Wednesday, October 17, 2007

History of Uttarakhand

This information is provided by Mr. M.S.Mehta at our forum

Meaning of name and history

Uttarakhand is both the new and traditional name of the state that was formed from the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh, India. Literally North Country or Section in Sanskrit, the name of Uttarakhand finds mention in the early Hindu scriptures as the combined region of Kedarkhand and Manaskhand. Uttarakhand was also the ancient Puranic term for the central stretch of the Indian Himalayas. Its peaks and valleys were well known in ancient times as the abode of gods and goddesses and source of the Ganga River. Today, it is often called "the Land of the Gods" (Dev Bhoomi) because of the presence of a multitude of Hindu pilgrimage spots. The Pauravas, Kushanas, Kunindas, Guptas, Katyuris, Palas, the Chands, and Parmars and the British have ruled Uttarakhand in turns.[3]

The region was originally settled by Kols, an aboriginal people of the Dravidian physical type who were later joined by Indo-Aryan Khas tribes that arrived from the northwest by the Vedic period. At that time, present-day Uttarakhand also served as a haunt for Rishis and Sadhus. It is believed that Sage Vyasa scripted the Mahabharata here as the Pandavas are believed to have traveled and camped in the region. Among the first major dynasties of Garhwal and Kumaon were the Kunindas in the 2nd century B.C. who practiced an early form of Shaivism. They traded salt with Western Tibet. It is evident from the Ashokan edict at Kalsi in Western Garhwal that Buddhism made some inroads in this region. Folk shamanic practices deviating from Hindu orthodoxy also persisted here. However, Garhwal and Kumaon were restored to nominal Brahmanical rule due to the travails of Shankaracharya and the arrival of migrants from the plains. In the fourth century, the Kunindas gave way to the Rawat Dynasty. Between the 7th and 14th centuries, the Katyuri dynasty of Khas origin dominated lands of varying extent from the Katyur (modern day Baijnath) valley in Kumaon. Other peoples of the Tibeto-Burman group known as Kiratas are thought to have settled in the northern highlands as well as in pockets throughout the region, and believed to be the ancestors to the modern day Bhotiya, Raji, Buksha, and Tharu peoples.[4]

By the medieval period, the region was consolidated under the Garhwal Kingdom in the west and the Kumaon Kingdom in the east. From the 13th-14th century, Kumaon prospered under the Chand Rajas who had their origins in the plains of India. During this period, learning and new forms of painting (the Pahari school of art) developed.[5] Modern-day Garhwal was likewise unified under the rule of Parmar Rajas, who along with a mass migration of Brahmins and Rajputs, also arrived from the plains.[6] In 1791, the expanding Gurkha Empire of Nepal, overran Almora, the seat of the Kumaon Kingdom. In 1803, the Garhwal Kingdom also fell to the Gurkhas. With the conclusion of the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816, a rump portion of the Garhwal Kingdom was reestablished from Tehri, and eastern British Garhwal and Kumaon ceded to the British as part of the Treaty of Sugauli.

In the post-independence period, the Tehri princely state was merged into Uttar Pradesh state, where Uttarakhand composed the Garhwal and Kumaon Divisions.[7] Until 1998, Uttarakhand was the name most commonly used to refer to the region, as various political groups including most significantly the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (Uttarakhand Revolutionary Party est. 1979), began agitating for separate statehood under its banner. Although the erstwhile hill kingdoms of Garhwal and Kumaon were traditional rivals with diverse lingual and cultural influences due to the proximity of different neighbouring ethnic groups, the inseparable and complementary nature of their geography, economy, culture, language, and traditions created strong bonds between the two regions.[8] These bonds formed the basis of the new political identity of Uttarakhand, which gained significant momentum in 1994, when demand for separate statehood (within the Union of India) achieved almost unanimous acceptance among the local populace as well as political parties at the national level.[9]

A Typical Uttarakhandi Village from Pauri Garhwal DistrictHowever, the term Uttaranchal came into use when the BJP-led central and Uttar Pradesh state governments initiated a new round of state reorganization in 1998 and introduced its preferred name. Chosen for its allegedly less separatist connotations, the name change generated enormous controversy among the rank and file of the separate state activists who saw it as a political act [10], however they were not quite as successful as Jharkhand state that successfully thwarted a similar move to impose the name Vananchal. Nevertheless, the name Uttarakhand remained popular in the region, even while Uttaranchal was promulgated through official usage.

