Uttarakhand (Sanskrit: उत्तराखण्डम्, Uttarākhanḍam ?, Hindi: उत्तराखण्ड, Uttarākhanḍ ?), formerly Uttaranchal, is a state located in the northern part of India. It is often referred to as the Land of Gods (Hindi: देव भूमि, Dēv bhūmi) due to the many holy Hindu temples and cities found throughout the state, some of which are among Hinduism's most spiritual and auspicious places of pilgrimage and worship. Known for its natural beauty and wealth of the Himalayas, the Bhabhar and the Terai, the state was carved out of the Himalayan and adjoining north-western districts of Uttar Pradesh on 9 November 2000, becoming the 27th state of the Republic of India. It borders the Tibet Autonomous Region on the north, Nepal on the east and the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh to the south, Haryana to the west and Himachal Pradesh to the north west.
The region is traditionally referred to as Uttarakhand in Hindu scriptures and old literature, a term which derives from Sanskrit uttara (उत्तर) meaning north, and khaṇḍ (खण्ड्) meaning country or part of a country. It has 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. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, which is also a rail-head and the largest city in the region. The small hamlet of Gairsain 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 other social movements including the mass agitation in the 1990s that led to its formation.
A stone sculpture (Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu) depicting Bhagiratha in penance for the salvation of 60,000 of his ancestors
Princely flag of Kingdom of Garhwal.
Literally North Country or Section in Sanskrit, the name of Uttarakhand finds mention in the early Hindu scriptures as the combined region of Kedarkhand (present day Garhwal) and Manaskhand (present day Kumaon). Uttarakhand was also the ancient Puranic term for the central stretch of the Indian Himalayas. It is well known for the presence of a multitude of Hindu pilgrimage spots. The Pauravas, Kushanas, Kunindas, Guptas, Katyuris, Raikas, 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 austro- Asiatic 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. Between the 4th and 14th centuries, the Katyuri dynasty of Khas origin dominated lands of varying extent from the Katyur (modern day Baijnath) valley in Kumaon. The historically significant temples at Jageshwar are believed to have been built by the Katyuris and later remodeled by the Chands. 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.
Uttarakhand as a part of the United Province, 1903
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 Garhwal Kingdom 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.1 Most notable incident during this period was the Rampur Tiraha firing case on the night of 1 October 1994, which led to public uproar.2 On 24 September 1998 Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the 'Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Bill', 1998, which eventually led to the creation of the state,3 eventually the Parliament passed the Indian Federal Legislation - Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2000, and thus on 9 November 2000,4 Uttarakhand became the 27th state in the Republic of India.
However, the term Uttaranchal came into use when the Bharatiya Janata Party (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,5 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 2006,6 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.