in business.
The socio-religious reform movements of the nineteenth century moulded the social orientation of the English educated middle class. Dayanand Saraswati, Col. Olcott, Annie Besant, Vivekanand and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan visited Meerut, profoundly influencing the thought process of the people.
The Arya Samaj Movement gained popularity in Meerut and started publications of magazines and newspapers,opened schools and laid emphasis on anti-untouchability campaigns, Swadeshi and Swaraj. A number of prominent middle class and middle caste people of Meerut were attracted towards the teachings of Arya Samaj.
The public life in Meerut began with the founding of a branch of Indian Association in 1877 by S.N.Banerjee. A number of social service and voluntary organisations like Vaish Mahasabha, came up in the district of Meerut. In 1914, Meerut became the venue of three important conferences i.e., Meerut Political Conference, the U.P. Industrial Conference, and the U.P. Political Conference. Meerut had been an important centre of religious, cultural, intellectual and political activities and was also an important cotton producing district and a big centre of cotton trade and weaving. Archeological excavations carried out at Village Alamgirpur near Meerut have discovered remains from the Harrapan culture. This has put Meerut on the International map of ancient cultures. Painted Grey Wares have been found as also an ancient well that dates back to the Mauryan Period.
Meerut has since time immemorial been, on the national as well as international scene . Its progress and development has, therefore, been rapid and on the latest modern technological lines. Its proximity to Delhi was a boon to this small district. The enterprising populace armed with modern education and latest technology fast developed Meerut into one of the most important business centres of Western U.P. Meerut already had an important cantonment to boast of; but now it soon developed a huge pharmaceutical market, innumerable factories, schools, colleges and management institutes as well as medical colleges.