In August 2006, India's Union Cabinet assented to the four-year-old demand of the Uttaranchal state assembly and leading members of the Uttarakhand movement to rename Uttaranchal state as Uttarakhand. Legislation to that effect was passed by the State Legislative Assembly in October 2006,[11] and the Union Cabinet brought in the bill in the winter session of Parliament. The bill was passed by Parliament and signed into law by the President in December 2006. Since then, Uttarakhand denotes a state in the Union of India.

Villagers from Pauri Garhwal DistrictPeople of Uttarakhand are generally called either Garhwali or Kumaoni depending on their place of origin in either the Garhwal or Kumaon region. Colloquially they are also referred to as Pahari meaning "hill person". Many Punjabis, who migrated to India after partition, along with migrants from the adjoining plains, make up the majority of the Terai population. Nepalis, Bengalis, and Tibetans of Eastern Tibet region (Khampa) have also settled in the state. Another well known category is Gujjar, cattle herders in the southwestern Terai.

Kumaoni and Garhwali dialects of Central Pahari are spoken in Kumaon and Garhwal region respectively. Jaunsari and Bhotiya dialects are also spoken by tribal communities in the west and north respectively. The urban population however converses mostly in Hindi.

A majority of peoples in the state are Rajput.

Hindus form the majority of the population at 85.0%, Muslims form 12.0%, Sikhs 2.5% and Christians, Buddhists, Jains and others about 0.5% [12].

Jaunsar bawar

Located 15 km from Mussoorie, Jaunsar-Bawar is an area in Chakrata in Dehradun District. Jaunsar is the area comprising the lower half of the region, and the snow-clad upper region is called Bawar. The here. An important aspect of their culture is the performance of a folk dance named Barada Nati during all festive occasions. The dancers - both boys and girls - wear colorful traditional costumes. A temple built in the Huna architectural style - at an altitude of 1,700 m - is one of the principal attractions of Jaunsar-Bawar. The village is endowed with natural beauty and here one can see the sprawling Doon Valley and the magnificent Garhwal Himalayas flanked by rivers Yamuna and Tons. The ideal time to visit this village is between May and June. The closest airport is Jolly Grant and the nearest railway station is at Dehradun.

One can visit the village called Lakhamandal for its splendid view, and the 5th century temple, apart from natural caves that are said to have been used by the Pandavas. Basic facilities exist for travellers. Warm clothes may be suggested for the winters and basic medication is recommended. Buses and taxis are available from Dehradun and Mussoorie.


The Bhotiya are an ethno-linguistic group of people living in the trans-Himalayan region that divides India from Tibet. They are closely related to the Tibetans and their name, Bhotiya, derives from the word Bod (བོད་), which is the Classical Tibetan name for Tibet. Those living in Uttarakhand are generally referred to as Bhotiya, although they are sometimes also referred to as Bhutia; Bhutia more commonly means the related people of Sikkim.

The Indian government uses the word Bhotiya to refer to those who have traditionally resided in the upper Himalayan valleys of the Kumaon and Garhwal of Uttarakhand Himalayas. These include the Shaukas of Kumaon and Tolchhas and Marchhas of Garhwal.

The Bhotiya speak languages belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family, although their dialects are mutually unintelligible to the Tibetans and Garwhalis. Owing to social process of Sanskritization, many of them have intermarried with the Hindus over the years. Most of the Bhotiya practice a combination of Tibetan Buddhism, Bön and Hinduism, although Hinduism is prevalent among the earlier semi-Indian groups, while Buddhism is prevalent among the recent immigrant groups of purer Tibetan origin, such as the Jadh.

Hindu gods such as the weather God Gabla, Runiya and Suniya, are worshiped to protect their animals from disease. Sidhuwa and Bidhuwa are worshiped as well to find lost animals.


