Uttarakhand

Nainital Lake Nainital Lake
Capital : Dehradun
Largest city : Dehradun
District(s) : 13
Population : 8,479,562
Density : 158/km² (409/sq mi)
Literacy rate : 72%
Language(s) : Hindi, Garhwali, Kumaoni
Established : 2000-11-09

Uttarakhand  formerly Uttaranchal, is a state in the northern part of India. It is often referred to as the "Land of the Gods" due to the many holy Hindu temples and pilgrimage centres found throughout the state. Uttarakhand is known for its natural beauty of the Himalyas, the Bhabhar and the Terai. On 9 November 2000, this 27th state of the Republic of India was carved out of the Himalayan and adjoining northwestern districts of Uttar Pradesh. It borders the Tibet Autonomous Region on the north; the Mahakali Zone of the Far-Western Region, Nepal on the east, and the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the south and Himachal Pradesh to the northwest. The state is divided into two divisions, Garhwal and Kumaon, with a total of 13 districts. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, the largest city in the region, which is a railhead. The high court of the state is in Nainital. Archaeological evidence support the existence of humans in the region since prehistoric times. Among the first major dynasties of Garhwal and Kumaon were the Kunindas in the 2nd century BCE who practised an early form of Shaivism. Ashokan edicts at Kalsi show the early presence of Buddhism in this region. During the medieval period the region was consolidated under the Kumaon and Garhwal kingdom. By 1803 the region fell to the Gurkha Empire of Nepal and with the conclusion of the Anglo-Nepalese war in 1816 most of modern Uttarakhand was ceded to the British as part of the Treaty of Sugauli. Although the erstwhile hill kingdoms of Garhwal and Kumaon were traditional rivals, the proximity of different neighbouring ethnic groups and the inseparable and complementary nature of their geography, economy, culture, language, and traditions created strong bonds between the two regions which further strengthened during the movement for statehood in the 1990s. The natives of the state are generally called either Garhwalior Kumaoni depending on their place of origin. According to the 2011 census of India, Uttarakhand has a population of 10,116,752, making it the 19th most poplous state in India. A large portion of the population consists of Raputs and Brahmins. More than 88% of the population follow Hinduism.Muslims are the largest minority in the state with Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains  being the other major religions.Garhwali and Kumaoni along with other hilly dialects and sub-dialects are the main regional languages, whereas Hindi is the most widely spoken language. Uttarakhand is the only state in India with Sanskrit as one of its official languages. Two of the most important rivers in Hinduism originate in the region, the Ganga at Gangotri and the Yamuna at Yamunotri. These two along with Badrinath and Kedarnath from the Chota Char Dham, a holy pilgrimage for the Hindus. The state hosts the Bengal Tiger in Jim Corbett National Park, the oldest national park of the Indian subcontinent. The Valley of Flowers, a Unesco World Heritage Site located in the upper expanses of Bhyundar Ganga near Joshimath  in Gharwal region, is known for the variety and rarity of its flowers and plants.

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.

Meaning of name and history
Sahastradhara, Dehradun Sahastradhara, Dehradun
Uttarakhand is both the new and traditional name of the state that was formed from the hill districts of Uttar Pradesh, India. Literally meaning 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 or Panwars and the British have ruled Uttarakhand in turns. Ancient rock paintings, rock shelters, Paleolithic stone tools (hundreds of thousands of years old), and megaliths provide evidence that the mountains of the region have been inhabited since prehistoric times. There are also archaeological remains which show the existence of early Vedic (1500 BCE) practices in the area.

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. 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.

Mussoorie Lake Mussoorie Lake
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.
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.

Demographics
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, 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%.

According to the Population Projection Report based on 2001 Census by Census India, Uttarakhand's estimated population in 2007 is 9,365,000 with 4,774,000 males and 4,591,000 females. This report is no longer available online free of charge.

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

Famous Temples in Uttarakhand
Nanda Devi Mandir, Bhoomiya Devta Temple, Golu Devta Temple, Binsar Mahadev Temple, Badri Kedar, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedar Temple near Masi, Bheem Shankar (Moteshwar)Mahadev, (Kashipur), Purnagiri(Tanakpur), Jageswar(Almora), Devidhura temple(barahi mata) Champawat, Rudreshwar Mahadev Temple near Sanara.

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

Events
Hemkund Sahib Hemkund Sahib
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

Tourism
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 is the highest and most well-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) has had 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.