Uttaranchal now Uttarakhand became the 27th state of the Republic of India in November 2000. Carved out of the state of Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal mainly comprises the hilly regions of Uttar Pradesh. The state borders Himachal Pradesh in the north-west and Uttar Pradesh in the South, and has international borders with Nepal and China.
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.
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 Ganges and the Yamuna take birth in the glaciers of Uttarakhand, and are fed by myriad lakes, glacial melts and streams in the region.
The native people of Uttarakhand are generally called either Kumaoni or Garhwali depending on their place of origin in either the Garhwal or Kumaon region.
There are 13 districts in Uttarakhand which are grouped into two divisions. Kumaon division and Garhwal division.
The Kumaon division includes six districts:
- Udham Singh Nagar
The Garhwal division includes seven districts:
- Tehri Garhwal
- Pauri Garhwal (commonly known as Garhwal)
Uttarakhand’s gross state domestic product for 2013-14 is estimated at $18 billion in current prices. Born out of partition of Uttar Pradesh, the new state of Uttarakhand produces about 8% of the output of the old Uttar Pradesh state.
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.
Uttarakhand is well connected with Rail, Road and Air modes of transport.
Jolly Grant Airport (Dehradun) – Garhwal
Pantnagar – Kumaon
In the Kumaon region, the main rail-head is Kathgodham and 2 to 3 trains ply from Old Delhi Railway Station to Kathgodham on a daily basis. A daily Shatabdi from New Delhi Station, Delhi to Kathgodam is another convenient way. Some trains also run from Ramnagar (near Jim Corbett Park) to Old Delhi Railway Station. (Check http://www.indianrail.gov.in for more information)
Dehradun in Garhwal is one of the main rail-heads for Uttarakhand, with daily trains from Delhi and well connected by air.
Travel by road is the most common way of reaching Kumaon, mainly from New Delhi. State government buses as well as private operators ply buses as far as Almora. Buses also ply within the state of Uttarakhand between the Kumaon and Garhwal region.
Shared Jeeps/Car rental are the most common form of transport within the Kumaon region. Log on to http://www.kmvn.gov.in/ for more details regarding weather, accommodation, sight-seeing etc.
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, Kausani, Bhimtal and Ranikhet being amongst the most frequented destinations of India.
The state also contains numerous peaks of interest to mountaineers, including Nanda Devi. Other national wonders include the Valley of Flowers, which along with Nanda Devi National Park, form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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 Char Dham, one of Hinduism’s most spiritual and auspicious pilgrimage circuits.
Haridwar, meaning “Gateway to God” is a prime Hindu destination. Haridwar hosts the Kumbha Mela every twelve years, in which millions of pilgrims take part from all parts of the India and the world. Rishikesh near Haridwar is known as the preeminent yoga centre of India.
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 (a complex of 124 temples in a deodar woodland) are historically the most prominent for their distinct architectural features.
Uttarakhand is, however, a place of pilgrimage not only for the Hindus. Hemkund nested in the Himalayas is a prime pilgrimage center for the Sikhs. 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.
The state has always been a destination for mountaineering, hiking and rock climbing in India. A recent development in adventure tourism in the region has been white water rafting and other adventures sports. Ecotourism, agritourism and rural tourism have also found new grounds in many villages of the state.