Uttarakhand is a region of outstanding natural beauty. Most of the northern parts of the state are part of Greater Himalaya ranges, covered by the high Himalayan peaks and glaciers, while the lower foothills were densely forested till denuded by the British log merchants and later, after independence, by forest contractors. Recent efforts in reforestation, however, have been successful in restoring the situation to some extent. The unique Himalayan ecosystem plays host to a large number of animals (including bharal, snow leopards, leopards and tigers), plants and rare herbs. Two of India's mightiest rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna take birth in the glaciers of Uttarakhand, and are fed by myriad lakes, glacial melts and streams in the region

Uttarakhand lies on the south slope of the mighty Himalaya range, and the climate and vegetation vary greatly with elevation, from glaciers at the highest elevations to tropical forests at the lower elevations. The highest elevations are covered by ice and bare rock. The Western Himalayan Alpine Shrub and Meadows ecoregion lies between 3000-3500 and 5000 meters elevation; tundra and alpine meadows cover the highest elevations, transitioning to Rhododendron-dominated shrublands below. The Western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests lie just below the tree line; at 3000-2600 meters elevation they transition to the Western Himalayan broadleaf forests, which lie in a belt from 2,600 to 1,500 meters elevation. Below 1500 meters elevation lies western end of the drier Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands belt, and the Upper Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests. This belt is locally known as Bhabhar. These lowland forests have mostly been cleared for agriculture, but a few pockets remain.[14]

Indian National Parks in Uttarakhand include the Jim Corbett National Park (the oldest national park of India) at Ramnagar in Nainital District, Valley of Flowers National Park and Nanda Devi National Park in Chamoli District, Rajaji National Park in Haridwar District, and Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Gangotri National Park in Uttarkashi District.

Ukhimath and Khirsu are tiny, pristine hill stations with spectacular views of the Himalaya peaks


State symbols State animal Musk Deer

State bird Monal

State tree Rhododendron

State flower Brahma Kamal

Total Geographical area: 51,125 km²

Hill Area: 92.57%
Plain Area: 7.43%
Area Covered By Forest: 63%


Longitude 77° 34' 27" East to 81° 02' 22" E

Latitude 28° 53' 24" North to 31° 27' 50" N

Total Population: 8,479,562 (2001 Census)

Male to Female Ratio: 1000 : 964

Male: % 50.9

Female: % 49.1

Cities with population > 100,000 (2001 census)

Dehradun (530,263)

Haridwar (220,767)

Haldwani (158,896)

Roorkee (115,278)

Literacy Rate: 72%

Villages: 15620

Cities and Urban Areas: 81

Railway Stations: Kotdwara, Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Haldwani, Lalkuan, Kathgodam, Ramnagar, Roorkee, Tanakpur, Laksar

Airports: Jolly Grant, Pantnagar, Nainisain, Gauchar (Helipad)

Major Peaks (height in metres above sea level)

Nanda Devi (7816), Kamet (7756), Badrinath (7140), Chaukhamba (7138), Trishul (7120), Dunagiri (7066), Panchchuli (6910), Nanda Kot (6861), Gangotri (6614), Gauri Parvat (6590)

Major Passes
Mana La (5450), Niti La (5070), Lipu Lekh pass (5122), Lumpia Dhura (5650)


Tourism, Hydroelectric Power, Dairy, Agriculture, Horticulture, Floriculture, Sugar, Manufacturing, and other small scale industries.

Famous Temples in Uttarakhand

Rudreshwar Mahadev Temple near Sanara, Golu Devta Temple, Nanda Devi Mandir, Binsar Mahadev Temple, Bhoomiya Devta Temple, Badri Kedar, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedar Temple near Masi


Uttarani, Nanda Devi Mela, Holi, Diwali, Dasara, Kandali, Hilljatra, Bikhoti, Bagwal, Harela, Ghugutee, Khirsu Gwarh (Mela)


Sardotsav, Basantotsav, Nanda Devi Raj Jat, Chipla Kedar Jaat, Kedarnath Yatra, Badrinath Yatra, Kumbh Mela, Ardh Kumbh Mela, Ramleela, Uttarakhand Mahotsav (Dehradun), Mahashivatri Fair at Rudreshwar Mahadev Temple

Trade Centers

Haldwani, Rudrapur, Roorkee, Tanakpur, Dehradun, Haridwar, Kotdwara, Rishikesh

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