Uttarakhand, formerly known as Uttaranchal, is a state in northern India. It is often referred to as the Land of the gods’ due to the many holy Hindu temples and pilgrimage centres throughout the State. It is geo-politically bordered with the Tibet Autonomous Region on the north, Himachal Pradesh to the north-west, Nepal on the east and the Indian State Uttar Pradesh to the south.
In the British period, Uttarakhand was a part of the United Province, as the Garwal Kingdom. After India attained independence, the Garwal kingdom was merged into the State of Uttar Pradesh. On 24 September 1998, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the Uttar Pradesh Reorganisation Bill and began the process of creating a new State. Two years later, the Parliament of India granted it, and thus, on 9 November 2000, Uttarakhand became the 27th State of the Republic of India.
Uttarakhand lies on the southern slope of the Himalayas and has a total area of 53,484 km of which 93% is mountainous and 64% of which is covered by forest. Most of the northern part of the State is covered by high Himalayan peaks and glaciers. The lower foothills were densely forested till indiscriminately logged by the British log merchants. Recent efforts in reforestation, however, have begun to restore the natural environment. Two of the most important rivers in India, the Ganga—originates at Gangotri and the Yamuna—at Yamnotri Glaciers of Uttarakhand.
The climate and vegetation vary greatly with elevation from glaciers at the highest elevations to subtropical forests at the lower elevations. The upper Gangetic plains have moist deciduous forests and the drier Terai- Duar, and grasslands cover the lowlands along the Uttar Pradesh border in a belt locally known as Babbar. These lowland forests have mostly been cleared for agriculture, but a few pockets remain till now. However, Uttarakhand has a great diversity of flora and fauna.
Uttarakhand has a multiethnic population. According to the 2011 census, the total population of the State is 10,116,752, and the sex ratio is 963 female to 1,000 male. The literacy rate is 79.63% as per the latest census. Most of the people (more than 88%) are Hindus while a small number with some other religions such as Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains. The natives of the State are generally called either Garhwali or Kumaoni—depending on their place of origin.
The State is divided into two divisions—Garhwal and Kumaon—with a total of 13 districts. The provisional capital of Uttarakhand is Dehradun, the railhead in the region.
In accordance with the Constitution of India, Uttarakhand, like all Indian States, has a system of representative democracy for its government. It has a unicameral Legislative Assembly with 70 members with the Chief Minister as the executive head. It also contributes 5 members to Lok Sabha and 3 members to Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament. The Judiciary consists of the Uttarakhand High Court located at Nainital with a system of lower courts.
Politics in Uttarakhand is dominated by the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The official language of the State is Hindi. The urban people speak mostly in Hindi, though the Garhwali and Kumaoni dialects of Central Pahari are spoken in Kumaon and Garhwal regions. Uttarakhand is the only Indian State that gives Sanskrit the official language status too.
Uttarakhand’s diverse ethnicities have created a rich literary tradition in languages including Hindi, Kumaoni, Garhwali, and Bhotiya. Many of its traditional tales originated in the form of lyrical ballads, now considered classics of Hindi literature.
The dances of the region are connected to the native life and exhibit myriad human emotions and culture. Langvir Nritya is a dance form for males that resembles gymnastic movements. Barada Nati folk dance is another famous dance for males and females at Dehradun, which is practised during some religious festivals. Music is also used as a medium through which gods are invoked. Narendra Singh Negi is a popular singer of the region.
The State of Uttarakhand has been one of the fastest-growing economies in India. Agriculture is one of the most significant sectors of the economy, and basmati rice, wheat, soybeans, groundnuts, pulses, and oilseeds are the most widely grown crops. Fruits like apples, oranges, pears, peaches, litchis and plums, and the food processing industry are the major factors in the economy of the State.
Uttarakhand has 1,328 km National highways and 1,543 km State highways. As over 90% of Uttarakhand’s terrain consists of hills, railway services are very limited in the State and are largely confined to the plains. The air transport also is not very well-developed, although there have been efforts to develop it.
Uttarakhand has many tourist spots and pilgrimage including Haridwar, Kedarnath, Badrinath and Amarnath. One of the major Hindu pilgrimages is Kumbha Mela at Haridwar.
In June 2013, a multi-day cloudburst centred in the mountainous valleys and the pilgrim centres of Kedarnath and Badrinath of the State resulted in widespread damage and over 5,000 deaths.
There are many ancient temples, forest reserves, and mountain peaks that draw a large number of tourists to Uttarakhand from all parts of India and the world. The National Parks in Uttarakhand include the Jim Corbett National Park, Nanda Devi National Park, and Valley of Flowers National Park and UNESCO World Heritage sites.