Uttar Pradesh is a state situated in northern India. It was created on 1 April 1937 as the United Provinces in accordance with the State Reorganisation Act and renamed as Uttar Pradesh in 1950. On 9 November 2000, a new State Uttarakhand was carved from the mountainous Himalayan region of Uttar Pradesh.
Uttar Pradesh is now bordered by Rajasthan to the west, Haryana and Delhi to the north-west, the State of Uttarakhand and the country of Nepal to the north, Bihar to the east, Jharkhand to the southeast and Madhya Pradesh to the southwest.
Uttar Pradesh was once home to powerful empires of ancient and mediaeval India including Magadha, Nanda, Maurya, Sunga, Kushan, Gupta, Gurjara, Rashtrakutas, Pala and Mughal empires. Following the British victory in the Second Anglo-Maratha War, the British ruled over the Ganges-Jumna Doab, parts of Bundelkhand and Braj, and later Ajmer and Jaipur kingdoms under the name of North-Western Provinces. In 1857 Bengal Regiment’s sepoy Mangal Pandey stationed at Meerut cantonment is widely credited for sepoy Mutiny as its starting point. In 1920, the capital of the province was shifted from Allahabad to Lucknow.
Uttar Pradesh, with a total area of 243, 290 km2, is India’s one of the largest States in terms of the land area. The entire alluvial plain is divided into three sub-regions. The first is the eastern tract containing 14 districts subject to periodical floods and droughts. These districts have the highest density of population with the lowest per capita land. The other two regions—the central and the Western—are rather better with a well-developed irrigation system. The valley areas have fertile and rich soil and cultivation is intensive.
The State has a humid temperature climate and experiences three dominant seasons. The winter in October to February is followed by the summer between March and May and the rainy season between June and September. The State has an abundance of natural resources. As of 2011, recorded forest area in the State is 16,583 km2 which is about 6.88% of the State’s geographical area. In spite of rapid deforestation and poaching of wildlife, diverse flora and fauna continue to exist in the State.
Uttar Pradesh has both a large population and a high population growth rate. It is also the most populous state in India, with 1,99,581,477 people as of census 2011. The sex ratio of 908 women to 1,000 men is lower than the national figure of 933. The literacy rate is 69.72% on average out of which male rate is 79.24% and the female rate is 59.26%.
About 80% of the State’s population is Hindu, while Muslims make up 18%, being the second-largest community. The remainders consist of Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Jains. Social and political tensions have resulted in the caste settlements in compact regions of the State for Ahirs, Kurmis and Bhumihars. The Scheduled Castes and Harijans also exist in the State.
Since Uttar Pradesh sends the largest number of MPs to the Parliament, it is often considered to be one of the most important states with respect to Indian politics. The State contributes 80 seats to the Lok Sabha and 35 seats to the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament. Uttar Pradesh has been called the best achiever because it has provided India with eight Prime Ministers. At the local level, the State has a large number of village councils (Panchayats) which are similar to those found in the other Indian States.
Hindi is the main state-wide authority language of Uttar Pradesh. Most people in the State speak a dialect of Hindustani which in its written forms is referred to as Urdu. There is a long literary and folk tradition in the State. In the 19th and 20th century, Hindi literature was modernised by authors such as Jaisankar Prasad, Munshi Premchand, etc.
Uttar Pradesh has produced famous musicians including Anup Jalota, Hariprasad Chaurasia, Ustad Bismillah Khan, etc. Kathak, a classical dance form, owes its origin to the State of Uttar Pradesh. The festival of Guru Purnima is dedicated to Guru Nanak. Diwali and Rama Navami are popular festivals in the State. Kumbha Mela organised in the month of Maagha (February-March) is a major festival held every three years in rotation at Allahabad Hardwar, Ujjain and Nasik on the bank of the river Ganges.
Agriculture is the leading occupation in Uttar Pradesh. Wheat is the State’s principal food crop and sugarcane is the main commercial crop. About 70% of India’s sugar originates from Uttar Pradesh. State industries are mainly localised in Kanpur and Noida region. It is attracting foreign investment which has mostly come in the software and electronics fields. Noida and Lucknow are becoming the major hubs for information technology.
The state has excellent civil aviation infrastructure with two international airports at Lucknow and Varanasi. It has the largest railway network in the country. It has also a good road network. The National Golden Quadrilateral of India passes through Jhansi, Agra, Kanpur, Allahabad and Varanasi. A stretch of the Ganges from Allahabad to Haldia has been declared as a National Waterway—600 km of which flows through Uttar Pradesh.
Popular sports in Uttar Pradesh can be divided into two groups—traditional sports and modern sports. Athletes from the State have been famous—Dhyan Chand in hockey and Olympic shooter Nawab Mian, Traditional sports include wrestling, kabaddi, etc.
Uttar Pradesh ranks first in tourism in India owing to its varied topography, vibrant culture, festivals, monuments, ancient places of worship and Vihars, etc. The historically important towns of Sarnath and Kushinagar of Buddhist culture are located not far from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.