Uttarakhand (Hindi: उत्तराखण्ड or उत्तराखंड Uttar + Akhand i.e. North + Section or Segment),is a state located in the northern part of India. It was known as Uttaranchal between 2000 and 2006, Uttarakhand became the 27th state of the Republic of India on November 9, 2000 .
Uttarakhand borders Tibet to the north, Nepal to the east, and the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (of which it formed a part before 2000) in the west and south respectively. The region is traditionally referred to as Uttarakhand in Hindu scriptures and old literature, a term which derives from the Sanskrit for Northern Country or Section. With an area of 20,682 sq mi (53,566 km²).
In January 2007, the name of the state was officially changed from Uttaranchal, its interim name, to Uttarakhand, according to the wishes of a large section of its people. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun which is also a rail-head and the largest city in the region. The small hamlet of Gairsen has been mooted as the future capital owing to its geographic centrality but controversies and lack of resources have led Dehradun to remain provisional capital. The High Court of the state is in Nainital.
Recent developments in the region include initiatives by the state government to capitalise on handloom and handicrafts, the burgeoning tourist trade as well as tax incentives to lure high-tech industry to the state. The state also has big-dam projects, controversial and often criticised in India, such as the very large Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi-Bhilangana rivers, conceived in 1953 and about to reach completion. Uttarakhand is also well known as the birthplace of the Chipko environmental movement, and a myriad other social movements including the mass agitation in the 1990s that led to its formation.
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 Parmaras or Panwars and the British have ruled Uttarakhand in turns.
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 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 Naga Dynasties. 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.
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-18th 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. Modern-day Garhwal was likewise unified under the rule of Parmar/Panwar Rajas, who along with a mass migration of Brahmins and Rajputs, also arrived from the plains. 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. 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. 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. Most notable incident during this period was the Rampur Tiraha firing case on the night of October 1, 1994, which led to public uproar and eventually to the division of the state of Uttar Pradesh in 1998 .
However, 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 , 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, 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.
According to 2001 India census, Uttarakhand had a population of approximately of 8.48 million. A population exceeding 10 million is expected by the next census of 2011. The native people 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, 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.
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%. It has male-female ratio of 964 and has a literacy rate of 72%. The largest cities in the state are :Dehradun (530,263), Haridwar (220,767), Haldwani (158,896), Roorkee (115,278) and Rudrapur (88,720). The state government recognizes 15,620 villages and 81 cities and urban areas.
Uttarakhand has a total geographic area of 51,125 km², of which 93% is mountainous and 64% is covered by forest. 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.
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.
The Chief Minister is B.C. Khanduri. The last state elections in Uttarakhand were held on February 21, 2007. The Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the largest party with 34 seats in the 70-seat legislature. One seat short of forming a majority, the BJP have had to rely on support from the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and the three independents to form the government. The Indian National Congress is the official opposition, holding 21 seats.
There are 13 districts in Uttarakhand which are grouped into two divisions. Garhwal division includes Chamoli, Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal (commonly known as Garhwal), Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal and Uttarkashi whereas Kumaon division includes Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh, Udham Singh Nagar.
In 2003, a new industrial policy for the state with generous tax benefits for investors was initiated that has led to a massive upsurge of capital investment. SIDCUL, the State Industrial Development Corporation of Uttaranchal (sic) has established seven industrial estates in the southern periphery of the state, while dozens of hydroelectric dams are being built in the upper reaches. However, hill development remains an uphill challenge as out migration of local peoples continues from the highland hinterlands.
Leisure, adventure, and religious tourism play a prominent role in Uttarakhand's economy, with the Corbett National Park and Tiger Reserve and the nearby hill-stations of Nainital, Mussoorie, Almora and Ranikhet being amongst the most frequented destinations of India. The state also contains numerous peaks of interest to mountaineers, although Nanda Devi, the highest and best-known of these, has been off-limits since 1982. Other national wonders include the Valley of Flowers, which along with Nanda Devi National Park, form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To Uttarakhand, long called "abode of the gods" (Devbhumi), belong some of the holiest Hindu shrines, and for more than a thousand years, pilgrims have been visiting the region in the hopes of salvation and purification from sin. Gangotri and Yamunotri, the sources of both the Ganges and Yamuna fall in the upper reaches of the state and together with Badrinath (dedicated to Vishnu) and Kedarnath (dedicated to Shiva) form the Chardham of Uttarakhand, one of Hinduism most spiritually auspicious pilgrimage circuits. Rishikesh near Haridwar is known as the preeminent yoga centre of India while the spectacular view from Hemkund is of special significance to Sikhs. In addition, the state has an abundance of temples and shrines, many dedicated to local deities or manifestations of Shiva and Durga, references to many of which can be found in Hindu scriptures and legends. The architecture of most of these temples is typical of the region and slightly different from other parts of India, the ancient temples at Jageshwar being the most prominent for their distinct architectural features. Tibetan Buddhism has also made itself felt with the recent reconstruction of Mindroling Monastery and its Buddha Stupa, touted as the world's highest, southwest of Dehradun.
Uttarakhand has educational institutions of major importance to India and the world. It is home to the oldest engineering college in Asia, the Indian Institute of Technology at Roorkee (formerly University of Roorkee). Other universities and institutes of prime importance include University of Petroleum & Energy Studies, Dehradun,a domain Specific University in the field of Energy, Transportation and infrastructure, H.N.B. Garhwal University in Srinagar, Kumaun University in Nainital and Almora, G. B. Pant University in Pantnagar, Gurukula Kangri University in Haridwar, new Doon University in Dehradun,Govind Ballabh Pant Engineering College,Pauri, and Kumaon Engineering College ,Dwarhat. Garhwal and Kumaun Universities were founded in 1973 as part of the upsurge of regional sentiment that led to the Uttarakhand statehood.
The hill stations of Uttarakhand are also home to several reputed boarding schools including the Doon School (Dehradun), Woodstock School (Mussoorie), Birla Vidya Niketan (Nainital), G D Birla Memorial School(Ranikhet), St. Joseph's College(Nainital) and Sherwood College(Nainital). Several Indian luminaries attended these schools including former prime ministers and film stars.
Historically, Uttarakhand is believed to be the land where the Vedas and the Shastras were composed and the great epic, the Mahabharata, was written. Rishikesh is widely considered the Yoga capital of the world.
|State animal||Musk Deer|
|State flower||Brahma Kamal|